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The most recent National Health Survey data (ABS, 2007-08) identified that a staggering 26% of all young people between the age of 16 and 24 have a mental health disorder. The prevalence of teens suffering with depression is around 14% and climbing each year. In fact, according to this data, the single most quoted issue at school as identified by the kids themselves is STRESS?
Fortunately, amid the numbers showing doom and gloom, there is a light shining bright and a major wave of changing coming… it is gaining momentum in the USA and the first ripples are reaching our shores now. It is the Mindfulness Education Movement (MEM). A myriad of new scientific reports were released in 2010 finally substantiating what many of us already knew – meditation directly and dramatically impacts student stress levels and can actually make them SMARTER!
Schools across Europe and the United States are implementing Meditation Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training to their teachers, parents and students to not only decrease stress, but to address the rise of violence in schools, depression and anxiety, and to improve learning outcomes for students.
It works because mindfulness opens our children to their own innate guidance. It allows them to break through stressors like excessive homework, bullying, media barrages, family breakdown, extra curricular requirements, relationships, list goes on. Mindful meditation enables our children to hear their own thoughts amidst the ‘white noise’ of the information generation, and find their authentic selves. From here that they can make choices that are in alignment with their beautiful individual spirits and become adults with purpose and self esteem, geared with coping skills to not only survive in a fast paced world, but THRIVE!
Recent studies show that just a few minutes of meditation each day helps a student to return their bodies to a state of homoeostasis. Regular practice strengthens and thickens the cerebral cortex. It creates more and more neural pathways between the brain hemispheres increasing a person’s capacity for utilisation of both sides of the brain in harmony. Meditation regulates brainwaves and brings us out of Beta into Alpha state, a highly receptive and expansive state where increased learning, memory retention, clarity and creativity occurs. It increases the release of stress reducing hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. It reduces the heart rate, blood pressure, and slows breathing to make the body more efficient, conserving energy so that students can work ‘smarter not harder’!
Mindful meditation is a beautiful gift we can give to our kids to help them cope with the complexities of life and the stressors that they face during a school year. We are in a position to empower coming generations to be the conscious, enlightened and in-tune beings that are significantly smarter, stronger and capable of anchoring the MEM transformation. There is a mindful education revolution coming. As parents, educators and guides, we need to ride the wave of this transformation for, and with, our children so that they can grow into content, capable, conscious adults with strong life coping skills and a firm grasp of their talents, wisdom and knowing as unique beings. From a position of mindful awareness, children can consciously choose how they respond to the world. Once aware, they can use meditation tools to create a more effective, more balanced life for themselves and stress less at school.