Mindful breathing exercises now required in NYC public schools

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New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams recently announced a new policy for the city’s public schools aimed at improving the mental health of its students. Starting this fall, New York City’s public schools will require daily mindful breathing exercises in its classrooms.

In partnership with the New York City Department of Education, this new initiative will call for two to five minutes of mindful breathing each school day. The exercises will most likely consist of a teacher-guided meditation in which students are instructed to pay attention to their inhale and exhale while relaxing their bodies. 

How is mindful breathing helpful for students?

Research shows that regular mindful breathing exercises can help with focus and nervous system regulation, which can lead to higher emotional resiliency, lower stress, and improved memory and mood. Students who practice mindfulness may find it easier to pay attention in class and keep their stress levels to a minimum while at school. 

Critics of the new policy, however, say that schools should be offering more robust support for students’ mental health. While mindfulness exercises can have positive impacts on students’ wellbeing, they aren’t a replacement for more proactive policies like staff training on mental health, peer mediation programs, and increased support from social workers and mental health professionals. Some of New York City Public Schools’ mental health programs such as these are even at risk of being discontinued due to lack of funding.

Mayor Adams insists, though, that these mindfulness exercises are an affordable, common-sense way to improve students’ well-being. He acknowledged the youth mental health crisis that has been worsening since the pandemic, and says that the new mindful breathing policy along with increased access to virtual mental health care will make a large positive impact in students’ lives.

Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.