Mindfulness in the Classroom
Schools all over the world have started to incorporate mindfulness techniques into the classroom as the benefits to students not only can keep students calm, but improve their academic performance. Research has shown that mindfulness can also improve one’s mental, physical, emotional health. It can reduce stress hormones, improve your attention, boost memory, and make you less reactive. So it seems like a no-brainer why teachers are taking to this practice, with all of these amazing benefits for their students!
Today we live in a world that is very technologically busy making it hard to imagine taking time to just sit and be in that moment. Though, that’s all it takes- a few minutes to refocus your attention. Mindfulness in the classroom is about teaching children to control their negative thoughts and emotions. This skill will allow students to deal with academic stress and all the pressures that go along with the day-to-day worries of being a student. By encouraging students to practice mindfulness in school at an early age, they are more likely to use these techniques later in life; therefore, they will have the tools to manage their emotions and be better equipped to cope with situations they are faced with.
Try this simple, 5-10 minute mindfulness breathing activity with your class.
- Start the activity by having students sit at their desks or on the floor somewhere in the room. Have students close their eyes and focus on their breathing.
- Try playing some quiet, soothing music.
- As they take a deep inhale, encourage students to focus on filling up their lungs with air, and as they exhale, focus on letting go of anything that is bothering them.
- Taking a moment to just breathe sometimes makes your mind wander. When this happens, you have to learn to redirect your brain back to your first intention, which in this case is to focus on your breath.
- For students finding it difficult to focus on their breath, encourage them to slowly count to three on each inhale and exhale. This will help to bring their focus back to their breath and being present in the activity.
- The key is to find a technique that works for your students. While breathing techniques may work with some it may not work with your whole class. You may need to experiment other techniques such as going for a walk or even getting a yoga mat out and doing a few poses or stretches.
Mindfulness takes time and practice to experience the benefits. The idea is that over time your students will be able to be mindful, and be in the moment of everything that they do. There will always be some sort of stress in our lives, but if we give students the tools to manage their stress early in life, they will see things more clearly, spend less time worrying, and be able to manage life’s situations in a calmer manner.
Check out our Positive Mental Health page to find out how you can borrow resources for your classroom relating to this topic!
Amanda Niskala is a Health Promotion Coordinator for Alberta Health Services. February 2017.