Mindful Minutes: Just Breathe

Late nights, drama, schoolwork, caffeine, and extracurriculars are just a few elements that comprise the chaos of a high-school student’s life. Countless obligations and stressors extend beyond the years of high school, and shift overtime. It feels as if the walls are closing in, leaving no space to relax or even breathe.

This might not apply to some students, but it is true that most people, spanning all ages, have encountered stress or difficulties at some point. In the tumult of college applications, difficult coursework, work, and other out-of-school activities, Senior Leah Browning very much experiences the immense stress that comes with the first semester of senior year. “There seems to be no time to really relax. There are a lot of decisions to make as well as a lot of uncertainty and stress in the college application process.”

In pursuing various tasks and activities, many lose sight of the reality that sometimes the simplest practices have the most profound impacts on our perspective and well-being. The new Mindful Morning sessions, organized by Mrs. AM Finlay and Mrs. Cindy Zito, provide all members of the NKHS community with the opportunity to pause and reset before leaping into the stressors of the day.

Some may wonder, what exactly is mindfulness, and what are its benefits? In short, mindfulness is a quality of present moment awareness that is non-judgemental.

Mrs. Finlay explained that reaching this state of acceptance “can provide insight and guidance through yourself,” and that “it’s kind of like opening up your ears to yourself and listening to your inner soul, and letting it be heard.” Through this skill, people can cultivate compassion for themselves and others, and learn to manage their thoughts without becoming consumed by disappointment or frustration in the presence of stressors. You can actually solve your own problems!

The positive influences of practicing mindfulness extend into several aspects of one’s life. In the words of Mrs. Finlay, “

Mindfulness is a practice of restoring your best self.”

— Mrs. Finlay

” In essence, it cultivates a spirit of openness and acceptance that improves the decisions that we make for ourselves and within our interactions with others.

Mrs. Finlay explained that in taking at least 2 to 5 minutes to restore their energy, “people are better equipped to make better choices” because it enables them to “refocus on what is important in [their] life.” In terms of interactions with other people, Mrs. Zito added that the practice of mindfulness “will result in better relationships and better conversations.”

Mrs. Finlay and Mrs. Zito began the mindfulness project towards the end of the last school year. According to Mrs. Zito, “it [mindfulness] has really been interwoven into all of the social emotional learning that schools are implementing now.”

Drawing attention to the multitude of wellness-related programs implemented in schools throughout the United States, especially in higher education, she said, “I tell students that if colleges and universities have these wonderful resources for students who are around 18 years old, why don’t we have them here at High School?”

Now, the two ladies hold mindfulness sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays before school in room 110. These brief sessions last from three to five minutes, for now using a beginner’s meditation tape that focuses on breath, although there is much room for flexibility and expansion in terms of the activity.

Mrs. Zito said “We would love for students to lead and I think that’s exactly where we’re headed.” It is important to understand that the mindfulness sessions are a resource for students who feel that practicing mindfulness would be beneficial to them. The sessions are not mandatory to anyone; they are not a club that is recruiting for members.

When asked whether she would ever consider attending the mindfulness mornings, Leah said “I’m not sure–I’m open to the idea, but frankly I don’t think that I would make it to school on time for it most days. I often like to relax before school just by talking to some friends, but I am all for finding new ways to slow down and manage stress right now. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up going sometime, or I’ll try mindfulness in my own time!”

Leah speaks for many students in that it may be difficult for them, for various reasons, to try attending the Mindfulness mornings. Mrs. Zito and Mrs. Finlay understand and respect that many students prefer to study or socialize before the school day, but they have created a safe environment through the mindfulness sessions that is open to anyone and everyone who is interested. Mrs. Finlay said, “no one at mindfulness will hurt you or ask you to share. So, if there’s ever a place to try something and see if you survived it, that would be a really safe place.”

A skill that anyone can practice, Mindfulness is a tool that extends beyond the scope of the school environment. As Mrs. Zito puts it, “doing that kind of work benefits you for a lifetime.”