Crim Foundation Mindfulness program helping more kids

Published: Jul. 24, 2019 at 5:43 PM EDT
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(7/24/19) - Utah and Oregon are preparing to introduce mental health days into their school systems.

In Michigan, Flint is becoming a leader in an initiative called "Mindfulness," designed to help students focus. The 8-year-old program is already showing benefits throughout the Flint school system.

Since 2011, the Crim Fitness Foundation has helped Flint-area students and their teachers become more "mindful."

"Mindfulness is just simply paying attention in the present moment, being aware. But, you're being aware on purpose, right, and if your life depended on it," said Canisha Bell, a Crim Fitness Foundation mindfulness educator.

More than 5000 students and 1,000 educators across five school districts and 23 schools have participated in a variety of programs, events and training.

"Our mind is maybe in a made-up scenario, right. But, it's like catch it and just bring it back to the present. And every time you do that, it's like push-ups for your brain," Bell said.

Some of the programs include stress reduction, yoga, meditation and leadership workshops. The goal is to create an atmosphere of awareness and alertness.

Studies have also shown "mindfulness" activities can sharpen learning and behavioral skills, which is showing positive results for kids exposed to lead.

"The pre-frontal cortex is the part of the brain that's impacted by lead as well. And so, here in Flint, as much as we can develop and help mitigate those impacts, then we're definitely sharing it with them," Bell said.

A 2015 study showed 73 percent of students said the training has helped them make better decisions, while 61 percent said they've used those skills to avoid fights, as it helps with the fight or flight reflex that can take over when a situation gets stressful.

"And you don't think, right. And you just make all of these decisions or you're just reacting versus responding," Bell said. "And so, mindfulness helps develop that front part of the brain. So it helps with the impulse control, it helps with reasoning, it helps with really thinking logically."

Other results include better grades, because students are paying more attention in class.

Flint has also been chosen as a flagship city and national launch site for the Mindful Cities Initiative.