Teaching the whole person
According to the American College Health Association, nearly 1 in 5 students struggle with anxiety or depression, and the most recent report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health lists these two conditions as the top reasons students seek counseling. One of the more creative attempts to address the challenge is a for-credit course called The Art and Science of Human Flourishing, piloted by the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Penn State. It recognizes the fact that college students face the multidimensional challenge of succeeding academically and adjusting to living on one’s own while maintaining a healthy social life–spheres that have traditionally been treated separately. David Germano, religious studies professor and director of UVA’s Contemplative Sciences Center, says one of the keys to the course is students doing “reflective tasks together and actively making sense of what they are learning intellectually and connecting it to their lives,” including relationships, family life, career, and the “stress and anxiety they feel.” It’s part of a larger multi-year initiative by the three universities that includes online contemplative resources and assessment of the effect on students’ mental and emotional well-being.
Try plogging? (Yes, you read that right)
Be kind to your body and your community with a new Swedish fitness trend Mindful is totally on board with (and not just because of the funny name): plogging! A portmanteau of “jogging” and plocka upp—Swedish for “pick up”—plogging involves taking a garbage bag on your jog to pick up street litter as you go. It sounds a little hard to manage, but if you pick up enough trash maybe you can call it weight lifting as well…or shall we call it “plog lifting”?
Lift the mask
For 10 years, the Ever Forward Club, an after-school program in Oakland, CA, has used a mask exercise to help students get to know themselves. And now you’re invited to take part. Search for #100kMasks Challenge, go to the site, and follow the instructions.
The words displayed on the front of your mask indicate “qualities you let people see.” On the back, write down “the things you don’t usually let people see.” Ever Forward intends to collect at least 100,000 of them to “gather a deeper understanding of people all over the world and to show how connected we really are when it comes to the masks we live in.”
Share the pineapple love
Scott Webb, a photographer who has anxiety and depression, founded Pineapple Supply Co., a stock photo site offering free pineapple snaps, digital wallpapers, merch, and good vibes, as a way to help people connect over something as simple as cute fruit. The site has more than 24,000 subscribers and 500,000 photo downloads.
Okay, but can we still read People?
Getting a mani-pedi is already a relaxing indulgence. But Namaste Nail Sanctuary, a new franchise based out of Los Angeles, has upped the Om quotient with “Zen architecture,” air purifiers, programing “using light and sound pulses at specified frequencies to help the user relax quickly,” and the “Cocoon,” a meditation space for guests to visit après treatment.
Office mindfulness on the move
In Phoenix, AZ, the mobile mindfulness studio trend is getting down to business. M2 is a mobile meditation studio with a focus on workplace mindfulness. They drive their meditation truck to businesses and offer employee mindfulness workshops, with themes ranging from relaxation to team-building to leadership.
New moves against gendered violence
In New Delhi, India, the Special Police Unit for Women and Children believes in the power of self-defense skills that give women a chance to fight back. The female officers teach a free 10-day course for girls and women of all ages that combines moves from karate, taekwondo, and judo. The course’s growing popularity is, unfortunately, justified by the sheer number of brutally misogynist attacks in India’s capital over the past decade, which have spurred women to take their protection more into their own hands. The initiative also takes on gendered violence through a class for men and boys, teaching them to respect women and how to help if they witness harassment.
From rubbish to relaxation
To raise awareness about litter in her community, St. Louis artist Shea Brown wove Moroccan-style meditation cushions out of strips of discarded plastic shopping bags. Her Meditation and Serenity Station installment was part of the Dutchtown neighborhood’s public-education campaign to reduce illegal dumping. “Plastic is a beast,” said Brown, who also weaves “plarn” into sleeping mats for the homeless. According to the National Resources Defense Council, an average family takes home 1,500 plastic bags in a year. “We’re trying to come up with a way to do something different or upcycle the waste and also educate residents on ways to help keep some of this plastic out of our system.”
Changing mindfulness culture at NYU
Access to majority-white spaces is determined by racial privilege, and mindfulness meditation spaces are no exception. Hence the need for New York University’s Stay Woke and Meditate, a peer-led program tailored specifically to self-identified students of color. According to peer leader A’nisa Megginson, Stay Woke and Meditate strives to “provide space to exist without expectation” (not always an easy thing to find in college). It also facilitates the process of healing from the impacts of everyday racism. In addition to weekly classes, in April 2018 the program also held its first half-day retreat, “Existence as Resistance,” helping participants to strengthen community while defusing their stress through yoga, meditation, and reflection.
Mindfulness in the big leagues
The NBA has partnered with meditation app developer Headspace, giving all players and employees in the NBA, WBNA, and its G-League access to mindfulness training. The league
also plans to co-produce its own content on the app. This isn’t the only foray into the world of athletics for Headspace: It now also provides guided audio for “mindful runs” and tips for the Nike+ Run Club digital training program.