As Student Stress Increases, Mindfulness Training Flourishes

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When students at Marblehead High School in Massachusetts went back to school this year, they were asked to move their desks out of the way, grab a mat, and lay on the floor to participate in guided meditation before French class, writes Kelly Wallace of CNN.

A senior, Lexxi Seay, was not convinced. She said she had never tried meditation, and, in fact, “thought it was a joke” — until she was so relaxed that she fell asleep as she worked at a computer.

“It helps so much. It really does,” said Lexxi, 18, who has been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. “I tend to be less anxious afterwards. Let’s say I am having a real hard day at school and then I go to French and we meditate for 10 to 15 minutes, I feel so much better. No anxiety, no stress, just relaxed.”

But Marblehead High is not the only school providing exercises in mindfulness to teachers and students as a response to the tremendous pressures which young people are bearing.

A 2014 American Psychological Association survey found that the high expectation of good grades to ensure attending the best colleges, involvement in sports, other extracurricular activities, and hours of homework come together to make teens the most stressed group of people in the US.

Mindfulness is a practice that originated in Buddhist meditation and is comprised of placing attention on the present moment and pushing away distracting thoughts about the past or future. This term approximately 200 students from the UK’s University of Cambridge will be meditating as part of a class created by university researchers who want to measure how much mindfulness can assist in helping fight against stress, writes Harriet Swain of The Guardian.

The counseling service at the school is offering the eight-week classes which will center on discussions, meditation, group exercises, theory, and homework. The participants in the Mindful Student Study will be healthy, but the course is a three-year pilot class which sprang from concern over the increase in the number of students across the UK who are seeking mental health services.

Joseph Pond writes in an editorial for the Belfast Telegraph that mindfulness is a sensible practice to learn in school. There is an increasing amount of evidence that mindfulness can improve memory, self-esteem, attention, social skills, academic skills and emotional stability.

Mr. Pond has taught children in the Whitehouse Primary School in Belfast, Ireland about mindfulness and says the students have been extremely amenable.

Since he is a native of Southern Arizona, he used the behaviors of a wild Sonoran Horned Toad to teach the students how to be mindful. He pointed out the stillness of the reptile, its alertness, peacefulness, and natural breathing habit.

Pond gives his email and offers a copy of his “Horned Toad Lizard” meditation for parents to use with their children, which he guarantees they will love. He is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist, and a mindfulness instructor.