During our school days, we all have come across a situation when our teacher would call on us in front of the entire class to answer a question. Remember that eerie feeling that you used to get? From being held accountable by teachers to trying to fit in with classmates, grade school posed a lot of stressful moments, and how you reacted to them made a significant difference in your classroom experience. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that academic stress is the most dominant factor that affects the mental well-being of grade school and college students. And if that’s the case, why aren’t schools doing anything about it?
As per the Harvard Graduate School Of Education study, Mindfulness Education can reduce the negative effects of stress and increase a students ability to stay engaged, help them stay on track academically, and avoid behavioral problems. During her TED-xYouth Talk, the famous motivational speaker and founder of Be Mindful, AnneMarie Rossi, highlighted the significance of mindfulness for students and how it can change their lives. One issue she mentioned is – traditional school systems don’t teach it. Certainly, thousands of studies depict that mindfulness practice decreases depression, anxiety, and stress while increasing overall feelings of well-being, happiness, focus, attention, and academic achievement, as said by Rossi.
Let’s take a deeper look at why schools must teach mindfulness to students, the types of mindfulness techniques that are most effective, the benefits, and more.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on improving mental activity while maintaining moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. According to psychology studies, mindfulness can help students of all ages escape the vicious cycle of negative thinking. Many studies define mindfulness as, “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
In simpler words, mindfulness means being present with and to your inner experience and the outer environment, including other people. Mindfulness in schools encourages rational thinking, intuition, and creativity in students.
Types Of Mindfulness Techniques
The research on mindfulness-based interventions has found that mindfulness is an excellent practice that can be used to support student wellness. Here are a few different types of mindfulness techniques that teachers can follow and practice while teaching students in the classroom:
Students must be taught to focus on their breath, experiencing the sensation of inhaling and exhaling. This technique will help them stay in the present moment while calming their mind.
This technique will allow students to be more aware of their physical sensations; they should systematically focus on each part of the body.
Allow students to pay attention to their walking, running, dance, yoga, and other movements. This technique will help them build a robust connection with their body. It will also increase the production of the happy hormone endorphins, which will calm their nervous system.
Pause Before Speaking
This involves purposeful pauses and mindful communication for students so that they can learn to respond to something with mindfulness instead of reacting impulsively or irrationally.
Practicing Compassion for Peers
Students must develop a feeling of compassion for their peers to build robust friendships. They should be taught to help their friends when in need.
This mindfulness technique will help students focus their minds and senses on places where they can feel calm, peaceful, and relaxed. This will reduce their stress or tension related to decision-making.
Teach Basic Body Awareness (like hunger, sleep, etc)
This technique is crucial for students to understand their present physical and emotional state, know their needs, and feel empowered to ask.
Students should be taught to listen carefully to what’s being delivered in the classroom. This can be achieved by focusing on sound in the environment, like the sound of a bell.
Benefits Of Mindfulness For Teachers Too
Mindfulness is beneficial for both students and teachers too. Let’s put it this way – when teachers are fully present mentally, they can teach better; when students are fully present, their quality of learning becomes better. Many educational institutes and schools have started using mindfulness techniques as supplemental programs and events and they have proven to help reduce students’ anxiety and stress while improving concentration, grades, and their overall well-being. Research on Mindfulness-based Practices For Schools has indicated positive outcomes/ benefits of practicing it in schools, which include:
- Increased well-being, positive emotion, and robust friendship among students.
- Cultivation of compassion and empathy, which makes students feel welcome at school.
- Reduced test anxiety and stress.
- Increased students’ focus and concentration on studies and cognitive tasks in the classroom.
- Improved reading and learning skills.
If mindfulness is associated with improving the overall well-being of students and teachers alike then why aren’t schools teaching it as part of their standard curriculum?
Why Should Schools Teach Mindfulness Classes?
Late adolescence and early adulthood are the most crucial transitional periods and are marked by significant psychological changes like stress. This is particularly true for high school and college students. As of 2015, in the American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment survey, three in four college students self-reported feeling significantly stressed. The growing competition, academic burden, and pressure on students by their parents and teachers were the leading drivers of their stress.
Undoubtedly, traditional school-based learning is complex; teachers must support the students with learning, adapt to the classroom environment, and integrate mindfulness throughout the teaching process. Teachers must also support students with their overall well-being to make their learning experience fun, enlightening, and engaging. Practicing mindfulness will help teachers understand students’ perspectives, freeing them to be more open and effective in the classroom.