For 20 minutes, twice a day, students across the country sit in silence and engage in transcendental meditation.
This practice is called Quiet Time, a program funded by the David Lynch Foundation, which aims to “prevent and eradicate the all-pervasive epidemic of trauma and toxic stress among at-risk populations” through transcendental meditation instruction.
Transcendental meditation (TM) entails silently repeating a “personalized mantra.” Unlike other meditation techniques, transcendental meditation requires “no concentration, no control of the mind, no contemplation, no monitoring of thoughts,” according to official TM materials.
Quiet Time has taken off in the last seven years and has now been adopted by 18 schools across the country, The Huffington Post reported. The program focuses on schools where a majority of the students are considered low-income, because they’re especially susceptible to traumatic stress, according to the David Lynch Foundation.
Many of these students work after-school jobs and take on a lot of responsibilities at home, Jennie Rothenberg Gritz wrote in The Atlantic. A large number of them have also been “abandoned by at least one parent and left with relatives who are either overworked or unemployed,” and many rush to and from school “to avoid getting jumped or shot,” she said.
Given all these factors, it’s no wonder that students in low-income neighborhoods can benefit from stress-reducing meditation sessions at school.
Chicago’s Gage Park High School adopted Quiet Time in 2015 to help students deal with stress and curb youth violence, according to The Chicago Tribune. “In their neighborhood, they are fighting to survive, literally,” said Jose Morales, who teaches English as a second language. “And they need an alternative to the violence.”
While research is still being done to understand the effects of the meditation program, Gage Park Principal Brian Metcalf said the program has already yielded immediate results: a decrease in suspensions, an increase in SAT prep scores and an improvement in student behavior and concentration in class.
James, a senior at Gage Park who was always quick to argue or engage in a fight, told the Tribune that Quiet Time has helped him “slow down and focus” and better react “when someone says something objectionable.”
We know, based on a large body of research, that excessive stress negatively affects our mind and body. For instance, chronic stress can lead to coronary heart disease as well as harm our immune system and digestion. And studies have also shown that meditation can relieve anxiety and help you reconnect with those around you.
Programs like Quiet Time are teaching the next generation how to combat stress earlier, so it doesn’t become an even bigger issue later on in life.
Read more at The Chicago Tribune.