Many schools today are focusing on the holistic development of students. Holistic education is the development of the child intellectually, socially, emotionally, and physically. As part of social and emotional development, educators are teaching students mindfulness. Several studies have proved that this Eastern spiritual practice is not only beneficial for adults but also young children. Mindfulness has grown in popularity over the recent decades, mainly because of its simplicity. The practice is inexpensive, relatively easy, and anyone can practice it at any time.
So, what exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of training your brain to be aware of the present moment. Numerous research has shown that mindfulness has both psychological and physical benefits. In schools such as the Global Indian International School in Abu dhabi, mindfulness is practiced by both staff and students. The school environment can be stressful for both teachers and students, and mindfulness can assist in managing that stress. In case you are wondering how mindfulness can benefit students, keep reading.
For teachers to understand how mindfulness can benefit students, you need to know the science behind it. According to neurologists, mindfulness activities can restructure your brain in a way that increases blood flow and thickens the cerebral cortex in your mind. This, in turn, improves how teachers respond and deal with stress. When you practice mindfulness you purposefully focus on the positive emotions and events in the present.
Additionally, practising mindfulness increases the grey matter in the brain. The grey matter in the brain is associated with muscle control and sensory perception. Sensory perception includes seeing, hearing, speech self-control, emotions, memory and speech. As the brain grey matter increases the brain matter in the amygdala decreases. The amygdala part of the brain is responsible for emotional behaviour and motivation. Reduced brain matter in the amygdala reduces anxiety and stress.
Below is how your students will benefit from mindfulness.
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- Improve academic performance
- They will be more self-aware
- Boost self-esteem
- Increases attention and focus in the classroom
- More empathetic to their peers
- Reduced cases/ severity or depression
- Improve their social skills
- They can regulate their emotions better
Mindfulness Activities for Students
- Breathing activities
Naturally, people take shorter or shallow breaths when stressed. A mindful breathing activity is a great way to calm your students and make them focus on the present. Ask your students to breathe in deeply and count to three and then breathe out slowly and count to three again. Tell them to lay their hand on the stomach to feel themselves as they take every breath. They can repeat this activity for about five minutes before you begin your lesson.
- Five senses activities
Five senses activities can be used for both young and older classes. It is an excellent activity to help reduce stress among students. An example that you can implement for younger kids is a mindful eating activity. You can give your class of young learner’s candy or cookies and ask them to pay attention to the flavours and how they feel as they eat the candy. After they are through, ask them to write down everything they noticed about the piece of candy, including the colour of the wrapper and the candy itself.
For an older class you can ask them to close their eyes and tell you what they can smell, touch, see, hear, and they can taste. You can use the same technique with young kids but expect them to give one answer in each category.
- Body scan
The body scan activity is best done when students are lying on the floor. This activity is to help them check-in on themselves physically. When they are on the floor, ask them to pay attention to any sensations or feelings on every part of their body beginning with the head. Instruct them to ask questions like, “how does my body feel?” as they mention every part of their body during the exercise. As they notice how each part of their body feels they acknowledge the feeling and relax that area as they proceed. When they wake up from the exercise, they are more relaxed, physically and mentally.
- Daily gratitude
People tend to remember and focus on the negative things in life. Daily gratitude exercises can help boost the mood of your students and create joy in the present. You can have your students write down what they are grateful for daily after or before the lesson. You can then instruct them to share it with a friend or to meditate upon those thoughts. This can be a five-minute exercise that will boost students’ confidence and change their perspective on life.
Mindfulness in the classroom is this relatively new and like all new things slow and steady is the way to do it. What cannot be denied is the scientific and physical proof by both academic and medical researchers on the benefits of mindfulness among all people, including students.