Although mindfulness has taken on more prominence in education in recent years, it is not a new concept. Mindfulness has been used in many cultures for centuries. Its roots are embedded in many religious and educational teachings, it’s been practised in yoga for hundreds of years, and is a useful tool in meditation. In recent decades, mindfulness has transferred to other practices and has become embedded in many areas of our lives: from mindfulness apps and YouTube channels, to retreats and books. And now it’s also become a fantastic source of calm and happiness in the classroom.
Mindfulness has been recognised as a saviour for young people, helping them to navigate through the turbulent times of growing up. Now, more than ever, mindfulness has become a necessity in education. Children today are more anxious and stressed, particularly following the pandemic (Racine and Madigan, 2021). Anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old. They are ever stimulated by their busy world, processing past events or worrying about the future. Mindfulness teaches us how to live in the present moment, and more importantly, how to enjoy and experience what’s in front of us.
As educators, we know children learn best when they feel safe, relaxed, and free from stress and worry. By using mindfulness in the classroom, teachers can introduce practices to help students to become kind and productive adults, using their breath and mind to lead a happy and healthy life.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be described as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is learning how to pay careful attention to your body, your thoughts, and what’s around you, to help free your mind from distractions and busy thoughts. Anybody can learn how to be mindfully present and how to integrate it easily into everyday life.
The benefits of mindfulness in the classroom
- Mindfulness can help give young people (and adults) techniques for calming themselves down when their emotions feel out of control
- Mindfulness is a simple yet powerful tool to quiet the mind and deal with stress
- Mindfulness is great for any child who has difficulty paying attention
- Mindfulness can helps children and young adults understand their feelings and emotions
- Mindfulness can help with transition times, when students often have trouble shifting their focus from something they’re involved in, to something new
- Mindfulness can help students learn how to self-regulate their behaviours – helping them to avoid conflict and situations that might get them into trouble
You can read more about research and the impact of mindfulness in schools here.
How can you bring mindfulness into your classroom or school?
There are many ways mindfulness can be incorporated into the classroom or school culture. It can be as simple as a daily guided mindful practice or a whole-school approach integrated with wellness and social and emotional learning.
Schools can encourage consistency among their staff in the delivery of mindfulness by introducing in school-wide programmes. These can positively impact the culture of the school and the wider community. ManageBac previously offered a guidebook and series of webinars on Building a Wellness Programme, presented by Dawn Summerfield, a private consultant who has more than 25 years of experience in both the American and International education systems.
By providing teachers with dedicated time for mindfulness, the practice can become better adopted into everyday activities and language in the classroom, becoming part of what happens in the classroom rather than an add-on activity. Research has also shown teachers who have dedicated time for mindfulness can also improve their own emotional well-being and help better understand their students’ perspectives.
In order to adopt mindfulness as a tool for mental health and happiness, students have to have the space and time to practice it. Mindfulness techniques can be broken down into different areas and teachers can utilise these based on their resources, experience, classroom environment, and students. Some ideas include:
- Listening – such as drawing music or listening to nature
- Tasting – mindful eating can be a fun and interactive activity for students to try
- Visual – a sensory bottle or mindful jar works well for calming students
- Breathing – such as counting breaths or these five activities
Although it might seem daunting to introduce mindfulness into your classroom or school, the positive impacts on students can be huge – benefitting their happiness, stress levels and inner calm. In addition, research has shown that students who participate regularly in mindfulness have improved grades, a longer attention span and greater compassion for others. The benefits can also be transferred to educators themselves. Teachers participating in mindfulness activities reported less stress and burnout, greater efficiency, more supportive teaching environments, and better classroom organisation. Mindfulness can be used to support a healthy lifestyle, enabling us all to work through daily personal and academic issues, focusing on the present rather than the errors of the past or doubts of the future.