There have been many debates about adding meditation to the school curriculum and getting all students to meditate.
And while this seems like a good idea to those who have experienced the benefits of the practice, some people are opposed to it and think it is a bad idea.
We will be discussing this at length and will be helping you understand the debate around it and what it means.
Emerging Discussion on Meditation For Students
Let’s face it, a student’s life is not an easy one.
Anyone who is in high school or college is in the age bracket where they are trying to find their identity as well as doing their best to adapt to the new adult life that is slowly taking over them.
In this age bracket, most students get depressed, overwhelmed, and weighed down by all the things they have to do by themselves, especially coming from a place where most was done by their parents, older siblings, and relatives.
They have to juggle school, personal life, socializing and different responsibilities.
And if all this weight is not properly approached and well handled, it is easy for the student to fall into depression and let life get the best of them.
Most students actually get into drugs as a way of escaping reality. They are persuaded to take them by their peers for fun and when they realize the temporary but seemingly awesome thrill they offer, they decide to be taking them on a daily basis to cover up the difficult areas of their lives, which eventually leads them into addiction.
Studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse show there has been a 7% increase in college students who take marijuana over the last 5 years (1).
Another study shows that hundreds of thousands of students who get to college in the USA get to use alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs for the first time (2).
High school and college, for most students, make the first point of contact with drugs, and many of these, continue with them well into their old age, which ends up destroying them.
Many education institutions are now considering the idea of teaching meditation to their students to help them cope with everyday life and its challenges in a much better way.
Extensive research is being carried out on the best ways to introduce the meditation practice to students and help them master and make it a permanent habit for them.
A study by Yale on the best mental health practices for students show that a program known as the Sky Campus Happiness that uses breathing and other methods including meditation, social connection activities, yoga, and other self-improvement activities helped a lot in areas such as improving social skills, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, not to mention enhancing mental health in general (3).
How Meditation Helps Students
Here are the benefits the students who participate in frequent meditation may enjoy.
1. Promoting emotional stability – Meditation is known to increase peace of mind and inner peace and may help students be at ease during periods of exams, financial difficulties, and work overload, and overcome the fear of facing any tough situations that they encounter. By helping them remain in the present moment and be able to handle issues as they come, students can learn to be stable in the long term and get to deal with any hectic situation. This helps to encourage positivity and readiness in the students (4).
2. Reducing anxiety, depression, and stress – Students from high school to college are in the age group that has been found to be among the most depressed age groups. Becoming a young adult comes with its own troubles and puts a lot of burden, in terms of responsibilities, on people who were not used to it. And this affects many areas of the student’s life from managing the duties they have for the day to interacting with their peers and working with a schedule that helps them balance everything in a good way (5)(6)(7)(8).
Through mindfulness meditation, students can learn to remain in the present moment that takes away the regrets of the past and worries of the future and help them focus on the present and do what needs to be done at that particular time in the best way possible. This way, one task after another is accomplished and before long they have ticked off every task off their to-do list.
3. Raises the quality of sleep – Students who are stressed by upcoming exams and other issues that come with school life often have a hard time sleeping. When they go to lay down, different thoughts race in their mind and make it hard for them to sleep. And this is another area that meditation can help with. It reduces the racing thoughts and creates a favorable environment for the student to fall asleep easily and have a restful and refreshing sleep. Studies have even shown that this practice goes a long way for people who struggle with insomnia (9).
4. Improves focus, attention, and concentration – Meditation is a reliable practice for those who are trying to improve their levels of attention and focus. Meditation styles such as focused attention meditation, awareness meditation, and others, train the mind to focus by starting with the observation of the breathing process. They learn to get rid of distracting thoughts and fully settle on the now, students require to focus and be attentive during their classes and this is a practice that can greatly help with that (10)(11).
5. Enhancing creativity – Creativity is one of the needing skills in the classroom. Students are often asked challenging questions that require them to think out of the box as well as creatively apply what they have been taught by their teachers. Studies on meditation have shown that it helps boost creativity and students can get to access their creative juices this way (12).
6. Improves memory – Meditation has been linked to positive effects in the regions of the brain that are linked to memory and learning abilities, among others, due to its ability to increase the gray matter in the brain. It can help with both short and long-term memory and in understanding concepts easily, which are crucial factors for a student who wants to ace their course units, and subjects for high school students (13).
