Mindfulness. Each time I open any of my social media feeds, I see multiple posts about mindfulness. It is a new craze that is sweeping the country in and out of the classroom. It isn’t just for the yogi’s anymore. People are researching and practicing mindfulness no matter if they do yoga or not, in businesses, schools and homes. So what is it and why would a teacher care about it?
Psychology Today defines mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present.” Mindfulness has been shown to improve a person’s overall health. It lowers stress level as well as improves sleep. Behavior issues can increase when a child is not getting the appropriate sleep needed to function during the day, impacting not only the individual student but all the other students in the classroom.
Depression in children is seen as early as age 6. “As many as 2 – 3 percent of children ages 6 – 12, and 6 – 8 percent of teens may have serious depression.” Activities as simple as yoga and living in the present can reduce the effects of depression, which in turn help students to focus better in school.
Researchers have found implementing mindfulness in schools improve math scores, reduce aggressive behavior, and improve social behavior. Using mindfulness strategies helps to keep students and teachers calmer during the day, maximizing the learning time in schools.
Mindfulness is important. How can an educator implement it in the classroom?
- My favorite way to infuse mindfulness in the classroom is deep breathing. Many of my students come with a lot of baggage each day. By having them simply breath slowly and paying attention to the breath helps them clear their head and focus on the now. Students are permitted to ask for a whole class deep breathing whenever they need it. We take 3 good deep breaths and out.
- I like use journaling from time to time. Students get up to 20 minutes to simply write what is on their mind. They can fill the page with words or pictures. Students can write as little or as much as they want. I do not give them a prompt. I simply ask them to write or draw.
- Talking and listening. I do an activity called “circle time”. This isn’t your elementary school learning circle time. It is the social emotional circle time. The expectations are: what is said in the circle stays in the circle, we all listen seriously, we participate when we have something to say, and we all take it serious. I tell them it is a circle of trust. The students have respected that and we have had serious heart to heart conversations. Each time we do one, I do a different topic. We have talked about suicide prevention, visualization during a stressful time, holiday breaks, immigration, new presidency, etc. It is a place and time for students to be in the now and hear others. I simply guide the conversation but the kids run it.
Mindfulness can be a very powerful thing in the classroom. It has numerous benefits to all involved. What’s your favorite mindfulness activity in the classroom?
I enjoy hiking in the summer and traveling around the state with my 3 children and husband.