Mindfulness and Our Youth?
Stress, depletion and low to medium grade anxiety have become the new normal in schools and other institutional environments.
Our youth need a "nervous system" toolkit. The ground of self-regulation is the ability to notice the condition of your nervous system and "shift gears" if needed.
If a young person is in his/her fight or flight response, he/she does not have access to high-level, conceptual decision-making.
Mindfulness and other somatic exercises allow the pre-frontal cortex to come back online. Without these tools, other more conceptual tools (communications skills, conflict resolution) become less effective because the nervous system is not in "the right gear" to use them.
Our world today is often focused on speed and multi-tasking as indicators of good productivity. As a 2009 Stanford study noted: "People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time."
Mindfulness training is one way to bring focus and sanity back into the way we run our classes and ask our youth to study and engage in the learning process.
Contrary to images fed to us in the media, being a stressed out, hysterical and overly busy multi-tasker is NOT to the road to success.
Focused, relaxed and calm attention (the quality of what we do) needs to be emphasized in the learning environment.
Mindfulness is often introduced into schools that have pre-existing programs addressing social and relational competencies, bullying, conflict resolution and other life skills. Mindfulness training compliments rather than competes with other programs by providing students with simple, practical tools that help them work directly with nervous system states.
Adolescent Substance Abuse and Violence-Prone Behavior are marked by the inability to manage strongly impulsive states. Mindfulness may benefit youth in directly managing strong impulse reactions.
Mindfulness training targets experiences craving and negative affect and their roles in the relapse process. Mindfulness increases discriminative awareness, with a specific focus on acceptance of uncomfortable states and challenging situations without reacting "automatically."