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Associated with stress reduction, enhanced well-being, and higher brain functioning, mindfulness has been used to promote physical and mental health for centuries.

As the practice becomes more mainstream, teachers are introducing new techniques in schools across the country, including mindfulness in the classroom.

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What is mindfulness in the classroom?

Although many adults use mindfulness to regulate their emotions, improve physical well-being and minimize stress, the benefits of mindfulness for children are often overlooked. By introducing mindfulness in schools, however, students can learn new skills. In general, mindfulness is linked to several benefits, including:

  • Reduced stress
  • Less anxiety
  • Increased impulse control
  • Reduced aggression
  • Lower levels of frustration
  • More informed decision-making
  • Fewer worries
  • Calmness
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Enhanced concentration
  • Better immune function
  • More effective communication

With physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive benefits associated with mindfulness, it seems obvious that it can benefit students. Indeed, the pressures of academia make mindfulness for students a much-needed skill.

What is mindfulness in schools?

Incorporating mindfulness into an educational environment can take many forms. While some schools focus on delivering a mindful education, others aim to use short mindful sessions to assist in learning on a sporadic basis. As the benefits of mindfulness in the classroom become more pronounced, students and teachers are keen to incorporate it more regularly.

Fortunately, school mindfulness isn’t restricted to teenagers or middle school students, although this age group benefits from mindfulness. A truly mindful education begins from Pre-K on-wards. As teachers make mindfulness a critical component of school life, students develop skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

Of course, introducing mindfulness in schools hasn’t always been easy. In some cases, teachers have faced opposition from school boards and parents. Interestingly, most objections seem to occur when mindfulness is associated with either yoga or meditation. In contrast, labeling it as ‘calming techniques’, ‘preparing for class’, or ‘concentration exercises’ never seems to cause an issue.

Either way, teachers encouraging mindfulness in the classroom quickly overcome objections when the benefits become apparent, regardless of how mindfulness sessions are labeled.

Enabling students to quieten their minds and increase their focus allows them to let go of their worries, which is critically important for their education and well-being. Furthermore, the ability to do this empowers students and gives them the tools they need to self-regulate more effectively.

What are the benefits of mindfulness for students?

Anyone who practices mindfulness will reap its physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive benefits. In an educational setting, however, mindfulness can be particularly effective. To understand why mindfulness in the classroom is so important, consider some of the benefits it can have…

Reduced stress

Mindfulness is primarily associated with stress reduction. Whether it’s reduced blood pressure caused by chronic stress or minimizing worries about an upcoming event, mindfulness can reduce the impact of almost any stress response.

While younger students may not be able to recognize or convey their experiences of stress, it’s certainly evident in their behavior. As schools are under more pressure to restrict creative play in favor of a more academic approach, stress is trickling down and affecting even the youngest students. As a result, anxiety increases, students become withdrawn or disruptive, and a negative cycle commences.

By using mindfulness in the classroom, however, teachers can help children to reduce stress levels naturally. Initially, guided mindfulness helps students to feel calmer, less worried, and more in control. Crucially, however, these effects aren’t limited to mindfulness sessions or activities. Instead, they spill over into classroom behavior and interactions. Without realizing it, students are making mindful decisions naturally.

Increased focus

As a teacher, you’ll know how difficult it is to persuade students to focus on the task. After break or lunchtime, for example, students can take a considerable amount of the lesson simply calming down and re-focusing on classroom activities.

When mindfulness is used, students can create inner stillness, which enables them to focus more effectively. With the ability to quieten their minds, adapt their mindset, and switch their behaviors, students are ready to learn and engage in classroom etiquette.

Reduced aggression

School aggression is a major issue, particularly when it spills into violence. Aggression can negatively impact any classroom setting, whether it’s caused by frustration over learning challenges, anger over social interactions, or difficulty in regulating behavior.

Traditionally, teachers disciplined aggressive behavior with punishments, such as detentions, exclusions, warnings, and verbal admonishments. Indeed, these may still be necessary occasionally, even in mindful schools.

However, when using mindfulness in the classroom, the frustrations and perceptions of unfairness that give rise to aggression are resolved. Students can acknowledge these emotions and, most importantly, understand them.

If you ask students why they acted out or behaved aggressively, they’ll often reply, ‘I don’t know’. In many cases, this is true. Without the tools needed to understand their feelings, students can’t regulate them.

Introducing them to mindfulness gives students these tools and insight into their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. With better understanding comes better resolution and increased control. Negative emotions, such as frustration and aggression, are released with healthy outlets before they lead to unwanted behaviors.

For students and teachers, this means calmer classrooms, fewer incidents of bullying, increased empathy between students, greater understanding, and a more positive educational experience.

Improved academic performance

Many studies have been conducted to assess the impact of mindfulness in schools on academic performance. Invariably, mindfulness in the classroom has been shown to enhance academic performance. Students of all ages have attained higher grades when receiving a mindful education.

While mindfulness in the classroom typically benefits all students, some notable effects are worthy of further consideration. For students with ADHD, for example, concentration can be challenging. By using mindfulness techniques, however, students with ADHD have displayed higher concentration levels for longer periods, improving their academic performance.

Furthermore, students with difficult home lives or external pressures have been shown to perform better when school mindfulness is introduced. By enabling them to reduce their overall stress levels and focus on the moment, their performance naturally improves, and they can achieve their potential.

Critically, the enhanced academic performance associated with using mindfulness in the classroom doesn’t have negative consequences. Despite achieving higher grades, students typically feel under less pressure, experience fewer anxieties, and display higher confidence levels.

Introducing mindfulness in the classroom

For teachers who want to create more mindful schools, there are plenty of ways to introduce mindfulness in the classroom. Simple exercises can gradually introduce students to the concept of mindfulness, so why not try the following:

  1. Ask students to place their hands on their bellies and take slow, deep breaths. Ask them whether they can feel their hands moving, the air filling their lungs and the sound of their breathing.
  2. Ask students to place their fingers on their necks or wrist and feel their hearts beating. Ask them to notice whether their pulse is fast or slow and why they think this might be.
  3. Ask students to lie on the floor and focus on their feet. Encourage them to ask themselves whether their feet are hot or cold, whether they’re touching the floor, are the muscles tight or relaxed. Then move on to the ankles, calves, knees, and so on until you reach the head.

As the benefits of mindful education become more well-known, there are increasing resources for teachers. With the option to engage in formal mindfulness training or adopt a more casual approach, you can find a unique and effective way to introduce mindfulness into your classroom.