Mindfulness and Handiness for Teen Mental Health

Mental health, especially of the younger generation, has become an important concern. Mental health professionals often recommended mindfulness to help patients’ connect their bodies and minds and focus on the present.

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Piece Astrid Jacoby made in tribute to her grandmother

“Mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment,” and “reconnecting with our bodies” (NHS). It’s used to treat anxiety and depression because it “can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better” (NHS). Furthermore, by making people more aware of their thought processes, it highlights “[streams] of thoughts…that are not helpful” (NHS). “Research also shows positive effects on several aspects of whole-person health, including the mind, the brain, the body, and behaviour, as well as a person’s relationships with others” (Be Mindful).

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Hand made pillow decor created at Little Hands

There’s a variety of different ways to practice mindfulness, including several creative outlets. Mindfulness through creative outlets that involve having people use their hands “provides psychological benefits” (Barron). For example, “research has shown that hand activity from knitting to woodworking…are useful for decreasing stress, relieving anxiety, and modifying depression” (Barron). “More than half of the brain’s cortex is mapped to the hand,” so “our hands need to be engaged for our brains to be healthy” (Gupta).

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Students working with their hands

Everyone can benefit from practicing mindfulness, but it’s particularly “deeply beneficial for” teens (Youth Mindfulness). “One in 10 people aged 16 and under has a mental health problem in the UK, with nearly 80,000 young people suffering from depression” (Wright). Mindfulness “[helps] them cultivate empathy, as well as skills for concentration and impulse control,” which helps teens “navigate the challenges of adolescence”(Beach).

In 2014, two former Little Hands students, Sophia Parvizi Wayne and Amber Van Dam, campaigned “to have mental health taught as part of the national curriculum…after the pair saw first-hand the effects of anorexia” (Wright). As a result of their “almost year-long battle…mental health will be taught in PSHE lessons” (Wright). Schools will also be advised “on how to make the lessons ‘a place where mental health needs are identified and support is provided sympathetically’” (Wright).

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Hand stitched embroidery created at Little Hands Design

Creating something with their hands can be therapeutic for teens overcoming mental health challenges. Lola, a fourteen-year-old LHD student recovering from anorexia, “struggles with body image, mood swings and the constant feeling of judgment” (Little Hands). “Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience anorexia nervosa at some point,” so practices like mindfulness are incredibly beneficial for young people like Lola (NHS). For example, Lola says she feels “at peace” when she is at Little Hands because “it’s a space for her to focus on herself and no one around her” (Little Hands).

Mindfulness is a handy tool for people who want to improve their mental health through creative outlets that involve using their hands. At Little Hands Design, the benefits of mindfulness are represented in the emotional growth of our students.

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Uniformity and Creativity: Can Schools with Uniforms Still Have Both?

The importance of self expression is paramount: it’s the way people identify who they are to the world and create a sense of self. Individuality, however, can be difficult to promote in educational environments where students are required to wear uniforms. School uniform policies do have understandable reasons, but it doesn’t excuse the negative impacts on children’s development of personal identity and self expression through fashion.

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Clothing design sketch created by an LHD student

Those who argue in favor of school uniforms claim “wearing a uniform improves pupils’ behaviour both inside and outside school” and “helps to reduce bullying” (Clark). A deputy headmaster at Harrow School said students at well established private schools whose histories date back centuries build a “connection to the rich history of the school and…its distinguished community” by wearing uniforms (Metcalf). Many schools say “school uniforms are designed to help kids focus…diminish peer pressure,” and enhance the learning environment (PBS). Another rationale for uniforms is “to create a level playing field. So…no one is teased for not following the latest trends” because they can’t afford it (Jacobs).

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Clothing production tools

Despite the supposed benefits, school uniforms are still stifling overall. Furthermore, uniforms aren’t “going to replace good teaching, good principals, small classrooms” (PBS). School uniform designs can also send a subconscious messages about education being work, which implies learning isn’t fun. Furthermore, having to wear a “uniform suppresses [students’] right to express [themselves] through clothes” (Jacobs).

“Students flourish when they’re treated as free-range individuals, rather than battery-hen units that must conform” (Whitehead). Uniforms are supposed to equalize students for discipline purposes, but “kids customise whatever they wear,” so “no two of them ever look the same” (Whitehead). Schools also start focussing on enforcing strict adherence to the established uniform, which distracts from education.

“Serious discipline and academic issues are unlikely to be solved by” uniforms (Brownlow). “Uniform rules can be taken too far,” and students can become frustrated and rebel (Metcalf). This results in further discipline issues, which makes uniforms counterproductive. “If the rules weren’t there, kids wouldn’t try to break them” (Whitehead).

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LHD students show off their handiwork

As with most controversies, compromise is possible, even with school uniforms. Instead of continuing outdated traditional English standards of uniform dress, schools who wish to maintain a uniform policy can involve their students in the uniform design process. This would further design education and teach students more about clothing production. It also provides students with the opportunity to express their unique sense of style while still wearing a uniform.

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A plaid piece made by an LHD student; Similar to uniforms, but still shows off the students individuality

Little Hands Design students are taught to value their individuality and ability to express themselves. Designing and making clothes is an excellent medium for self expression because students can create clothing no one else will have. We’ve seen how much this boosts students’ self confidence, which is why involving students in the school uniform creation process would be a beneficial compromise. This solution harmonizes self expression with the positive aspects of school uniforms. Because at the end of the day, self expression does not need to be sacrificed for discipline and community.