Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Meditation - The New Medication

I have been a college professor for over 25 years! That means a few things. First, that I am old! Second that I have had the opportunity to experience two distinctly different generations of students. The Gen X'ers who are now old enough to be parents of teens. Hello all you gen xer's!  And now I am teaching the millennials.

In the last 10 years of teaching I have noticed a major change in my students. Many of my students have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, imsomnia, anger management, and of course ADHD. In my Intro To Psychology course, I ask my students to either do a self-interview or interview a friend who is on some sort of medication to treat one or more of these issues. Most of my students choose to talk about their own experience. I teach 60 students a semester, and I am not being generous when I say that over 50% of my students are currently on some sort of medication. That is astounding to me.

This year, expecting the same trend, I decided to start my twice weekly classes with a 5 minute meditation. Every class, every student. It was an experiment. After every meditation I asked my students to write a journal entry describing that day's meditation and how they felt before and after. I chose to use this wonderful APP called calm. (available for phones and IPADS) The meditation includes several minutes of guided relaxation and several minutes of guided affirmations. ie: motivation, focus, energy, positivity, inner strength, inner peace, self acceptance, self-confidence, sleep, etc.

I was realistic enough to expect a lot of resistance to this new practice. After all these are adolescents. And indeed, there was grunting, and groaning, in the beginning. And honestly it lasted only the first week. Because what was so surprising and wonderful, is that my students started to like it, expect it and look forward to it. No one was more surprised than me. In fact my favorite anecdote from this experiment happened mid-semester. The little sound machine I brought to class to amplify my phone so the meditation could be heard, sh** the bed during the class. As I headed toward the trash to throw my little machine away the class gave a collective groan. They had become attached to the little machine, to the ritual, to the whole kit and kaboodle. Needless to say, I ran out that night and bought another.

Hear, in their own words, are my students experiences with meditation as written in the essay question  that was part of their final exam:

" This meditation practice struck me as something that was not for me. But now I have downloaded the app and use it to get to sleep, concentrate more on school and be less a procrastinator. Meditation is something that I will continue to practice because it has shown me how to control myself and do better in school."

"When we first began meditation I was not very thrilled with the idea. I learned that it helps me think about my goals, and how important they are to do and achieve. It has also taught me a lot of ways to relax and get things done"

" My initial reaction was that meditation was stupid. I learned that if I really focus and think positive, I can do anything. The motivation meditation really motivated me to study and that I can do anything I put my mind to."

"Opening my mind to the act of meditation, and really allowing myself to listen to the words as they washed over my body gave me the opportunity to connect with myself"

"Meditation showed me that I can tap into my self confidence, knowing that I am good enough."

"I think it is really wierd that I got into it, and I actually missed it during the classes we didn't do it, because I am never into that stuff. But now it has become a part of my pre-game ritual before hockey. I don't tell anyone that I do it because I feel like it is my time, and I like the peace it gives me before games."

This "plugged in" generation is suffering. They are on brain overload, and think that they only strategy to "get calm" is by engaging in more connecting. Calming the brain and calming the body are important strategies to teach your children, maybe the most important. So get out your IPHONE, app up to calm.com and start a new family ritual.

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