Mindfulness: Taking a step back to take a step forward

New ASU program provides tools to better manage stress

September 12, 2019

Imagine being fully aware of the present moment, all of your sensations, feelings and thoughts, and being OK with it. Now imagine taking a deep breath and just letting all of your stress dissipate.

That probably felt pretty good – and whether you know it or not, you were practicing mindfulness.  portrait of ASU clinical psychology graduate students Juan Hernandez and Erin Mistretta Juan Hernandez and Erin Mistretta, clinical psychology graduate students and group leaders of ASU's Mindfulness Group at the Clinical Psychology Center. Photo by Robert Ewing Download Full Image

Mindfulness has been shown to have positive effects on both mental and physical well-being, and at Arizona State University, the Clinical Psychology Center offers training that teaches people how to pay attention on purpose and be in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way.

“The Mindfulness Group is an educational and experiential program with the goal of learning how to open up to the full experience of life from moment to moment and how to live life to the fullest,” said Erin Mistretta, a clinical psychology graduate student. “We hope to give students a tool to better manage their stress — something they can use while in school and take with them when they graduate.”

Mistretta became interested in mindfulness after a series of athletic injuries when she was an undergrad. She was overwhelmed with stress and became focused on how she could feel relief from those challenges. Mindfulness allowed her to develop a more holistic view of who she was in the world and helped her manage stress.

“Our society is very shame focused, and we might not display that externally, but internally we carry a lot of judgements about ourselves,” she said. “Mindfulness helps us to overcome those internal judgements and to make progress towards positive goals.”

The informal practice of mindfulness is simply paying attention to something you do every day, like eating or walking. The formal practice is closer to structured meditation. ASU’s Mindfulness Group provides training for the formal practice of mindfulness and explains ways people can integrate it into their lives.

“We identify what is stress for each group member,” said Juan Hernandez, a clinical psychology graduate student who runs the group with Mistretta. “Then we find ways for that person to implement mindfulness practices in their own lives.”

Mindfulness at ASU — starting Sept. 23

ASU’s Mindfulness Group is designed to help people cope with any of the challenges in their life — big or small — using mindfulness-based techniques. The group is open to ASU students, faculty and adults from the community. The goals of the eight-session program are:

  • Improve symptoms related to stress and anxiety 
  • Discover techniques to decrease worry and regulate emotions
  • Improve the quality of daily living
  • Increase the capacity for staying mentally and physically healthy
  • Learn the benefits of incorporating mindfulness into daily routines 

Each session is interactive and includes hands-on mindfulness exercises. The program is tailored to the needs of each individual participant. Group leaders are doctoral students in clinical psychology and are supervised by a licensed clinical psychologist. For more information contact the ASU Clinical Psychology Center at 480-965-7296. Call by Sept. 16 to ensure a spot.

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


The Humanities Lab announces co-director Juliann Vitullo

September 12, 2019

The Humanities Lab is very pleased to welcome Juliann Vitullo as its new Humanities Lab co-director. Vitullo is a faculty member with the School of International Letters and Cultures where her publications and teaching span many facets of Italian culture, ranging from medieval to contemporary times with a concentration on relationships between textual traditions and the material world as well as economics, food and gender studies.

Vitullo has previously taught a Humanities Lab course titled “Re-envisioning Food Systems” and is scheduled to co-teach another lab in fall 2020 on the economics of food. Her latest research focuses on the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle in Italy by way of its connection to history and culture; she is exploring strategies used to maintain these aspects of life in Italian communities, as well as potential pathways to incorporate such concepts into local food systems. Juliann Vitullo. Download Full Image

Sally Kitch, the lab’s director and founder, expressed her pleasure that Vitullo is joining the lab: “Juliann is the perfect person to co-direct the Humanities Lab at this time of our continuing growth and expansion. She brings a wealth of knowledge to the position, including her proficiency with course and curriculum development, passionate commitment to interdisciplinary approaches to the humanities and direct experience team-teaching a Humanities Lab. The staff and I are very grateful and delighted to have her on board.”

The Humanities Lab is the latest unit to join the School of Social Transformation. The Humanities Lab offers problem-focused, humanities-based but interdisciplinary courses designed to produce a collaborative, exploratory learning experience. Labs are team-taught by faculty from different disciplines and include students of varying levels and disciplinary backgrounds. Students and faculty collaborate to connect the dots between ideas, events, beliefs, images and data to address grand social challenges in a holistic way from diverse perspectives.

“I jumped at the opportunity to make this interdisciplinary, inquiry-based and community-focused experience available to more students,” said Vitullo when asked what about her experience teaching the Re-envisioning Food Systems Lab in fall 2018 led her to continue with the lab in this more in-depth role.

“The Humanities Lab emphasizes the importance of considering the histories, practices, narratives and values of communities as we seek solutions to social challenges such as re-envisioning food systems,” said Vitullo about the lab’s presence at ASU.  Vitullo is most enthusiastic about “...working with faculty, staff and students from across ASU and extending the opportunity to participate in a Humanities Lab to a larger number of people.”

Maureen Kobierowski

Program Coordinator, School of Social Transformation