Top 5 Benefits to Practicing Mindfulness in Education
What is Mindfulness?
There’s this new concept being tossed around in schools called, mindfulness. Doctor Jon Kabbat Zinn, founder of Mindful Based Stress Reduction practices, defines mindfulness as the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.
This concept sounds so simple, but it is not easy. Proponents of mindfulness practices in education say it’s the latest tactic that can help students focus on work, increase learning, decrease stress and enhance the overall community of the school. Skeptics claim that the idea of mindfulness is too simple and it can’t possibly work. They are both right…and they are both wrong!
“History, Meet Science.”
Mindfulness is not new. And depending on where you live in this world, it’s not new to education. Mindfulness practices are rooted in the ancient Buddhist philosophy of practicing gratitude and self-awareness through meditation. It is a simple concept that works. Although it took almost 2000 years for science to catch up to the claims of mindfulness, science has proven that mindfulness practices can have tremendous effects on health and well-being. With recent breakthroughs in health care, like MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), doctors are able to see and study electrical activity in the brain. We now have a much better understanding of how the brain functions. In fact, we now know that we can actually exercise the brain to make it grow in certain areas. At first, these findings were applied to the medical community as a way to aid physical healing and combat mental illness. With continued astounding results, mindfulness found its way into the business world and eventually, the education realm.
Despite its roots, mindfulness is a secular practice that can be done by anyone, regardless of their race, religion or socio-economic demographic. Mindfulness activities are simple, but they are not easy. Any activity that teaches the brain to focus on one object while remaining void of any judgment in the present moment is a mindful practice. Meditation, journaling, intentional breath work, thoughtful physical movement and even mantras are some ways one can learn to focus the mind. Let’s take a look at the top 5 benefits that mindfulness may provide in your classroom.
Top 5 Benefits to Having a Mindful Practice in your Classroom
1. Mindfulness improves sleep. Students of all ages, from elementary to the university, struggle with sleep. As children experience pivotal stages in physiological development, their sleep patterns become interrupted. As they age and develop stronger emotional responses to daily strife, their sleep habits tend to be the first to suffer. It’s no secret that all humans need ample amounts of sleep. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or contemplation, done right before bed and in the morning, can help calm the mind and allow the physical body to relax to a deeper state.
2. Mindfulness develops a strong self-esteem, while cultivating a sense of compassion and gratitude. Not all kids need that extra self-esteem booster, but some do! Mindfulness has a little something for everyone on this spectrum. In gratitude practices, such as journaling, meditation or “Pay –it -Forward” activities, students experience how their actions have a direct influence over their lives. When students take a proactive approach to their lives instead of the victim mindset, they feel a sense of self-worth. When they see how their actions affect those around them, they develop empathy and compassion.
3. Mindfulness helps students worry less and focus on what is important more. Test anxiety, social pressures and even bullying can be combated with mindfulness activities. When students use breath work and thought watching activities to slow the heart rate and calm the constant stream of thoughts that ask “what if,” students have an opportunity to see a little more clearly.
4. Mindfulness strengthens relationships with others. Embarking on a mindfulness journey together as a school creates a bond between faculty and students, the results of mindfulness: feeling peaceful, receptive, willing, and accepting, pave the way for strong bonds between students on campus and their teachers.
5. Mindfulness helps students find a greater satisfaction to their life. The concept of mindfulness is so simple: Simply teach the brain to experience each moment without judgement. And the effects of this art include feeling gratitude, peaceful, joy. Students who practice mindfulness find its effects to be contagious. Their purpose for life is clearer, and they have the tools to navigate through it.
In the course, Mindfulness in Education, from The Teacher’s Academy, you will explore the definition of mindfulness, research the science behind it and embark on a mindfulness practice that you can use in your classroom. As educators, we can instill mindfulness into our students either directly or indirectly. Through learning mindfulness techniques like meditation, movement, journaling, contemplation and more, we learn to physically change the brain matter. The result is a more peaceful teacher. The mindful teacher has greater patience to handle the stress of the day and more creativity to solve some of our toughest problems. In this case, the students reap the benefits of your mindfulness practice indirectly. Once a practice is established, the mindful teacher can use the strategies to help students find their focus before a big presentation and calm their nerves before a big test.
As we know in education, there is no silver bullet that will make every student the top student in their class. By definition, that’s impossible! But as trends in education come and go, mindfulness, having successful results for thousands of years, might be worth a second look. Teachers in all parts of the country, from Oregon to Pennsylvania and Texas to Ohio, are starting to take on mindfulness practices in their classrooms. Don’t be the last one to jump on this band wagon…it may not come around again for another thousand years or so!
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