De-stress with high-tech gear for free at the MindSpa

Destress with high-tech gear for free at the MindSpa

Unwind at the MindSpa with new technology and traditional meditation practices.
Published: November 11, 2018
Counseling Center Mind Spa
The Mind Spa is located inside the Counseling Center, off University Ave.

Stress is an inevitable part of college life. When midterm season comes around, it can even feel unbearable. According to an article from the American Psychological Society, 61 percent of college students seeking counseling reported suffering from anxiety.

To help Syracuse University students take a break from studying and de-stress, the Office of Health Promotion hosts the MindSpa, a place for students to relax, meditate and focus on mental health. The MindSpa has a number of high-tech options to help students relax, like the MUSE headset, Verilux Happy Light and emPro, a heart-monitoring software.

The MUSE headset is the first tool in the world that gives users real-time feedback on what happens in the brain during meditation. According to the MUSE website, research shows that just three to five minutes of meditation with the headset can benefit its users. The sleek headset fits behind the user’s ears and goes across their forehead. It senses the user’s brain activity, guides users through basic meditation exercises and tracks their progress, all on a free app. Meditating can increase both productivity and positive emotions, according to Psychology Today.

MUSE Headset at the SU MindSpa.

HappyLight is a light box — about the size of a shoebox — that imitates sunlight in order to enhance users’ energy,  mood, focus and sleep. According to an article from Harvard Health, light therapy is most effective when users sit in front of the light box for 30 minutes after waking up. Even if you don’t have time to visit the MindSpa right after waking up in the morning, it can still be a valuable time to relax and de-stress at any point during the day.

HappyLight at the SU MindSpa.

emwave Pro is computer software that monitors a user’s heart rate. There is a sensor to track heart rhythm while users engage in different games and exercises. According to the HeartMath Institute’s website, emWave Pro helps users practice, relax and improve their “clarity of thought, speech and emotional composure.”

emwave Pro at the SU MindSpa.

Katelyn Cowen, director of the office of health promotions, said the HappyLight is especially popular during the winter months, and the MUSE headset is popular year-round because it is easy to use.

To decide what technology to purchase, Cowen said the Office of Health Promotion consulted other colleges with similar programs to see what they were offering. In lieu of high-tech options, students can also find more traditional tools to de-stress, such as yoga mats, coloring books, a wind chime machine and even a zen sand garden for traditional meditation methods in the MindSpa.

“Some students just like to use it as a space to get away from other things going on in life, academically or socially,” Cowen said. “It’s important to have a separate space to destress.”

The MindSpa’s newest endeavor is a partnership with Pacifica Labs, the makers of the Pacifica app that offers stress management tools, meditation and guided cognitive behavioral therapy, in addition to other features. The app usually costs $8.99 per month but students, faculty and staff can use their SU email address to get the app for free. Pacifica was rated number one on BuzzFeed’s Amazing Apps for Anyone Living with Anxiety list and Forbes’ 4 Technologies Innovating Mental Health List.

Next fall, the Office of Health Promotion is looking to continue expanding the MindSpa’s offerings as it moves into the Barnes Center at The Arch.

Formerly known as the Stress-Reduction Room, the MindSpa has moved to a new location this semester. It is now located in the Counseling Center, the basement level, of 111 Waverly Ave. Students can make an appointment through their health and wellness portal

On a student’s first visit, a member of the Office of Health Promotion staff explains how everything works. Students can sign up to visit the MindSpa for a half hour and have the room all to themselves.