Keeping Mindfulness In Mind
This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
Scientific Research proves that behavioral abnormalities that manifest themselves in children at early ages lead to the onset of mental illnesses in the adolescent and young adult years. How can we as a community work to decrease the number of teenagers suffering from mental illnesses?
How It All Began…
My librarian, always an exemplary scholar, was surprisingly not the best person to go to regarding my quest for mental health advocacy research.
I pushed past the heavy double doors during my free period yesterday and weaved past the long rows of tables and wooden chairs, holding nothing but my laptop and a pink lady apple. With the music blasting from my headphones and the disruptive humming coming from my mouth, I was impervious to the sign by the door that read “quiet-zone”. Well, It felt more like the twilight zone to me seeing as I rarely brave such deafening silence on a daily basis. However, I was there to make an appearance at the meeting I had set up at an ungodly time the night before.
If I had to provide a description, I’d say she fit the bill of a stereotypical librarian. She had glasses perched on her nose and constantly sported a scowl of disapproval at the group of kids making a ruckus amongst the many tall shelves of books–always heard but never to be seen. I knocked on her office door and patiently waited for an agonizing 2 minutes until a muffled admission sounded from the other side of the door. Had I known that just getting into her office was going to be that much of a struggle I would’ve opted for an email discussion instead. The books piled high behind the door was bad enough, but in addition, I couldn’t even see where she was because of the excessive amounts of books cluttering her desk. Her round face popped out from behind a stack of Marissa Meyer books and I was on the receiving end of her classic disapproving scowl. I felt like one of those tasmanian kids who played amongst the bookshelves every day.
“Put it away.”
Was it my apple? I knew eating in the library was prohibited.
Maybe my loud music? I have bad hearing, so it was disruptively turned all the way up and I knew she could hear it.
However, when she pointed at my laptop, my eyebrow instinctively quirked up in curiosity. She wanted me to put my laptop away? I guess she didn’t know that my life is centered around apples; both organic and electronic.
“We’re going to go about your assignment the intellectual way, with books. Electromagnetic waves are killing the brain cells of the youth anyways.”
I knew that if I thought too hard about her statement I would take offense to it, so I just dramatically took a bite of my contraband and chewed loudly instead.
“Where to start? Where to start…” My eyes followed her pacing figure back and forth. I felt as though I was watching a tennis match. She was so deep in thought and I was forbidden to use my laptop that boredom quickly set in. My music was already up on the loudest volume but yet the lyrics that were dancing around in my head started to sound repetitive.
I bounced my leg up and down.
“You know I’m starting to think that the key to your…”
I missed the rest of her statement with a loud bite of my apple.
My fingers drummed a steady pace in tempo with my music on the table.
I wondered how long that dust had been sitting in the corner.
Why was I spending my free period hanging out with dust as opposed to hanging out with my friends?
Speaking of, I bet they were talking about the latest gossip in the senior lounge, I really hated that I was missing it.
“For godsakes, turn that ATROCIOUS music off and quit being so restless. All I hear blaring is the objectification of women and the detrimental stimulation you get from excessive alcohol consumption. Is this what you kids are listening to these days? You know silence is actually golden, and practicing a little mindfulness will do you some good. Until you can exercise a sense of control, please don’t return to my office.”
I knew she’d be useless. How would an intellectual who holds herself to such high standards know anything about advocating for mental illness awareness? I got up with an exasperated sigh, threw away the core of my pink lady apple, and replaced it with an electronic version. I can’t remember the last time my computer was this cold and unused in the middle of the day. Oh well, time to start it back up. I gave a halfhearted wave to the fuming middle-aged woman behind the desk.
“Oh well. It was worth a try, Thank You.”
I walked out her office feeling frustrated. Great, back to square one.
The dust particles that were hanging out in the corner had flown up in my face when I had rudely shut the door behind me and I felt a sneeze coming on.
The lurching of my head had shaken the earbuds loose from my ears and the loud technobeat and autotuned lyrics ceased to invade my mind. For a brief moment, the twilight zone suddenly became the quiet-zone again and I froze in my tracks as new thoughts floated around my brain. This time it wasn’t catchy lyrics, it was the words that were just so harshly spoken to me a few moments ago by a lady with a scowl and glasses perched on her nose.
I turned around to enter her office again. But the ringing of the bell that signaled the end of class, echoed from the hall.
My train of thought was interrupted by the chaos erupting from all directions, however, something just felt different.
