Mindfullness in Education

July 13, 2016

Mindfulness is an emerging field of research in educational organisations.  When we refer to mindfulness in education we mean training the children to direct their attention to everyday experiences with a non-judgemental approach. The origins trace back to the Buddhist beliefs and practices mainly meditation being the best source to attain a state of awareness.

Google defines 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.”

Since a few years after research and development in the educational organisations, there have been conferences held in different countries about “mindfulness in education.”  You might want to refer to MiEN conference 2016, OMEGA mindfulness and education conference 2016, MiSP conference 2016 and several other organisations working on mindfulness programs as a part of education.

Ever wondered how mindfulness in education can help your child?

A regular practice of mindfulness help children learn to pay attention to their surroundings at that moment and to stay calm in all situations. It helps them to regulate their emotions and also relieve stress.

It allows maturing of increased awareness of the physical sensations, rational thoughts, emotions and all aspects of one’s internal and external environments. Thereby allowing them to respond calmly, skilfully and non-judgementally to any situation or challenges that children face.

Research says that mindfulness practice effectively alters the functioning of the brain to improve the quality of thoughts, emotions, and empathy for others. Recent scientific vvances have shown how the interrelated development of emotion and cognition relies on the emergence, maturation, and interconnection of complex neural circuits in multiple areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, limbic cortex, basal forebrain, amygdala, hypothalamus, and brain stem. The circuits that are involved in the regulation of emotion are highly interactive with those that are associated with “executive functions” (such as planning, judgment, and decision making), which are intimately involved in the development of problem-solving skills during the preschool years. In terms of basic brain functioning, emotions support executive functions when they are well regulated, but interfere with attention and decision making when they are poorly controlled.a

Learning to channel attention to productive tasks, to sustain motivation when work becomes demanding, and to handle the frustrations of sharing, learning, and communicating with peers are skills that depend on the ability to understand and manage emotions. Demands for these types of interpersonal, intrapersonal, and problem-solving skills increase as students progress through the school years.

Susan Kaiser ,author of “the mindful child” has been working towards a mindful revolution in education. She explains that mindful programs can aid kids in developing good habits that will make them happier and more compassionate.

Mindfulness practice can help restore emotional balance and prevent engagement in harmful behaviour:

  1. The attention of the person is on the experience of the present moment that might include thoughts, emotions or physical sensations. There is less space for the elements of past or future to affect the brain. Thus past experiences or future stress does not affect the person’s behaviour or the thought process and it allows them to remain calm and act mindfully in the present situation.
  2. The focus on present moment internal and external experience broadens attention and allows for the dissolution of the previously inhabited patterns of reactions.
  3. A non-judgemental approach increases the tolerance for distress by modifying the automatic response patterns.

Meditation has proved to effectively strengthen self-control and in character development. It has aided children and adults to increase their span of attention while learning. When children are accustomed and in tune with their own emotions and thoughts it becomes easier for them to understand the people around them thereby also improving their sense of morality.

It also assists to reduce medical complexities in children suffering from autism, ADHD, and other disorders by restoring a sense of rhythm and balance in their actions. It reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress amongst those who have practiced it well.

How we as a teacher or a parent can help the child learn these skills?

Some of the ways we can practice mindfulness in class or at home are as follows:

  1. Meditate with the child
  2. Check the weather reports or daily news
  3. Mindful eating
  4. Breathing exercise
  5. Yoga
  6. Listen to music
  7. Mindful walks
  8. Practice gratitude
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