COLORADO SPRINGS — It's been a tough year for teachers and students as they try to navigate the pandemic, but a program created in Colorado Springs is helping them rebound and cope with the challenges of COVID-19.
To date, Cheyenne Mountain, Sierra, and Harrison High Schools have participated in workshops conducted by the Mindfulness and Positivity Project which was created by two Cheyenne Mountain High School teachers. The program aims to improve the lives of children through mindfulness and positive psychology.
For many high school students, the pandemic has brought many changes, both at home and school.
"The lack of structure for me has been hard. I'm used to waking up and going to school at 6:30 and 7:30, having practice after school then homework, bed, and doing it again. Mindfulness has allowed me to create my own structure and schedule, not necessarily a school schedule, but still being able to take care of the important aspects of my life like mental, physical and emotional health," said Emma Delich, Senior at Cheyenne Mountain High School.
She has participated in the program for four years and attributes the program in helping her become more accepting and mindful.
"My biggest take away from mindfulness is probably realizing the lack of control that I have over everything in my life and the things I do have control over such as my attitude, how I wake up in the morning, how I treat other people, and how I treat myself," said Delich.
Through workshops and mentorships, teachers along with students learn how to manage stress and anxiety, cope with negative thoughts and increase happiness.
"The students who are practicing mindfulness and positivity on a regular basis have significant growth in self-efficacy. In other words, they're managing their lives better, they know when to seek help, they know how to regulate negative emotions," said Meg Fredrick, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Mindfulness and Positivity Project. "We would do a workshop, we would talk about the sciences behind mindfulness, how really does it work and how does it change our brains. We would talk to the kids about Neuroplasticity."
With the program, students will go through a variety of listening, breathing, and progressive muscle relaxing exercises.
"We will take a whole jar of pennies, everyone grabs a penny and they just stare at their penny and really pay attention. Because if you're paying attention, you're not thinking about your math test or the friend you got mad at before this," said Fredrick.
The program is continuing virtually as the pandemic continues with no charge to Districts 2 and 12. Unable to be present in the schools with teachers and students, those behind the program are currently working on virtual presentations for educators to implement the skills and practices of mindfulness and positivity in their lessons with students. The program is also utilizing a podcast in which they interview young people and give them a space to talk openly and freely about mental health challenges they're facing during the pandemic.
The Mindfulness and Positivity Project have also partnered with the Department of Psychology at UCCS. A group of interns, under the direction of Dr. Tom Pyszczynski, began a double-blind study of the program in the fall of 2018 and the spring of 2019.
INITIAL RESEARCH FINDINGS:
- The students who practiced mindfulness and positivity regularly in the class had significant growth in coping self-efficacy
- One’s perception or belief that one can manage stress and anxiety through various resources
- Self-efficacy is often associated with a number of positive outcomes, including overall increased mental health
- When experiencing uncomfortable of negative thoughts, participating students had a greater ability to stop and reflect before acting
- Participating students saw significant growth in their ability to observe and describe negative thoughts without reacting to them.
- Participants reported feeling less sadness and loneliness
- Students experienced improved self-esteem
- Students reported being better able to distance themselves from unpleasant thoughts
- There was an improvement in students’ ability to solve problems and find solutions
- There was also a noted increase in student willingness to seek support when experiencing challenges and negative emotions
For those interested in implementing their program, email the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.