I reached for my earbuds to resume my daily jam session but I couldn’t bring myself to put them in. Somehow, as I blended into the crowd of students rushing to get to and fro classes, some with earbuds in, many on their phones, and some typing away on their laptops; I realized that the librarian was wrong about something. It’s not the electromagnetic waves that are killing the brain cells of the youth…it’s the content that those waves are delivering to our brains that’s killing our ability to use our peripheral vision. We’re so tunneled in on the false advertisements, the fake news, the social “norms”, the status quo. Maybe soon we’ll all need librarian’s glasses so that we can see past the things we constantly compare ourselves to.
Some kid in a letterman’s jacket who was looking at his phone, slammed into my shoulder, knocking my laptop out from under my arm. Time seemed to slow down as it hit the hard tile, keys flying asunder.
I stared down at the mess of dented titanium and plastic in complete horror. From the moment he bumped into me and I lost the grip on my lifeline, I had come to the conclusion that the damage would take a long time repair. Bummer. Who knows? Maybe in the meantime, I can learn about that thing called mindfulness.
Learn About What?… Let Me Explain
Mindfulness is the ability to center your mind and be in the present moment. This is achieved by coming to terms with current emotions and thoughts without being worried about the future or overthinking the past. The ability to do this reduces the amount of stress that you experience and leads to a healthy mindset overall. Still confused on what this is and how it’s achievable?… Check out this video for a visual interpretation…
Why Does This Matter?
What you see below are images taken of page 2 of the DSM-5 and it’s a list of the top diagnosed disorders amongst children. It’s almost uncanny how many of these disorders have to do with the child’s emotions or cognition…
This infographic puts things into perspective…
As you can see on the top row that says “current use of special education services for an emotional/behavioral problem” has the lowest percentage of students receiving assistance in both categories: among those with serious difficulties and minor difficulties.
In my interview with Physician Assistant Willie Adams, who works in an underserved healthcare facility, I discussed the prevalence of behavioral and emotional difficulties in the children he sees in his office. However, he corrected my misconception that only children in poverty experience behavioral or emotional difficulties. He explained to me how this was a societal stigma because children that come from affluent families can afford to have therapists and medication and therefore their statistics are less likely to be reported, however, it is very much an issue amongst children and teenagers from all genders and communities.
So What Do We Do With This Info?…
You’ve been equipped with the knowledge of both mindfulness and the challenges facing adolescents today…the question is what can we do with this information and why does it even matter?
I would like to see society come together as a whole to tackle the ever growing rates of mental illnesses. If more people had knowledge of how to help those with mental illnesses besides leaving everything up to healthcare professionals, then first off, I believe the negative stigmas surrounding mental illnesses will dissipate because people pass judgment on what they don’t understand. It’s human nature. However, if we all had the knowledge of how to communicate and with those suffering from a mental illness in a similar manner to that a healthcare professional then we will be able to bridge the gap of isolation that those suffering from mental illnesses feel. This would lead to sharp decline in suicide rates and the opportunity for people who would otherwise be bystanders to get involved in the wellbeing of their fellow members of their community. In seeing recent news events regarding the school shootings in florida, I feel as though something like this could’ve been avoided based off of the testimonies that I’m seeing on the news, where the shooter was what people called a “weird kid”. However, no one did anything about his behavior or took the time to attempt to communicate with him, causing him to withdraw further into his shell of isolation. I think if he was suffering from a mental illness, the institution of programs to help children cope with stress and anxiety and types of thoughts that they feel as though are uncontrollable I feel will greatly impact the lives of these adolescents in a positive way. The practice of mindfulness will teach them to be not only aware of themselves and how they feel, but also of the world around them and each other, providing the opportunity for a community to become closer together.
Remember: Our actions of today affect the generations of tomorrow. As a teenager, I understand what it’s like to grow up in today’s society where the constant pressure of societal standards are always portrayed whether it be through social media, societal stigmas, academic or athletic pressures, and the constant threat of violence from society weighing on people’s shoulders. I believe that the practice of mindfulness in schools and the spread of mental illness treatment knowledge amongst everyday people will provide a bigger opportunity for those who are mentally ill to receive help or assistance and with mindfulness we can possibly put an end to the development of mental illnesses in younger generations, which will provide for a healthy society as a whole overall in the future.
Think Getting Involved Sounds Like Too Big of A Task? … Think Again
Introducing; Mindful Schools
Mindful Schools is an organization that is working to establish training courses for educators in public schools to teach them how to incorporate mindfulness into their curriculum. They made a movie regarding their efforts and positive results that occurred called “Room to Breathe”. Below is the trailer to the film, and then if you have an hour of your time, feel free to watch the full video, that is linked directly beneath the trailer.
