What is Mindfulness in the Classroom?
In order to explain what mindfulness in the classroom is, we must first define the word mindfulness.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and creator of mindfulness-based stress-reduction (MSBR) has defined mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally1".
It’s a practice that aims to keep you in the present — fully engaged and not worried about the future or regretful about the past. A focus on the breath often plays a key role.
Teaching Mindfulness in the Classroom
You can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere. Practicing mindfulness in the classroom, however, means engaging children by first teaching them what it is. Educational mindfulness activities for kids and mindfulness games for kids can help in this area. You might even consider purchasing mindfulness videos for kids.
Once your students have an idea of what the practice entails and have adopted some mindfulness skills of their own, you can try practicing together. Start small with mindfulness exercises that are just a few minutes long. Children in classroom settings can lose interest quickly, so you want to introduce mindfulness curriculum slowly.
Finally, after everyone has a general handle on the practice, you can try to engage students to be mindful in everything they do. Mindfulness can be promoted when eating, when reading, when playing outside, and when doing daily classroom activities for kids.
That’s the wonderful thing about mindfulness for kids: It can be practiced with absolutely any activity.
Naturally, very few people are able to practice mindfulness all day long. Still, every bit counts!
Why is it Important?
As humans, most of us are constantly enveloped in our own worries and anxieties — so much so that we often feel scatter-brained, pre-occupied, tired, and stressed. The same goes for kids, and that’s why promoting mindful education2 is so important. We need to find a way to release ourselves from these spirals of thought.
Mindfulness is a counter to constant thinking, worrying, and ruminating because it allows our minds to be still and open. The only task at hand is to breathe and observe. We watch our breathing, sights and sounds, and feelings and emotions.
When thoughts enter our minds (and they will!), we simply acknowledge them, say hello, and shift our focus back to the breath and observation. By teaching mindfulness exercises for kids and practicing a mindful attitude, your students will soon become better at seeing and noting your thoughts and feelings, then letting them go.
Doing this repetitively gives our minds a break from the constant go-go-go of our thoughts.
What Does it Achieve?
Mindfulness in education has a plethora of benefits for students. It can also promote an overall calm classroom.
At any age, mindful practice and fun mindfulness activities for kids can help students:
Positive Effects of Mindfulness
- Focus better
- Lengthen their attention spans3
- Lower their stress levels
- Reduce anxiety
- Be more accepting
- Reduce the intensity of strong, difficult emotions
- Improve cognitive outcomes
- Improve their social skills
Can You as a Parent Help the Teachers?
Yes, of course. Whether mindfulness in schools is being practiced or not, it never hurts to practice at home. This can help your child’s teachers teach mindfulness and keep a calm classroom.
Need some help to get started? Try one of these ideas:
- Get a mindfulness book. Reading books on mindfulness can create a situation in which you and your child are both learning together.
- Play mindfulness games. Try any number of games that focus on mindfulness for kids. To improve breathing, for example, try breathing like Darth Vader. To work on mindful concentration, play Jenga. Try improving focus with a game like “Simon Says,” or simply see who can be quietest for the longest when eating dinner.
- Do a relaxation activity before bed. Bedtime can be stressful for some parents. To create a calming, soothing environment before sleep, try a mindful relaxation exercise with your children. You can even do it after they’ve already gotten into bed and are tucked in. Ideally, they will naturally drift off the sleep as the exercise comes to an end.
Are There Specific Schools Focused on Mindfulness?
Yes, certain mindful schools do exist. Though, it’s more that some schools are adopting mindfulness as a supplementary practice. If your child’s school does not offer mindfulness classes or mindful curriculum, consider looking elsewhere for mindful education for your children.
Non-school academies and courses do exist for teaching mindfulness. These are often conveniently located through an Internet subscription so that you can do them with your children whenever it’s convenient for you.
Mindfulness in the Classroom: Frequently Asked Questions
Is mindfulness good for anxiety?
Yes. In fact, one of the best things you can do for your mental and emotional health is to practice mindfulness. It calms the constant chatter in your mind and allows you to breathe deeply and hone your focus once again. Box breathing is one of many different breathing techniques that can be used for this!
What is the difference between meditation and mindfulness?
As a practice, mindfulness is closely linked with meditation, and both practices date back thousands of years.
There are differences, though.
First, mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and anytime. It can be incorporated into essentially everything you do. On the other hand, meditation is more of a focused practice. You wouldn’t want to meditate while driving, for example. But you could drive with mindfulness if you chose to.
Another difference is how you practice. Again, mindfulness can be performed in essentially any attitude — while standing, sitting, lying down, walking, exercising, working, etc. You can do it while preparing food, eating, talking with friends, or even while working.
Meditation, however, is generally performed in one single attitude — usually while sitting down, lying down, or walking slowly.
How do I start being mindful?
You can start being mindful any time. It’s not something that you require certification for! To begin today, simply select a duration of time (three to five minutes is a good start), and do just one activity during this time (like eating an orange or doing some light stretches).
Focus on your breathing. If you find yourself ruminating over the future or the past, become aware of what you’re doing, accept these thoughts, and gently shift your focus back to the breath.
How do I stay mindful all the time?
While it’s not an unworthy goal, you don’t have to stay mindful at all times.
Simply try to be more mindful in your day-to-day life whenever you can. This will help your focus, concentration, anxiety levels, and many other areas. It can even help your sleep.
If you go for a while without being mindful, don’t beat yourself up. Being mindful is always an option, and just remember that whenever you are able to practice it, you’ll also reap all the benefits that come with it.
Looking to help your child or yourself to destress and relax? Why not have a chat with an Anahana Wellness Advisor to discuss your needs and wishes? We are here to help and hope to hear from you soon!