03 June 2010

Can Meditation help with school bullying?


By Jeanne M. Ball

A recent report of frequent bullying in American schools has brought national attention to the stressors commonly faced by teens—stressors that many parents and teachers are unaware of. Society is struggling to understand how 'atypical' adolescent peer pressure has escalated into vicious student behavior at school. As educators seek ways to increase compassion and empathy among students, many are finding that meditation offers promising, measurable results for tackling the underlying stressors that give rise to bullying.

The Problem of Bullying

The (US) National Center for Educational Statistics estimates that one third of students ages 12-18 are bullied at school and online. In all socio-economic levels, schools are experiencing heightened security concerns and acts of violence.

High divorce rates among parents, violent entertainment, and drug abuse by youth—even the use of prescription anti-depressants—are suspected of contributing to the problem. However, these factors are now being recognized as symptoms of an underlying cause: the epidemic of stress in our society.

A promising solution: stress-free schools
Hundreds of public and private schools throughout the US and around the world have benefited from a program of Quite Time, [1] where students have the option to sit quietly for a few minutes or to practice meditation to relieve stress. ‘It’s like a washing machine,' says Jody, a meditating student at a Detroit high school previously plagued by violence. 'Disturbing thoughts wash away.'

A recent study, conducted by the University of Connecticut, found that 106 at-risk adolescents in three high schools reduced levels of stress, anxiety, hyperactivity, and emotional problems when practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique over a period of four months at school, as compared with controls. [2] The TM technique is an effortless, non-religious meditation that is easy for students to learn and practice at school or on their own.

According to Dr. William Stixroud, “when the nervous system becomes settled and quiet during meditation, the stress response starts operating normally. As a result, children are simply less impulsive.” The process of quieting the mind and body through the Transcendental Meditation technique increases coherence between the two hemispheres and the front and the back part of the brain. [3] “More integrated brain functioning improves the ability in children to control their impulses,” says Dr. Stixroud. “They get in trouble less; they act without thinking less; they can inhibit the tendency to get distracted better.”

Effective meditation can also help strengthen children that are typically victims of bullying by building self-esteem and resilience to stress. Research studies have demonstrated that the TM technique not only reduces stress, it increases inner happiness, and results in improved flexibility, social ability, and confidence. [4] When adolescents practice mediation they tend to find approval from within rather than needing it from the outside, which leads to greater independence, less influence from peer pressure, and less abusive behavior.

References:
1. David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness Based Education
2. ‘At-risk adolescents reduce stress, anxiety, and hyperactivity through Transcendental Meditation.’ Robert Colbert, PhD, Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Connecticut (US). Presented at the Annual meeting of the Society for Behavioral Medicine, March 2008
3. ‘Increased EEG Coherence during Transcendental Meditation’: International Journal of Neuroscience 14: 147–151, 1981.
4. 'Transcendental Meditation reduces stress and increases happiness among middle school students.' Rita Benn, PhD, Director of Education, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Center, University of Michigan. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, April

Author's Bio
Jeanne Ball, teacher of the Transcendental Meditation tehcnique for over 35 years specializing in ADHD, ADD, addiction recovery, anxiety, depression, hypertension and other stress related disorders.
www.meditationforwomen.blogspot.com, Transcendental Meditation

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