Lesson Introduction & Overview
This short lesson is aimed at encouraging youth to think positively about meditation and other relaxation activities, and help reduce the stigma around mental health self-care.
Let young people know that they will be trying a short meditation today. Meditation is a strategy for reducing stress and promoting mental wellness. Ask the group what stereotypes they can think of about meditation, either positive or negative.
Introduce the idea of stigma:
- Stigma is a mark of shame that sets an individual or a group apart. It’s a label, a stereotype, a pre-judgment before getting to really know a person and the details of his or her situation. Sometimes, negative stereotypes lead to stigma.
- Stigma leads people to reject, avoid, or fear those they perceive as different. You’ve all seen stigma in action and probably experienced it yourselves as well.
Talk about types of stigma.
Ask students to talk about different types of stigma. Can they think of any examples of stigma based on negative stereotypes?
There is definitely some stigma in U.S. culture about people who have stress and related problems such as anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions. People may make jokes such as “forgetting to take your meds.”
These negative judgments can carry over to the things people do to take care of their mental well-being. Some people practice meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Other people think those things are silly or weird. Talk with youth about whether they or anyone they know does any of these things, and whether in their experiences there is stigma about them.
The truth is that these kinds of practices, what’s sometimes known as mindfulness, are really awesome for overall health, and can help with many things beyond just promoting mental wellness, including doing well in school, sports and music. They can also help you feel good about yourself, and even lead you to better relationships with friends and family.
Ask if anyone in the group knows any breathing exercises or yoga poses or other things related to meditation, mindfulness, and mental wellness. If young people have things they want to share, let them demonstrate or lead the group.
Introduce the Head to Toe meditation. Encourage young people to set aside any pre-existing judgements they might have and just give it a try.
Meditate with the group (you can play the audio or read the script yourself).
Give people a few minutes to just rest and relax after the meditation. Then pull the group back together and ask:
- What did you think of that short meditation experience?
- What did you like about it? What did you not like about it?
- Do you think regular meditation like this could be helpful to you or to someone else in your life? Why or why not?
Finally, thank the group for being part of reducing stigma about mental wellness and taking care of themselves. Encourage them to keep doing that because it’s good for them and for other people they care about.
If your group does well with this, consider trying some of the other meditations available on Change to Chill, perhaps including a regular time during the week for a short meditation or other mindfulness practice.
Additional Instructor Resources
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong so that families can practice meditation at home.