7. Makes it easy to drop negative habits – For students who are just getting to know themselves and life in general, it is easy to fall into bad habits such as taking drugs and alcohol, oversleeping and others, while experimenting or out of peer pressure. And these habits go on to affect other students when they leave school and even for the rest of their lives, as earlier mentioned. Meditation offers good control for this. By training yourself to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you are able to remain aware and better respond to the urges that come up to engage in a certain activity that could be harmful to your life. Vipassana meditation is another practice that helps in this area.
Getting Students Started With Meditation The Right Way
The schools that have started implementing meditation practices in their curriculum have reported improvements in the students in areas that include memory, class productivity, and ability to handle stress, to name a few.
The approach that seems to work for most of them is where the teachers of the students are taught meditation, then work with meditation experts to introduce the practice to students and build a strong meditation system that offers the students the ability to learn, understand and explore the practice of meditation under professional guidance.
Some schools have partnered with mental health organizations to help them create specific techniques targeted for students such as the exam meditation that focuses on releasing the tension that comes with examinations and making the students ready for it.
Other well-known meditation styles that have also been found useful for teaching kids to meditate include compassion meditation, zen meditation, vipassana meditation, transcendental meditation, gratitude meditation, mindfulness meditation, and focused attention meditation.
Each meditation style should be introduced to the students through guided meditation from physical meditation experts or through credible meditation resources so that the students can easily grasp the process and the concept behind each practice and then they can be given time to master the practice and later on do it on their own.
Other Meditation Resources For Students
Meditation apps are also another way to help students get well versed with meditation. Since most high school and college students have smartphones, they can easily access meditation apps which can help them further explore the practice of meditation.
By getting them to use their smartphones to meditate, it gives them an interesting experience that would make them want to keep playing around with the app after practice and increase their interest in it.
Some of the best meditation apps include Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer. They offer many meditation sessions, videos, and other tools to help deepen the practice in the user’s life.
Mindfulness can also be cultivated outside of a meditation session. And this is usually the goal of meditation.
It helps the practitioner remain aware throughout the day.
And while mindfulness meditation makes a good start to learning about and experiencing what mindfulness feels like, there are other valuable mindfulness-based practices that take your level of mindfulness to the next level.
Some of these practices include body scan, visualization, note-taking, resting awareness, loving-kindness meditation, and reflection. You can learn more about them here.
Fun Based Meditation Practices
Some practices have been formulated to make meditation fun to work with and enjoyable for practitioners. The most popular ones include:
* The stillness challenge – This is where you make use of music and silence. The idea is to get students in a quiet room that is fairly big, well or dimly lit, and with soft soothing music playing. Each student is given their own spot that is a bit far from the other student that is next to them. And then you give them the challenge of aiming to remain still for a certain period of time. You can start with one minute and then as you progress, increase it based on how the students are performing. With time, they will learn to be still and quiet.
* Sound focus meditation – This is a good challenge to get students to learn to focus and remain attentive. Sound focus meditation is a form of focus meditation that uses sounds or objects to help the practitioner improve their focus levels. For students, it can be used by playing randomly disappearing sounds at a low volume for a given time limit and getting them to listen carefully, from when the sounds start to play to when they fade away, and when they come back. By making them attentive to every aspect of the sounds, they grow to be more focused.
What Research Says About Meditation For Students
While the meditation practice for students is a growing body of study, the few studies on it, for the most part, have shown promising results.
A recent study that involved 93 students, who were third-year college students doing a business course, who received meditation training for a period of 3 months showed that meditation helped improve their level of calmness, restfulness as well as mental, emotional, and physical awareness (14).
It helped them improve their way of thinking and behaving.
This shows that more than just providing other health-improving benefits, meditation can make a good relaxation technique for students as it offers the same value in that respect compared to other relaxation techniques (15).
Another study that involved a series of experiments to determine if 10 to 12 minutes of mindfulness meditation can have a substantial amount of effect on students showed that the practice helped students clear their mind, focus, and be able to improve their creativity (16).
There have been numerous other studies on meditation and its usefulness in schools, and other various areas of our lives and the results showed that it may have a positive impact, although not always (17)(18)(19)(20)(21)(22)(23)(24)(25).
The experience of meditation and the benefits each practitioner enjoys from it varies from one person to another.
However, it is worth exploring and could be useful to students who struggle with anxiety, stress, irritation, restlessness, and low self-awareness.
As more research will be done on this topic to further understand it, it is clear for the time being that meditation for high school and college students can help a good deal.
Essentially, meditation is a useful practice that can help students improve their physical and mental health and even their social life that will help them improve their performance in school if well approached and executed in schools.