Deep Breaths to De-Stress: Potential for Mindfulness at Milton
by The Milton Measure on Friday, January 13th, 2017
What really is mindfulness? According to The Huffington Post, mindfulness is the “intentional, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.” Mindfulness offers the potential for us to take a moment and gain a different perspective.
“We cannot change the inevitable conditions of life,” says Andy Puddicombe, a modern meditation and mindfulness guru, “but we can change the way we experience them through mindfulness practices.” Taking a moment to live in the present often helps us focus and be more productive.
Mindfulness also provides physiological benefits. Sara W. Lazar, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School and an Associate Researcher in the Psychiatry Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, states that “although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation provides cognitive and psychological benefits.”
Lazar conducted a study focusing on the neural mechanisms underlying the physiological effects of mindfulness practices and meditation. Lazar’s research suggests that mindfulness-based exercises and meditation ameliorate symptoms including feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
And Milton students especially could benefit from some increased mindfulness. In a survey conducted by The Milton Measure, over 50% of Milton’s Upper School students reported feelings of anxiety due to exams approaching, but 75% of students have not attempted meditation or mindfulness practices to alleviate their mental stress.
Many meditation and mindfulness practices have been introduced to the greater public. Milton students can even access guided meditation or podcasts on their phones or tablets through apps like Headspace and Meditation Oasis. These apps allow people to engage in free, guided mindfulness exercises to develop skills and to learn how to apply them in various scenarios.
Students can also try out mindfulness in classrooms and assemblies. Milton has brought in speakers like Deepak Chopra and Rudy Tanzi, who shared valuable insights on happiness, achievement and good health. These events were interactive, so students were able to lead a meditation session and were allowed to discuss with the speakers.
Some Milton teachers and administrators have even adopted mindfulness practices and meditation sessions in their classes. Specifically, Mr. Bland has incorporated mindfulness training in his classes through the app Headspace.
Milton deliberately tries to provide opportunities for mindfulness. The discussion of mindfulness practices began last year and was integrated into all three divisions of Milton: the lower school, the middle school, and the upper school. The attempt was to introduce a regular practice of mindfulness in a way that would be interesting, educational, and useful.
Mr. Bland emphasizes that, in the new year, he wants to increase opportunities in the upper school for students to access mindfulness training and meditation. He explained, “My hope is that students try to incorporate mindfulness into a routine, ideally daily, weekly, or monthly.” He also commented that for us to achieve our aspirations for full potential, we cannot forget the importance of finding the time to pause, breathe, and be in the moment.
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