My Research at a Glance
My primary program of research is located at the intersection of health, aging and place. As a social gerontologist and qualitative health researcher, my work explores aging from a critical perspective to challenge assumptions about aging and disability, re-imagine practices and policies in community and care settings, and develop new ways of knowing that prioritize the lived experience of older adults. Three areas of scholarship summarize my critical health research: community mobility, place, and methodological innovation.
The Mindfulness Experiment
The following two videos were created for the Brock Mental Health and Wellness website. In the first video, I talk about how approaching mental health through mindfulness is a great strategy because of its therapeutic value. Helping students build effective coping and resilience strategies is more important than ever when a vast majority of university students feel overwhelmed. I have been known to include mindfulness in my classrooms, and this is why I do it.
Mindfulness is “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn 2003, p.144). Meditation – a practice that uses the breath to bring us into awareness and calm the mind - is one of the most basic mindfulness practices.
Emerging research illustrates the benefits of integrating mindfulness and meditation into teaching practice. Recent studies demonstrate, for example, that these contemplative practices can result in greater psychological well-being for students, a greater degree of concentration, reduced class disruptions, and improved academic performance (Bush, 2011; Shapiro, Brown, & Astin, 2008).
For the past eight years (while teaching at the City University of New York, the University of Toronto and now at Brock University) I have used meditation as a tool for teaching and observed similar benefit. The practice of beginning each class (undergraduate and graduate) with a short meditation seems to focus students (and myself) as we often arrive to class feeling rushed and scattered. Additionally I’ve noticed that this practice helps to create a positive – more open and trusting – learning environment.
Student’s course evaluations in the past support these observations as many mention the inclass meditation as a valuable experience and a part of the course they not only enjoyed, but felt positively impacted their learning and enhanced the course overall.
While interest in the integration of mindfulness practices into higher education is emerging, to date much of the research and practice is focused at the K-12 level. As such we know much less about how best to integrate meditation into post-secondary classrooms and curriculum, and the impact of doing so.
STUDY PURPOSE & OBJECTIVES:
The overall purpose of The Mindfulness Experiment is to explore mindfulness practices in postsecondary education. There are two key research objectives:
To identify ‘best practices’ / effective strategies for integrating meditation within a university classroom and curriculum
To examine the impact of doing so
Paula's project, A Focus on Faculty: Building a Contemplative Campus One Classroom at a Time is aimed at understanding the challenges of integrating mindfulness into post-secondary classrooms. Read more in this article written by Colleen Patterson for The Brock News, here.
Foundations of Applied Mindfulness Meditation Certificate
Foundations of Applied Mindfulness Meditation courses (previously Mindfulness Meditation Level A) explore the history and practices of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, traditional and contemporary medicine, as well as case and research-based practice.
MINDFULNESS PRESENTATION: THOROLD SECONDARY SCHOOL
The evidence is clear: students today are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety and this has a direct impact on their overall health and academic performance. A strategy that is showing great promise in helping students cope with stress and boost positive mental health is mindfulness. This presentation will share what we, Dr. Paula Gardner, Assistant Professor, and Kaitlyn Kerridge, MA Candidate, have learned over 5 years studying mindfulness among university students in The Mindfulness Experiment.