From office workers to elementary school children, everyone has weathered individually unique struggles with the pandemic in the past few years. College students had to grapple with an extremely challenging set of pandemic-related issues. Classes were canceled, kids were forced off-campus and then on again only to take classes virtually from their dorm rooms. Major events were canceled as well and, for many students who were experiencing their first foray into “life outside of mom and dad’s home,” it was a difficult period.
College can be stressful even when there isn’t a pandemic sweeping the country. Over the years, colleges and universities have enlisted a number of approaches to provide stress relief and better mental health solutions to their students, everything from open gym time to free counseling. During the pandemic alone, suicidal ideation more than doubled for the college-age population in the USA. This increase in mental health concerns calls for an intense focus and effective solutions for our young people.
One approach that has shown to be beneficial and well-received is SKY Breath Meditation. The Art of Living Foundation, a volunteer-based, humanitarian and educational organization founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, delivers SKY (Sudarshan Kriya Yoga) Breath Meditation practice with remarkable, measurable results. A study conducted by Yale showed that SKY Breath Meditation effectively lowered college student stress levels and increased feelings of pleasant emotion and social connection, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
SKY Breath Meditation on Campus
As students return to campus, administrators continue to seek ways to relieve the stress of the pandemic and ease students back into regular coursework. The Yale study also showed that students’ stress and anxiety levels significantly decreased when taught the specific SKY Breath Meditation techniques through a program called SKY Campus Happiness. This program is now offered at over 100 campuses across the United States.
SKY Campus Happiness is a comprehensive wellbeing program tailored for college students, faculty, and staff, that utilizes evidence-based breathwork and meditation, emotional intelligence training, social connection, and service leadership to empower individuals to thrive. The courses and retreats offered provide complete training for wellbeing, breathwork and meditation practices, and opportunities for authentic social connection. After each course, daily live guided meditation and breathwork group practice are available. Select staff and students train to become facilitators.
Retreats for Students
The SKY Campus Happiness Program offers students, staff, and faculty retreats: the SKY Happiness Retreat and the SKY Silent Retreat.
The SKY Happiness Retreat is a “holistic wellbeing program taught over three consecutive days” offered on-campus and online. The SKY Happiness Retreat trains students, staff, and faculty in the evidence-based SKY Breath Meditation, social connection discussions and exercises, mindful leadership, emotional intelligence, and light yoga. The Retreat decreases anxiety and depression, lowers stress markers, and increases wellbeing, pleasant emotion, sense of connection, ability to focus, and deep sleep. According to studies, 41% of college students reported experiencing depression between 2020 and 2021. These staggering numbers require immediate attention that SKY Campus Happiness hopes to address.
The Silent Retreat is an immersive 3.5-day retreat that includes guided silence, breathwork, advanced meditation, mindful action, yoga, and contemplation. Guided silence has allowed college students to release deep stress and fatigue. They can also “develop a deeper understanding of their own patterns of thought and behavior, and dive into self-exploration and purpose.”
Immersive training is offered through the SKY Leadership Training for students who want to become mindful leaders, meditation facilitators, and wellbeing ambassadors on their campus. For faculty and staff, the SKY Wellness Coach Training certifies them to become breathwork and meditation facilitators and lead breathwork breaks in their classrooms or departments.
The program also offers lively Wellness Seminars with different themes for departments, classes, and general wellbeing programming.
The Positive Effects of SKY Campus Happiness
SKY Campus Happiness Director Annelies Richmond has been meditating and practicing mindfulness techniques for over twenty-two years and can speak on the benefits of SKY Breath Meditation from first-hand experience.
“It’s harmony on the inside and harmony with the outside,” Richmond remarks. Finding this balance can benefit students who are just learning the ropes of being on their own, navigating classwork, and making new social connections.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on college-age students remain to be seen. They are likely living and attempting to learn amid the formation of a generational trauma that will follow young people throughout their lives. Much like generations that lived through the Great Depression or the Spanish Flu, the COVID-19 pandemic will always be a part of these students’ lives. Learning techniques to bring about inner and outer peace and resilience is something students at colleges and universities can turn into a lifelong beneficial skill.
Students returning to campuses nationwide will need to be armed with the best ways to cope with campus life’s stress and anxiety. The SKY Campus Happiness program offers a tested and evidence-based approach to teaching mechanisms for managing emotions, thriving, and instilling calm amidst the chaos.
To find a program for your college, visit www.skycampushappiness.org.
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