Oklahoma Christian University alumni and staff collaborated to introduce a new type of exercise – exercise for the brain – to students.
Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind is a five-week program for Oklahoma Christian University students sponsored by U!Shine, an organization set out to improve mental wellness on campus.
Jordan Hoffmeister, an Oklahoma Christian alumnus and a research assistant at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, helped bring Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind to Oklahoma Christian.
Hoffmeister said he took a program for aging adults developed through the Oklahoma Health Initiative, and adapted it for college-age students. Since the program also collects research, Hoffmeister asked professor of psychology and family studies Tina Winn to be the faculty sponsor on campus.
“Since Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind has been shown to be an effective program at increasing health-related behaviors and improving mental well-being, U!Shine thought it would be a great hands-on program to sponsor and bring to Oklahoma Christian — its pilot campus,” Hoffmeister said.
The process of beginning the program on campus began one year ago, starting with approval to collect data and do research.
The first two groups of students participated in Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind in the fall of 2016. Hoffmeister, Winn, and resident director Vivian Hoffmeister, led the classes.
According to Vivian, Health Brain, Health Mind goes through a series of classes, beginning with an introduction and then flowing through a series of other relatable courses.
“The things we teach [are] guided imagery, so along the same lines as like meditation, in the first course and then we go through a class on anxiety, dealing with stress and dealing with depression,” Vivian said. “And then we do a moving forward class, which focuses on goal formation and how to recognize achievable goals and not set yourself up for failure. And then kind of the steps to work through to achieve these goals once we’ve made realistic ones.”
Participants took an optional survey before and after the program. Results show significant gains in self-efficacy, willingness to take action and the belief change and success are
“We have a facilitator’s manual, so it’s a structured program,” Winn said. “At the end, participants get a workbook that they then can take and it leads them through these exercises over the course of the year.”
The program offers classes on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. Classes in the program last for five weeks, and participants receive a kudo for every session.
“We try to shoot for about 18 per session,” Winn said. “I’m so excited we have this large of group signing up, but if we get too much over 15, it changes the dynamic. People will not participate as much. We want this to be an ongoing offering through U!Shine.”
Jordan said the program is tailored for the average college student and everything it offers is about self-improvement.
“Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind provides tools to better improve and maintain health-related behaviors, including exercise, eating healthy, managing stress and building resilience,” Jordan said. “Because it addresses a broad range of topics and healthy behaviors, everyone can find something useful in the program.”
Winn and the Hoffmeisters said they hope Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind will bring positive changes to campus.
“I hope it normalizes mental health care a little bit,” Vivian said. “I hope it shows students that you don’t have to be diagnosed with something in order to care about your mental health.”
The first sessions of the semester started Sunday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. Students can still sign up and be first on the list for the next session, starting March 5.