Full Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWNSOU_mP4s
If you’re an educator or a student that may want this type of mindfulness practice added into your curriculum, MindfulSchools.org has a Mindful Teacher Certification Progam, where teachers can be trained in the art of mindfulness so they can then teach it to their students, and spread it throughout their school. If you’re a student, bring this up to your administration and if just a few teachers go through it then it can make a big impact on the school as a whole!
It All Starts With You:
Step outside of your comfort zone and experience mindfulness. Not only will your mental health benefit from it but also your relationships with those around you and your productivity levels. In a fast-paced world full of so much stress and anxiety-inducing experiences, mental illness statistics have skyrocketed. However, while mindfulness can’t solve every problem out there, if started early enough in schools, kids can grow up learning ways to cope with the stresses of life so that when students get to middle school, the amount of behavioral and emotional reports won’t be so high as was shown in the statistics above. If you can start learning mindfulness and get someone you know into mindfulness practice, then hopefully it will have a domino effect and people of all generations can benefit from the practice.
In my quest to mastering the art of mindfulness, these are some things that I’ve been relying on:
Press play and take an opportunity to listen to this ambient soundtrack playlist that I created on Spotify and experience zen.
Or if you’re more tech-savvy, download this Mindfulness App to give you that extra bit of motivation that you may need to get started!
Personally, I have been hanging mindfulness posters around the school like this one advertising a mindfulness practice group after school in hopes that if I can get a group interested in practicing mindfulness, then hopefully it’ll spread and encourage administrators to incorporate it into our school curriculum.
How It All Ends…Or Has It?
I feel like I haven’t changed, and yet I completely have at the same time. I feel emotionally stronger, like any and all emotionally distressing situations that will no doubt come my way can finally be manageable. I have learned the tools to control the rampant thoughts that make a ruckus inside my brain. I’ve learned to slow my heart rate and quell the sweat that oozes from my palms, and none of it took radioactivity altering my DNA to learn how to do it either. Mindfulness started out as just a word that a librarian threw out at me in a tirade at my adolescent restlessness, and it took a damaged laptop for me to finally look up at my classmates and teachers surrounding me. The faces of stress, anxiety, nervousness, and happiness, flooded past me in the hallway. Senior year. I had been floating throughout those same hallways for the past four years and I couldn’t tell you the last time that I really saw where I was headed or who was passing by me. So many stories held behind so many facial expressions of people that I’ll never get to know. However, with the daily stresses of life weighing at the corner of our minds at every turn, to be able to find a constant like the practice of mindfulness is so fulfilling and uplifting. Below was my original plan on how to do this WordPress page, and instead as you can see I got carried away. I couldn’t help it. Mindfulness is something that keeps me inspired and it’s something that I want to tell everyone about because I care about the generations of tomorrow and to see those statistics in the chart above makes me upset to know that people so young are already suffering so much. The education system today with the college process and whatnot favors the academically inclined and successful, and those who struggle, whether it’s because of behavioral or emotional difficulties, end up left behind. Help spread mindfulness in the education system and ensure that no child ends up left behind.
From here on out, I hope to be able to bring mindfulness groups not just in my highschools but into the middle school and lower school as well. One of my friends who goes to a nearby public school has told me that her school has started incorporating it into their daily activities after lunch, so one of the goals that I have is to possibly get one of the administrators from her school to come speak at mine. If you have any more feedback, suggestions, or comments please feel free to leave them down below in the google form. Start a discussion! Maybe ask a “How might we…” or a “What if…” question so we can all grow together as a community!
Kayla Shavon Adams
Pastor PN, Reuben CA, Loeb M. Functional difficulties among school-aged children: United States, 2001–2007. National health statistics reports; no. 19. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2009. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr019.pdf
QuickStats: Percentage of Children and Teens Aged 4–17 Years Ever Diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), by Sex and Urbanization of County of Residence — National Health Interview Survey, 2013–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:625. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6623a7
Deen, Andrew. “Emotional & Behavioral Disorder in the Classroom.” Visually, 29 May 2015, my.noodletools.com/web/bibliography.html. Accessed 21 Apr. 2018. Map.
MindApps. “The Mindfulness App.” Itunes, Apple, itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-mindfulness-app/id417071430?mt=8. Accessed 21 Apr. 2018.
“Room To Breathe – Trailer.” Youtube, uploaded by The Video Project, 7 Sept. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Blt4daXG9H8. Accessed 21 Apr. 2018.
“Smiling Mind: Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation.” Youtube, uploaded by Smiling Mind, 4 Oct. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sceq4mtZhjI&t=66s. Accessed 21 Apr. 2018.