Cambridge teenager behind new school curriculum, ‘Mindful Mornings’

“I realized that mindfulness is one of the ways to help people relax,” said Shubham Patel, a grade 12 student at Preston High School.

A new program launched at Preston High School is now educating more than 100 Waterloo Region District School Board students on the power of mindfulness against stress.

Mindful Mornings is not a traditional mindfulness program. This is a voluntary program that takes place twice a week in the morning. Students participating in the program are guided through a video exercise, with different exercises to help students find the one that works best for them.

“Students have time in class to do these activities so they can follow along and relax during the day,” said Shubham Patel, a Grade 12 student and organizer of Mindful Mornings. “Because high school is one of the most stressful times for a teenager, and this program is supposed to help them feel less stressed during school and have fun.”

The idea for Mindful Mornings came after Patel began participating in the Peace Innovators Fellowship and Mentorship Program offered at the University of Waterloo. In this program, students must choose a specific issue within their community and create an event that would address the concern.

“I was focused on trying to help solve the mental health issue in our community, and I wasn’t sure what exactly I would do,” Patel said.

After talking with experts and doing research, Patel realized he could help teach high school students how to manage stress through mindfulness. As a student himself, he said school is a stressful time for teenagers.

“The need is great,” Patel said of mindfulness, “being a student myself, it has been difficult to master our work and feel relaxed in school. It is important to take a few moments to your day just to breathe and relax.

Patel, who has also practiced mindfulness for five years, adds that he has seen the impact of stress on students.

“I know a lot of friends of mine who often skipped classes because they didn’t feel well, and I know people who are very stressed about exams,” he said. “I’ve seen the need for this a lot over the past two years because of the pandemic, and I wanted to do something about it.”

After launching the program in two classrooms in February, it is now used by around 160 students. Gathering feedback from program participants, he said about 70% of students felt less stressed after each session and more relaxed after participating in Mindful Mornings.

“A lot of students also use these resources at their own pace, whether they wake up or just before a test or something like that,” said Patel, who plans to speak with more teachers about using this program. with their students.

While he plans to continue Mindful Mornings, Patel says developing that program has also inspired him to start a nonprofit focused on climate awareness and action.

“They’re connecting a lot, especially since there’s a lot of climate anxiety right now,” Patel said of climate change and mindfulness. “I think it’s really important to relax your mind as well and take very small steps to make changes.”

“Through this project, I realized that I could actually make change and have an impact, and this success has motivated me to continue in the future.”