The Westernization of meditation is a movement with huge momentum behind it in the U.S. currently. Health enthusiasts and mental health professionals have been endorsing meditation since the early 2000s and spiritualists have been preaching its practice since the ‘70s. Now, with the growth of yoga studios and wellness centers across the country, it is only gaining traction.
Meditation has been proven to have a positive impact on mental health in a variety of ways. A study done in the Massachusetts General Hospital by Harvard researchers found that meditation increased self-acceptance, autonomy, personal growth and purpose in life. This in turn decreased feelings of anxiety and depression.
Despite its growing popularity, the struggle to bring meditation into public schools remains. With the growing epidemic of adverse mental health conditions, meditation is no longer a constructive option but a necessity. Meditation needs to be implemented in public schools and taught from a young age to assure the success and well-being of all future generations.
Even with numerous organizations backing the institutionalization of meditation into the normal school day, school boards and traditionalists have been relentless in their stance. In lower income areas in cities like Baltimore.
In Western culture, meditation is often incorrectly interpreted as a form of Buddhist prayer, Buddhist religious practices. A report by Science Daily conducted
at the University of Oslo states that meditation has “nonetheless been controversial in many Western religions.”
In reality, meditation is a practice of mindfulness, a mental effort to focus on one particular instance or action, in an attempt to reach an emotionally and mentally peaceful state.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA), anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults 18 or older in the U.S. and can begin at an age as early as 13. The AADA also states that one in eight children will develop anxiety before the age of 18, potentially having detrimental consequences on both their academic and psychological development.
Teaching meditation from an early age will not only mitigate the development of mental illnesses, but will also drastically reduce occurrences of unfavorable behavior and counseling intervention in public schools.
When non-profit foundations such as Minds and The David Lynch Foundation incorporated meditation programs in schools centered in low-income areas, they found that having troubled students practice meditation improved their behavior further than any other correctional method currently used in public schools.
Sarah Lazar, a neuroscientist from Harvard who studies meditation and its benefits, found that in an eight-week period of daily meditation, areas of the brain that deal with handling emotions and perspective taking grew thicker and more proficient.
Meditation has the potential to change not only the way people think but the way mental health is approached, and it must continue to be implemented into educational bodies on a much larger scale, not just in isolated cases. Organizations need to keep pursuing a future in which meditation is a standard daily practice for a majority of people.
Sergi Pons is a sophomore majoring in advertising.