By Plyfaa Suwanamalik-Murphy
I used to be a nomadic homeschooler. Much of my time traveling was spent crossing the United States and exploring my home country of Thailand. Because of my travels, I was able to see a rich blend of cultures and religions whenever I stopped in my parents’ red minivan. When I was in Thailand, Buddhism was and still is the main religion of the country. I saw people practicing mindfulness and meditation along with their community in temples, “wat,” and outside places of worship.
Eventually, I began to wonder about the scientific basis behind these practices. Does practicing mindfulness and meditation yield any physical or psychological benefits?
With the American Psychological Association (APA) reporting in October 2020 that the pandemic is likely to give way to “serious health and social consequences for years to come;” it is clear that this is the time to look at alternative practices for healing and recovery. In addition, the APA’s 2020 Stress in America survey found much-elevated stress as a result of current events among youth aged 13-23. As a method to help combat psychological stressors, I will dive into the question mentioned earlier and explore whether mindful meditation can improve mental health.
Mindful meditation is the practice of releasing one’s negativity and focusing on calming both the mind and body.
Over the past decade, the number of research studies on mindful meditation has jumped significantly, but not all studies follow a specific criterion to collect their research. This is seen with findings from researchers at Johns Hopkins University. In 2014, gathering 19,000 meditation studies, the researchers looked for studies that were conducted correctly and were unbiased. As a result, they found only 47 fitting their criteria. But, with these 47 studies, mindful meditation was shown to lower psychological stresses, including anxiety, depression and pain. Over the past several years, more research done correctly has also documented the effectiveness of mindful meditation in reducing anxiety, which has resulted in greater support of the practice by the medical community.
With correctly conducted studies, it is clear that mindful meditation spurs physical changes, which contribute to a positive psychological being. In an increasingly connected world that is ever so focused on the future, it’s easy to get caught up in the never-ending cycle of pressure-producing stress. During these times, simply allowing “the nows,” past events, and the “could be” situations to fade away for just 10 minutes each day could accomplish wonders in enacting positive change within one’s outlook of life and thinking.
Plyfaa Suwanamalik-Murphy is a Sunset District native, a homeschooler in her senior year and SF Youth Commissioner for District 4. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Categories: Voices of Youth