The YMCA of Warren County seeks to empower students and teachers with tools to help promote positive mental health.
At the YMCA’s Whole Health meeting last week, mental health professionals and teachers in attendance heard about the value of poetry and meditation.
Angela Cornelius of Mt. Jewett introduced a multigenerational poetry class to the group as a way to give young people a voice.
“How can we cure and treat and not ignore?” Cornelius asked. “It’s the power of creativity.”
“We are still looking for our voice” said Cornelius. “Poetry is a way of learning to use language as a tool.”
In recent pandemic years, “I had several people I know who committed suicide,” she says. “That’s one way to deal with it. We can write it. Edit it.
“We cannot change ourselves if we focus on the past or only look to the future,” she says.
The group asked Nick Fuller of Mindful Central PA for advice on how to introduce meditation to students in the classroom or in sports settings.
He talked about the difference between pain and suffering. “We all feel pain in our lives. Pain is inevitable,” Fuller said. “Suffering is optional. The problem that then arises is that we allow ourselves to suffer.
Like Cornelius, Fuller also focused on timing.
“Mindfulness definitely helps focus our attention on listening and now,” he said. “Mental time travel – negative mood occurs when we are not in the present.”
“Meditation is about trying to be okay with the present moment,” Fuller said.
He said there is a “strange stigma” around meditation, but “Science has really caught up with the hippies and monks now.”
For an introduction to meditation in a classroom, he recommended “STOP” — Stop, Breathe, Observe how you feel, Continue.
He offered to lead a meditation “train the trainer” program for local teachers.
Students can learn to be “much more likely to have an emotionally intelligent rather than an emotional response”, he said. Meditation leads to “more gray matter…and less amygdala activation” which is a part of the brain associated with the emotions felt.
As the group continued to work on ways to help the community, and in particular young people, it also recognized that stressful times for these groups lead to stressful times for providers.