I first started meditating when I was 15 years old. It helped me find calm in an increasingly stressful world, and enabled me to concentrate for much longer periods of time. That said, I still count those final years of school as some of the most stressful of my life, with teenage angst, body image, fear of failure, exam worry and news from around the world all weighing heavily on my mind.
Since then, the pressures on young people have only got worse, with cyber-bullying, greater academic demands, early sexualisation and increasing sexual pressures, body image concerns, and so on playing a large part in many children's lives. Access to the internet has made it difficult to manage what children are exposed to at younger and younger ages.
We see these stresses manifesting themselves in various ways, with growing numbers of children experiencing depression, anxiety and eating disorders. According to Young Minds, over the last 10 years there has been an increase of 68% in the number of young people being admitted to hospital for self-harming, and depression has doubled in 15-16 year olds since the 80s. Further worrying statistics are available here.
Image credit: Forres Sandle Manor
Meditation is no longer enough. Mindfulness in schools is being developed to give children crucial tools to deal with life's pressures. It empowers them, encouraging them to develop a conscious awareness of their own thoughts, emotional reactions and stress triggers, and enabling them to develop coping skills, greater self-awareness and compassion for others. Cognitive benefits observed during studies include greater attention and focus, along with better grades. Behaviour in school is also seen to improve as children become less reactive, gain greater perspective and develop deeper compassion for those around them. Anxiety, stress and depression are shown to be reduced where mindfulness is successfully incorporated into children's lives.
To find out more about mindfulness, I completed a Mindfulness Fundamentals course two years ago, where I experienced first-hand the benefits of mindfulness and immediately introduced it into my classes. I am now half way through the Mindful Educator Essentials course, which is equipping me with the necessary background and curriculum to teach mindfulness more formally. There are various courses available online; some of them short, introductory courses, and some much more in-depth. A quick Google search will bring up myriad options, such as Mindful Schools, Mindfulness in Schools Project and Youth Mindfulness.
To find out more about mindfulness in general, check out Mindfulnet or look at the many other sites that you'll find by doing a quick Google search.
Enjoy your journey - it will change your life!