By Lizzy Creamer
Of the many health trends floating around, mindfulness is the one that seems to be sticking. Google defines Mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Anyone can practice mindfulness whether through ambient music, guided meditation, and other sensory tactics to keep one grounded and in the moment. According to DHS School Psychologist Ms. Michelle Ryan, mindfulness is quite useful and can ingrain itself into a person as a natural response to stress, such as deep breathing and looking for sensory triggers to keep their emotions grounded.
Ms. Ryan said, “I’ve been doing mindfulness for a few years now, and the whole – I like the way that it really kind of connects the whole mind with the body, and feelings thoughts, and emotions.”
People who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, anorexia, bulimia and other mental and or eating disorders often practice mindfulness as a way of coping with their symptoms. Others simply use mindfulness to relax or help them fall asleep at night.
Ms, Ryan explained that the tactic is more about coping than avoiding stressors, saying, “Our goal isn’t to eliminate all the stressors that are in people’s lives, it’s to teach people how to manage the stress that comes into their lives,” said Ms. Ryan.
Students responded positively to the idea of mindfulness and agreed that it could be beneficial to those who practice it, and also agreed that the guided meditations during this year’s Stress Less Laugh More Week could be beneficial if more people took them seriously.
Maya G. said the guided meditations would be useful, “If people took it seriously. I can’t even hear the announcements most of the time, so I thought it was just kinda like weird. They had yoga during iLab, and I did that, and I loved it, but I thought the meditation just over the speaker wasn’t working.”
Although Maya thought the mode of delivery was subpar, she agreed with the possibility of instituting weekly mindfulness activities during iLab, such as guided meditation or yoga classes, saying “I think that was awesome. I did that, the one [yoga] class they offered during this year, and it was awesome. I loved it, especially if you know you sign up for it, you know you’re going to take it seriously. You know you’re going with people who wanted to be there, so it makes a difference.”
Lea F. concurred with Maya about the guided meditations and said, “I would’ve liked it but a lot of kids were like laughing and stuff, so it wasn’t like real.”
Aidan T. had a similar experience as he said, “Maybe, it was a little awkward because, if you didn’t get everyone doing it, it’s social pressure I guess, to follow what everyone else is doing.”
Student Council President Emily M., who played a major role in planning Stress Less Week, said, “The Student Council worked alongside the guidance department and the school therapist, and what they did is they gave us tools, like meditation, so we decided it would be a good tool to help kids stress less, and help them especially after their tests.”
Emily also agreed that a weekly mindfulness activities are a possibility, given the proper permissions and preparation. She said, “When we were planning for yoga like we did on Thursday it was super easy because obviously those rooms we used for yoga were available. I think if we find a person it would be super easy and beneficial to the students.”
Ms. Ryan “We had someone who came in and did yoga, who would actually love to come in and do yoga on a regular basis.”
“Part of the problem,” said Ms. Ryan, “or the things that we kind of have to figure out is logistically, when it’s going to work out. During iLab would be great, we just have to find someone who can commit during iLab. And you know, how are we going to pay for that service? Do we have somebody that could volunteer? That would be great. If not can we do some sort of funding, maybe through a grant or something.”
Mindfulness tactics can also help those who have trouble sleeping. The ambient album titled Weightless by Marconi Union is scientifically proven to relax one’s mental and physical state. According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, who conducted the research, the top song produced a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date. The research revealed that listening to the album resulted in a “65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates.” When combined with deep breathing, and a certain focus on one’s physical surroundings, it can have a very strong soothing effect.
The album is available on iTunes.
Overall, students had a positive reaction to mindfulness, and are for instating weekly mindfulness activities.
Ms. Ryan said “These are life skills that you can use for the rest of your life,” so stay mindful!
To learn more about the science behind Weightless, read this article.