Mindfulness Benefits Teachers and Students
There is no denying that one of the major issues facing students today is STRESS! Students are experiencing stress at levels never seen before in history. One in every 10 preschoolers has had suicidal thoughts (Whalen, Dixon-Gordon, Belden, Barch, & Luby, 2015). Doctors are reporting children in early elementary school suffering from migraine headaches and ulcers. They see a clear connection to pressure related to school performance (Abeles, 2016).
One third of our adolescents report feeling depressed or overwhelmed and school is their single biggest source of stress. (American Psychological Association, 2014). Roughly 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys in U.S. high schools try to harm themselves even when they are not attempting suicide (Monto, McRee, & Deryck, 2018). In a Yale-University survey of more than 22,000 high school students, teens reported feeling stressed 80% of the time. According to one longitudinal study, by age 21 82.5% of our students will have met the criteria for at least one psychiatric diagnosis.
According to Thomas Armstrong, author of Mindfulness in the Classroom, mindfulness is a tool that can help reduce stress for students. The definition of mindfulness is the nonjudgmental awareness of each present moment in time. It comes from a thousand-year-old Buddhist tradition.
There are three essential features of mindfulness: focusing, open monitoring, and being non- judgmental. In mindfulness, the participant focuses on such things as breath, body sensations, eating, walking, or any tangible activity. Mindfulness calls for breathing normally. During mindfulness the participant monitors or notices their inner and outer experiences in whatever form they happen to take as they arise from moment to moment within their awareness. They notice where the mind goes when they are not paying attention, or something interferes with their focus. They label the interference such as remembering, feelings, planning and then return to their breathing. The participant has a nonjudgmental and curious attitude toward whatever experience comes up as they practice. Mindfulness cultivates curiosity instead of blame for negative or wandering thoughts.
Over 3,000 studies have shown mindfulness’ effectiveness in treating chronic pain, immune function, anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and other mental health disorders. Studies show that mindfulness mitigates the effects of bullying (Zhou, Liu, Niu, Sun, & Fan, 2017). Mindfulness reduces attention problems and improves a person’s wellbeing (Crescentini, Capurso, Furlan, & Fabbro, 2016). When well taught and practiced, mindfulness improves social skills with children and adolescents.
The effects of mindfulness have been studied exponentially over the last 40 years. The prominent take aways from the studies demonstrates that mindfulness positively impacts all aspects on one’s physical and mental health. Mindfulness practices contributes to increase in patience, focus, compassion, body awareness, and the reduction of stress. Science supports the benefits of mindfulness.
Getting started in mindful practices is easy. There is a plethora of resources to help you begin your practice. Below are highly rated mindfulness applications that can be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet.
There are also programs that train educators in personal mindfulness. These include:
CARE - Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education https://createforeducation.org/care/
SMART - Stress Management and Relaxation Techniques http://www.selresources.com/sel/a-program-for-teacher-well-being-smart-in-education/
Mindfulness can be a tool for teachers as well as students. Mindfulness starts with the staff becoming practitioners and then extenuating the practice to their students. It does not need to take a large amount of time, as it can be incorporated into daily activities. Mindfulness is a research-based tool to help our struggling students.
ARMSTRONG, THOMAS (2019). Mindfulness in the classroom: Strategies for promoting concentration, compassion, and calm. ASSOC FOR SUPERVISION &.
Whalen, Diana J., et al. "Correlates and consequences of suicidal cognitions and behaviors in children ages 3 to 7 years." Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 54.11 (2015): 926-937.
Singleton, Amy, Paul Abeles, and Ian C. Smith. "Online social networking and psychological experiences: the perceptions of young people with mental health difficulties." Computers in Human Behavior 61 (2016): 394-403.
American Psychological Association. "Guidelines for prevention in psychology." The American Psychologist 69.3 (2014): 285-296.
Monto, Martin A., Nick McRee, and Frank S. Deryck. "Nonsuicidal self-injury among a representative sample of US adolescents, 2015." American journal of public health 108.8 (2018): 1042-1048.
Zhou, Zong-Kui, et al. "Bullying victimization and depression in Chinese children: A moderated mediation model of resilience and mindfulness." Personality and individual differences 104 (2017): 137-142.
Crescentini, Cristiano, et al. "Mindfulness-oriented meditation for primary school children: Effects on attention and psychological well-being." Frontiers in psychology 7 (2016): 805.