Star Wars Mindful Matters Continues Franchise’s Mental Health Focus

The Star Wars Kids YouTube channel recently launched Star Wars Mindful Matters. Hosted by Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars’ animated content, the series is aimed to help children learn meditation and other mindfulness practices. Star Wars Mindful Matters continued a trend in Disney’s programming and content for children toward teaching and modeling strategies to help with mental health.

Star Wars Galaxy of Creatures, Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures, Star Wars: The High Republic subseries and the Star Wars Galactic Pals microseries all share elements of these same lessons taught in Star Wars Mindful Matters. While these messages in the narrative content ranged in subtlety, they still modeled useful tools for the children watching, all while providing strong stories. By comparing the inclusion of these strategies in each of these Star Wars projects, these important steps toward creating mindful content for children become even more apparent.

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Star Wars Mindful Matters Includes Simple but Effective Mindfulness Exercises

In Star Wars Mindful Matters, mindfulness was the full focus. In the two episodes released so far, Ashley Eckstein took mindfulness concepts like intentional breathing exercises and grounding activities and applied them to lessons and teachings featured throughout Star Wars. The episodes also included clips from the franchise that incorporated these lessons. Then, Eckstein guided the viewer through each of these exercises, providing her own examples as well.

In an interview with The Dork Side of the Force, Eckstein stated that she was inspired to create the series from many young fans questions to her about the Force and how to become Jedi. She also worked with children’s mental health advocates such as the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the On Our Sleeves movement, and Citrone 33 to make sure that the exercises were clinically based. Overall, by relating these exercises to the Star Wars universe, Eckstein and Star Wars Mindful Matters are giving Star Wars fans both young and old strong tools to help them cope with stress, anxiety and difficult situations, as well as improve their mental health.

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Star Wars Galactic Pals Teaches Children to Care for Themselves and Others

Star Wars Galactic Pals focused on the efforts M1-RE, or “Miree,” to care for a group of younglings from various species. Tied in with the Star Wars Galactic Pals toyline, the microseries was meant to help young viewers learn how to care for the younglings of the galaxy. In each episode, Miree discussed a problem that a youngling faced, and she also explained her strategy for helping that youngling overcome their problem, modeling effective caretaking strategies for viewers.

Miree’s stated purpose for creating the series was to help viewers care for creatures, but some of the strategies she modeled could be used by the viewers themselves. For example, in “Wookie,” Miree taught a young Wookiee a breathing exercise to help with anger management that was similar to the breathing exercise taught by Eckstein in Star Wars Mindful Matters. Thus, each heartfelt episode of the microseries so far has modeled peaceful conflict resolution and also provided younger viewers with strategies to help themselves and other people when facing hardships or difficulties.

Star Wars Galaxy of Creatures Also Included a Focus on Care for All

While the subjects of Star Wars Galaxy of Creatures were mostly not sentient, the series still provided lessons on care that viewers could apply to their own lives. In each episode, SF-R3, “Aree,” investigated the behaviors of a different species. The questions he answered ranged from caring for sick wampas to how to play fetch with a Charhound. While the microseries was more focused on creatures, Star Wars Galaxy of Creatures still featured kinder, gentler storylines that encouraged young viewers to respect the world around them and the diverse creatures that lived in it.

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Star Wars: The High Republic Modeled More Effective Support Systems

Throughout the Star Wars saga, the Jedi have taken on many roles. Series like Star Wars: The Clone Wars provided context for the Jedi’s fall which included a decline in the focus on care and support for the Jedi’s mental health across all age ranges but particularly in regard to their younger Padawans. The Star Wars: The High Republic subseries featured the Jedi at their peak, and part of the reason why the Jedi were in at their best during this era was because of the care that they showed toward the Padawans and Younglings within the Jedi Order.

Throughout content for all ages, Star Wars: The High Republic has incorporated more focus on mental health. For example, Bell Zettifar, one of the viewpoint characters in the novels for adults, was nearly inseparable with his charhound, Ember, who could be considered an emotional support animal. Bell’s journey throughout Phase One of the subseries included him wrestling with grief and loss while still receiving needed support from his fellow Jedi. The subseries inclusion of mental health strategies was far more subtle than the other children’s content, but it still featured that focus on providing better examples of care.

However, the content for middle grade readers was where the subseries truly shone the most in regard to content modeling more effective support systems. In Justina Ireland’s Star Wars: A Test of Courage, multiple characters dealt with grief and trauma in the midst of galactic disaster, and they also receive help and support in dealing with these emotions. The novel is just one example of how the subseries did not shy away from fraught situations for the children reading, and instead chose to both acknowledge the big emotions that children often face and also model care strategies during trying times.

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The Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures series focused on Padawans and Younglings studying to be Jedi, and the comic series provided one of the strongest portrayals of the Jedi at their best. Lula Talisola, Farzala Tarabal, Qort and Zeen Mrala all dealt with the increased tensions and tragedies in the galaxy in various ways, but they all had the support and care of the Jedi, in particular Jedi Master Torben “Buckets of Blood” Buck and Jedi Master Kantam Sy. Stories like the Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures Galactic Bakeoff Spectacular by Daniel José Older, Vita Ayala, Jo Geyoung, Toni Bruno, Jake M. Wood, Riley Farmer, and Heather Antos also modeled the importance of community and connection for everyone to grow and thrive.

Overall, all of these series for children showed an increased awareness of the importance of mental health support for children. These series modeled more effective strategies of mindfulness and care that viewers can incorporate into their own lives. By providing these tools within the context of the Star Wars lore and stories, series like Star Wars Mindful Matters have been making these mindfulness strategies more accessible to fans of all ages to effect positive change in their own lives.

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