Much of our work at Green Ivy revolves around helping students build their overall executive functioning skills, which in part, involves teaching simple strategies for time management and organization. We also take a holistic approach to student wellness, and encourage students to reflect on their overall well-being, which includes stress management, nutrition and sleep. In terms of stress management, during initial sessions with students, we ask them to list five healthy ways they use to deal with stress. Many aren’t sure if the ways they cope are “healthy” (like sleeping or playing video games) while others are at a complete loss for any concrete coping methods when faced with this question.
Interestingly, several students I’ve worked with recently have listed meditation as one way of coping with stress. However, when I ask them if they’ve ever meditated or know how to start a practice, they all say no. I’ve found that this opens up a conversation which can help students demystify the practice. When students learn meditation is only as complicated as sitting down and and clearing their minds for a few minutes each day in order to reflect and regroup, many are surprised. We often discuss ways they can create their own form of daily practice, especially in tandem with great apps like Zen Friend or Headspace.
The fact that so many students are aware of meditation speaks to its pervasiveness in the wider culture, and mindfulness programs are also being implemented with much success in school curriculums. One such program, Calm Classroom in Los Angeles, has shown that children as young as three are benefitting from just a few minutes of mindfulness and meditation a day. While these concepts might seem too abstract for young children, they are often the most receptive to them. Through activities like stretching and guided listening, positive results have included improve memory and better regulate emotions, among other positive results. In addition, a low-income school in San Francisco which implemented “Quiet Time”—a 15-minute twice daily time for meditation, experienced dramatic improvements. Over three years, the school’s suspensions dropped by 79 percent, attendance rose to 98 percent, and students’ grade point averages increased each year.
While empirical studies are hard to come by to prove the range of benefits that mindfulness and meditation can provide, we know that at the very least they reduce stress and improve overall well-being. At most, they may also significantly impact learning, executive functioning and academic achievement.