Comm Class teaches students to be 'Mindful'

Brian Sheridan, a Communications professor, is teaching a class dedicated to techniques which improve sympathetic communication in stressful conditions.

The Mindful Communications class introduces students to methods which are useful in the stressful environments of large companies and the university.

Sheridan came up with the idea for the class after hearing a talk called ‘Practical Dharma for Stressful Times’ by psychologist Tara Brach. The talk discussed the use of certain Buddhist teachings to handle stress.

“[Brach] talked about how stress cuts us off from our creativity, full intelligence and the capability to be more loving. I thought this is information that would be helpful to young people,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan noted that the information contained in the lecture was not enough to build the class on, so he added material from Susan Chapman’s, Ph.D., book “Five Keys to Mindful Communication.”

Sheridan worked hard to ensure scientific evidence supports everything he teaches. He draws ideas from research studies and techniques used at large companies, such as Google.

“This isn’t some hippy dippy thing. Research into meditation and mindfulness training shows students who do it have better test scores and less anxiety. Major companies are offering courses in it to their employees. Also, support from [Meghan Waskiewicz] has made this class something we want to make sure that all communication students take,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan aims to use the classroom to show students how to respond to stress in ways which can improve their relationships with others, and their lives in general.

“I teach how to live more in the present moment and to understand how the stories that we tell ourselves, and others, impacts our happiness. With mindfulness and meditation, we can take control of our responses to stress and improve our relationships,” Sheridan said.

Nadine Marte, a senior New Media Communication major, took the class in her junior year, and considers mindfulness the best way for her and other students to handle the stress of college life.

“Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, I still remember those exercises and once I complete them, I feel much better. It was a class where you do a lot of self-reflection and I think that’s something college students need. I received my best grades at Mercyhurst that term since I just felt extremely relaxed and in the moment,” Marte said.

Marte said the class was helpful and she continues to practice what she learned through mindfulness exercises and meditation.

“My favorite part of the class was probably the weekly exercises he would have us do, and we would have to summarize how the week went for us. I still have the book and it has been almost year since I’ve taken the class. The daily meditations we would do is something that I still do,” Marte said.

The communications aspect of the class focused on training students to think before they speak and discuss sensitive issues with a clear head.

“I hope students are more aware of how they can control their responses to the stresses that life hands them and to be more compassionate to themselves and others,” Sheridan said.