Yoga on the rooftop, with a view of palm trees swaying in the breeze. Massages and aromatherapy in a candle-lit room. An afternoon walk around a beautiful lake.
It sounds like a day at the spa, but it was all part of Tuesday's Mental Health Day at Miami Law. The school's Mindfulness in Law Program partnered with the Dean of Students office and the AskUs team to create a packed schedule of events that helped relax and reinvigorate dozens of students.
In the morning, students received massages on the Bricks. A classroom was transformed into an aromatherapy center, complete with candles and atmospheric lighting, for students to use as a retreat for the entire day. Three yoga sessions were offered: a 15-minute "short stretch" with Dr. Ashwin Mehta, a yoga specialist; "Yoga at Your Desk," led by resident mindfulness guru Scott Rogers; and "Yoga on the Terrace," a rooftop session held during the late afternoon.
During lunch in the student lounge, Dr. Mehta, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at UM, presented tips on how to get a good night's sleep. As the Medical Director of Integrative Medicine at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Dr. Mehta uses a multidisciplinary approach to help patients achieve optimum rest. "In the rat race of law school, it's easy to forget that sleep is so important," Dr. Mehta said, adding that stress, anxiety or tension can cause sleeplessness. "If we are talking about chronic sleep failure, it gets woven into the fabric of our beings. It shows in our skin and in our posture. Lack of sleep has even been connected to chronic pain."
Dr. Mehta explained to students that sleep affects everything from mood to memory, emphasizing that we need sleep as a "foundation to keep our spirits up, in order to stay healthy." To help get the best sleep, he suggested that students try yoga, meditation, acupuncture, lavender oils, and Tai chi. He also warned students to be cautious with the things we bring into our bedrooms at night, such as televisions, laptops and cell phones.
"These things are hyper-stimulating," Dr. Mehta said. "Have you ever noticed that many television shows have a strobe light effect? We consume information and light all day long, so our brains need to refragment and recompose the thoughts. We need to dissipate all that light energy."
Meanwhile, on the Bricks, the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund welcomed the Paws4You animal rescue team to Miami Law with open arms – literally. Puppies were jumping into the arms of law students and anyone passing by. Many students stopped what they were doing and rushed over to the playful scene.
Melinda Hare, an animal rescue volunteer, noted that all the puppies were up for adoption. "Dogs definitely bring down the stress level," she said. "They will keep you on a routine, encourage you to exercise, and teach you a lot of responsibility."
Third-year student Gabriella Jimenez, an SALDF member, said that having a pet is "a gift."
"Coming home to a happy face during my 1L year was so nice," she said. "It will give you a good break from school work, and it's been proven that hugging dogs relieves stress!"
Morgan Nati, a first-year student and vice-president of SALDF, organized the event. "We like to bring animals to the school, so law students can have the opportunity to step back from the rigors of studying to pet some puppies and learn about a great organization on campus!" she said. The group also brought puppies to the law school on Valentine's Day.
Lori Moldovan, a local nutritionist, made smoothies on the Bricks using a special recipe to encourage mental health. Students were able to enjoy the smoothies before taking a "Daily Constitutional" walk around the lake with Dean of Students Janet Stearns. A "constitutional" is simply something that one makes time for on a daily basis to improve their health.
"We talked about a wide variety of things, including exploring some new corners of the campus on our tour," Dean Stearns said, "and the time I once saw an alligator crawling out of the lake!"
Fortunately, there were no alligator-spottings on Tuesday's walk, but there will be other opportunities to join Dean Stearns during the rest of the semester. "I would like to start it as a new tradition and I would enjoy students joining me," she said, "as it can be a great way to get some fresh air and make positive connections outside of the law school."
For every such event that they attended, students were allowed to add a raffle entry into a drawing for a secret prize. For more information and video on the Daily Constitutionals, please click here.