Throughout the last few years Mindfulness has come to the fore in an attempt to help young people cope with the pressures of modern day life and expectations made of them. There has been article after article citing Mindfulness as a powerful tool, enabling young people and adults to relate directly to everyday life and taking charge of the lives and empowering them to do something for themselves. Mindfulness is about training the mind to pay attention to the present moment.
Way back in 1890, William James who some consider to be the founder of modern psychology commented that ‘an education which should improve this faculty (of attention) would be the education par excellence.’ On the other side of the world techniques for training the attention had been cultivated by a variety of contemplative traditions over many thousands of years.
Today, research is beginning to deepen our understanding of the mind and body and as such have expanded our conventional belief of human potential – in terms of our ability to focus our attention and develop greater capacity for emotional wellbeing, good mental health, compassion, ability to learn and even physical health. (See research evidence summaries: http://mindfulnessinschools.org/research/research-evidence-mindfulness-young-people-general/ particularly a summary titled ‘Evidence for the Impact for Mindfulness on Children and Young People’).
We can change our brains by training our minds and over 30 years ago Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program whilst working with patients experiencing chronic pain in hospital.
Over the 30 years from 1967, the average age of onset of major depression dropped from 31-33 years to 13-15 years. The co-funder of Mindfulness in Schools, Chris Cullen stated that the average levels of anxiety for teenagers today are equivalent to those inpatient psychiatric patients in the 1950s. As such there is clearly a need for those working in education to support young people early on, giving them the tools to skillfully navigate life!
The World Health Organisation states that by 2030, mental health will be the biggest cause of early death or severe disability brought on by depression. US Congressman Tim Ryan has set out his vision of what it would be like to integrate mindfulness training into a wide range of areas of society. In the UK in 2014 the All Party Parliamentary Group was launched to study the benefits of bringing mindfulness into public policy.