October 28, 2021 – Anushree Gade, LHC Student Assistant
Mindful describes mindfulness as the “ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing and feeling”. We can practice mindfulness through meditation. However, mindfulness is not just limited to meditation but also various other practices. You can practice mindfulness throughout the course of your entire day. For example, when you wake up, you can sit in your bed, upright, or find a chair to sit in and just think to yourself about your intentions for the day. You can even practice mindful workouts. Being mindful about your day and your emotions helps you become more aware of your thoughts.
Researches Tang, Holzel, and Posner have shown that mindfulness practices contribute significantly towards improving physical and mental health; it also helps us improve our cognitive processes. It has also further shown that meditative practices promote awareness, attention, emotion regulation, and self-awareness. Not only does meditation improve these functions, but it also causes physical changes in the brain. Furthermore, the “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Change in Health Related Behaviors” study found the impact of mindfulness on health behaviors has shown that mindfulness enhances dietary choices, physical activity, and sleep quality. Not only does mindfulness promote mental health, but it also positively influences healthy behaviors. This makes it more important for us to discuss mindfulness and its significance in terms of our physical and mental well-being.
Having said this, how are we promoting mindful practices in the state of Alabama? Earlier this year, in May, Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill (alabama reporter/alabama legislation) that lifted the ban on yoga in public schools. This ban was initiated back in 1993 due to its implication of Hindu and Buddhist cultures on the elementary, middle, and high school children in Alabama. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posited that the meditation involved in yoga helps those who practice yoga to de-stress and focus their attention better than those who do not. Though public schools across Alabama are allowed to teach yoga now, this bill comes with caveats. The bill still prohibits meditation alongside other things such as saying “Namaste” or even using chanting, mudras, or mantras. Yoga can significantly help children with de-stressing and focusing. Furthermore, in accordance with the research we discussed earlier, yoga can also help children be more self-aware and regulate their emotions at an early age. In the long-run, these children will be able to cope better with stressors and maintain good physical/mental health.
Located in Homewood, Ala., the Magic City Acceptance Academy is a local charter school that is working to promote mindfulness and better mental health in their students. Originally, the intitution was founded to create an affirming LGBTQ environment, however, they have affirmed their commitment to increasing access to mental health resources by:
- Assuring the presence of a social worker in the academy
- Providing access to therapy groups
- Including trained mental health professionals in the academy’s staff
- Ensuring the existence of a functional crisis team/crisis response team
The social workers, mental health professionals, and teachers support the students through various areas of stress and hardship. Furthermore, they also utilize journaling and mindfulness in their everyday routines. Overall, this academy operates as a local example of how to integrate mindfulness practices and mental health resources in a school environment.