Ep. 29: Congressman Tim Ryan - Mindfulness, Trauma Reduction & Social Emotional Learning in Schools

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We are so happy to have Representative Tim Ryan join us from the great state of Ohio. He just announced his candidacy for president of the United States. How lucky are we to have this opportunity to speak to him on Health Gig. We admire Tim Ryan for so many reasons including his leadership in the mindfulness field. He is author of Healing America: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Recapture the American Spirit.

Ryan’s Urban Marshall Plan, brings trauma reduction and social emotional learning into US public schools, noting that if kids brains are in perpetual fight or flight, they can’t possibly do well on testing. His plan also brings mindfulness, financial literacy, 3D printers and school gardens into the equation.

Ryan’s shift toward mindfulness happened in 2008 after a retreat with Jon Kabbat-Zin. He explains that no matter how stressful the presidential campaign season gets, keeping a daily practice, and remaining calm and respectful is key to setting a tone where the country can thrive in a chaotic world.  

He shares stories about the thriving House Wellness Center he founded.  The center supports staffers and representatives with inspirational speakers, classes and tools to build mindfulness and wellness into the daily routine on Capitol Hill.

More From Congressman Tim Ryan

Official Website of Congressman Tim Ryan Website

Twitter: @RepTimRyan

Instagram: @RepTimRyan

Facebook: @TimRyan


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Show Notes

  • [01:40] I'm talking about and asking about our health as a country - not just health care. And we're talking about taking care of our kids when it comes to the education that we give them. It’s not just about the tests that they have to take.

  • [02:34] Seventy-five percent of our health care costs come from chronic diseases that are largely preventable.  If that's where all the costs are, we need to start talking about how we get healthy and then how we build a health care system that really incentivizes health instead of the current system which really incentivizes disease and getting sick people then make a lot of money off of that.

  • [03:05] We've had a lot of conversations with people around the testing - look these kids are coming to the schools in trauma. They have many adverse childhood experiences that no one's dealing with, and we think that if we just keep pushing tests in front of them that it's somehow going to fix the problem and it's not… We are very interested in the success of social and emotional learning programs.

  • [04:30] I'm saying that throughout the whole (campaign) process I’m trying to make sure I am getting my exercise in and trying to get enough sleep which seems nearly impossible on some days…. I’m really trying to take care of myself because if I'm not OK then the message isn't going to be OK.

  • [05:19] We need to set some example about respecting each other and listening to each other and not getting personal with each other.

  • [05:51] And then when you get off the cushion going into the world especially in a heated political environment to try to keep your center in the midst of chaos and fear and anger and hate and all the other things that we're seeing is essential I think for a leader today especially if you're the leader of the country.

  • [06:46] Having a leader that helps take that temperature down - I think it's going to be really important.

  • [08:00] Jon Kabat-Zinn just blew the top off my head and that was it. I've had a daily practice ever since that retreat in 2008.

  • [11:24] If you don't have a good diet and you don't have good mental health then you're not going to thrive.

  • [12:17] Over 50 percent of public school kids are low income. They're coming to school with all of the trauma that comes with being in poverty and being low income. If we're not going to have a national conversation today about dealing with that we're going nowhere. You're going to have all the 10 point plan you won on around education. You don't deal with the trauma we're stuck.

  • [13:09] And what we've seen from the brain science, that I'm sure you all know about, is that if you're in fight or flight mode you just don't have that level of concentration. If you don't have good diet you're not going to have that level of concentration that you need.

  • [13:33] You know we yell at our kids to pay attention but we never teach them how to pay attention... We know it's trauma... We know it's their nervous system has been affected by the trauma they have. We know their diet is bad. Those are pretty fundamental things I would hope that across party lines we could agree that we should address those for kids.

  • [19:58]You see how important a presidency is in setting the tone for the country. That tone can be positive or it could be negative it could be unifying it could be divisive depending on who's in the office.

Links and Resources:

“Seventy-five percent of our health care costs come from chronic diseases that are largely preventable.” - Congressman Tim Ryan

“We are very interested in the success of social and emotional learning programs.” - Congressman Tim Ryan

“Jon Kabat-Zinn just blew the top off my head and that was it. I've had a daily practice ever since that retreat in 2008.” - Congressman Tim Ryan

“We yell at our kids to pay attention but we never teach them how to pay attention.” - Congressman Tim Ryan



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