The world today is a very different place for young people to grow up than it was just a few decades ago. Youth today face challenges unimagined in the past. The impact of social media, natural disasters, violence, and terrorism have infiltrated virtually every corner of the world. The frequency of these events, their graphic representation, and the increased exposure to media images are all likely to have an impact on the emotional balance and mental well-being of our young people.
Closer to home, Cape Cod has experienced a traumatic and painful increase in the loss of young people attributed to risky behavior, poor choices, mental health challenges, alcohol and substance abuse, motor vehicle accidents, self-harm, and suicidal behavior. Additionally, recent headlines in local papers have shown the devastating effects of bullying and cyber-bullying to young people within our state. There is no doubt that young people today face perplexing and complex social issues in their daily lives—at a time when their internal resources for emotional coping and self-regulation are less developed, they are particularly vulnerable.
To compound the issue, research shows that most behavioral, emotional, and mental health issues begin in childhood and adolescence.
In a recent survey of Cape Cod students, participants reported:
Calmer Choice partners with schools and community organizations across Cape Cod to deliver a low-cost prevention program that equips children with a suite of skills to increase inner resilience, reduce the impact of stress, manage emotional responses, learn self-control and increase their sense of well-being.
Calmer Choice helps schools integrate its program into their school culture by training school staff to deliver Calmer Choice programming directly and by providing resources for educators and parents to develop the same inner skills being taught in the classroom. In short, Calmer Choice aims to impact the culture and outcomes of an entire school and community, working one person at time toward a world where people lead lives of kindness and compassion toward themselves and others.
Over the last 7 years, Calmer Choice partnered with researchers from Tufts, Yale, MIT and Harvard to study the impact of its program with over 2,000 students. Evaluations support the effectiveness of the program, as well as demonstrate the feasibility, efficacy and applicability of teaching these skills in public schools.
Researchers identified many ways in which both students and classroom teachers benefit from the program. Specifically, after Calmer Choice, students report an increase in emotional awareness, an increase in ability to calm down when upset and anxious, and improvements in impulse control, ability to pay attention in class, and ability to fall asleep at night. Most importantly, students with the greatest need for these skills actually make the greatest gains.
In comparison to matched control groups, Calmer Choice participants significantly decrease anxiety, improve emotional regulation, and executive function—and improvements are maintained over the school year.
Additionally, students with higher levels of mindfulness perceive a more supportive school environment and are happier overall. Calmer Choice students were involved in the first study ever conducted using brain scans (fMRI) with youth that provides scientific evidence that a school-delivered mindfulness-based program can enhance attention and reduce stress. MIT researchers found Calmer Choice effectively enhances sustained attention in middle-school students and positively changes brain connectivity1, as well as reduces amygdala reactivity to fear and stress. (1C. Bauer, personal communication, December 2, 2017)
This is where we make our contribution. Calmer Choice delivers an in-school, low-cost, preventative effort that equips children with a suite of skills to learn self-control, increase inner resilience, reduce the impact of stress, manage emotional responses better, and increase their sense of well-being.
Calmer Choice is an 8-week program that is implemented for 20 minutes twice a week for elementary school students and once a week for 45 minutes to middle and high school students.
During each session, students are guided through our innovative programming where:
The conceptual framework that guides Calmer Choice programming is grounded in current academic and scientific research on the benefits of social emotional learning, coupled with mindful awareness training for cognitive, emotional, physical, and social well-being and health.