“Bottom line, Mindfulness helps students to be successful by empowering them to have a greater ability to calm their minds and direct their focus.”
Over the last few decades, mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word in education. As more and more schools start implementing it into their curriculum you may be wondering what mindfulness is and how it is of use to our schools.
A Definition for Mindfulness
A definition of mindfulness is “the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn). Kabat-Zin is well known for looking at Buddhist mindfulness through a scientific lens and is the leading voice in the Mindfulness world.
T. W. Rhys Davids, a Buddist scholar, coined the word Mindfulness. He derived it as a translation of Sati, a word from the Pali language of ancient India. Sati describes a sort of present moment awareness. To take it a step further it is remembering to focus on what is otherwise easily forgotten, the present moment. It is an open expansive awareness that is kind and loving. (Positive Psychology)
Mindfulness can be considered part of a bigger field of study know as Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) or Mind Body Medicine. PNI is a field of medicine that deals with the influence of emotional states (such as stress) and nervous system activity on immune function especially in relation to physical and emotional wellbeing.
A Science Mini-Lesson
Mindfulness activities directly impact how the brain reacts to perceived stressors. When our body experiences distress it triggers what is known as the fight or flight response within the autonomic nervous system.
This response is a primal survival mechanism in all humans. The purpose is to enable people to react quickly to life-threatening situations. You could add freeze to the equation, fight, flight, or freeze. As often that is what happens with children, they freeze.
This response is a chemical reaction in the body. The autonomic nervous system has two components, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, by the amygdalas response to distress, the body is flooded with chemicals. It triggers the fight-or-flight (or freeze) response, providing the body with a burst of energy so that it can respond to perceived dangers. This is your body’s way of protecting you. You are on alert and no resources are being used for rebuild the body or digest food (very important details), or to even think deeply and intelligently about anything. (Read more about the Stress Response)
If your body keeps experiencing this reaction it can be exhausting and damaging. This is called toxic stress. Living in this modern world, even in the best of circumstances, seems to trigger this constant stress response.
The parasympathetic nervous system is what is activated when practicing mindfulness and this parasympathetic activation is a vital remedy to stress.
Bottom line, Mindfulness helps students be successful by empowering them to have greater ability to calm their minds and direct their focus. Teaching children mindfulness empowers them to access their autonomic nervous system to their benefit.
This is done by teaching a greater depth of understanding of the mind-body connection and how their brains function. Students get to practice activities such as breathing and grounding techniques.
Students are able to shift from their primal fear-based brain functions by calming the brain. This shifts the body chemistry optimizing it for creativity, optimism, and empathy. Students learn to self-regulate their emotions, especially difficult emotions such as fear and anger.
Research has found that Mindfulness Training for children increases attention and social emotional awareness.
- Students are able to stay more focused and pay more attention in class.
- Awareness of their body, thoughts, and emotions increase.
- They experience less test anxiety.
- Classroom management improves because mindfulness improves impulse control and interpersonal skills.
- Executive function increases, a key predictor of academic success.
Professional Development Trainings with Lupine Mountain LLC
Join Lupine Mountain LLC for an interactive and informative training on Mindfulness. Learn about the neurobiology (science) of mindfulness, such as, how the brain’s structure is actually changed when practicing mindfulness. Explore ways to implement mindfulness activities in the classroom with all ages. Most importantly discover ways to integrate mindfulness in your own life.