The Warren County YMCA is looking to give students and teachers some tools to help promote positive mental health.
Last week, during the YMCA’s Whole Health meeting, the mental health professionals and teachers in attendance heard about the value of poetry and meditation.
Angela Cornelius of Mt. Jewett presented a multi-generational poetry class to the group as a way to give young people a way to express themselves.
“How do we heal and address and not ignore?” Cornelius asked. “That’s the power of the creative.”
“We’re always looking for our voice,” Cornelius said. “Poetry is a way of learning how to use language as a tool.”
In the past few pandemic years, “I’ve had several people I know commit suicide,” she said. “This is one way we can process it. We can write it. Ascend it.”
“We can’t change ourselves if we’re focused on the past or if we’re only looking at the future,” she said.
The group asked Nick Fuller of Mindful Central PA for some tips on how to introduce meditation to students in classroom or athletic settings.
He talked about the difference between pain and suffering. “We all experience pain in our lives. Pain is inevitable,” Fuller said. “Suffering is optional. The problem that happens then is we allow ourselves to suffer.”
Like Cornelius, Fuller also focused on timing.
“Mindfulness definitely helps bring our attention to the hear and now,” he said. “Mental time travel – negative mood happens when we’re not in the now.”
“Meditation is all about trying to be ok with the present moment,” Fuller said.
He said there is a “weird stigma” around meditation, but “the science has really caught up to the hippies and the monks now.”
For an introduction to meditation in a classroom, he recommended “STOP” — Stop, Take a breath, Observe what you feel, Proceed.
He offered to conduct a meditation “train the trainer” program for local teachers.
Students can learn to be “way more likely to have a response that is emotionally intelligent rather than just emotional,” he said. Meditation leads to “more gray matter… and less activation of the amygdala” which is a part of the brain associated with feeling emotions.
While the group continued to work on ways to help the community, and in particular, youth, they also recognized that stressful times for those groups lead to stressful times for the providers.