Mindfulness is the act of slowing down and noticing what is happening. The purpose of mindfulness is to calm our thoughts and focus on the present moment.
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Mindfulness meditation is a way of focusing the mind so that it is fully attending to what’s happening right now, to what we’re doing, and to the space that we’re currently in. Cultivating mindfulness means to be present, to pay attention, and to be aware of our emotions and the way that we respond to them.
Recent neuroscience research points to many benefits of mindfulness meditation:
➧ increased focus
➧ a sense of calm
➧ decreased stress
➧ decreased anxiety
➧ improved impulse control
➧ greater empathy for others
➧ improved conflict resolution skills
Our students need opportunities to practice mindfulness mediation. Since the human mind often wanders from the present. Our brains have a tendency to become absorbed with thoughts about the past or the future. This kind of thinking makes us anxious.
Academic pressure now affects kids as early as kindergarten, resulting in less time for play and other stress-reducing activities. Today’s students are faced with an unprecedented amount of anxiety. The pressure only grows greater in middle and high school. Surveys have found students reporting stress and fatigue as much as 75% of the time.
What’s needed is a way to decrease anxiety and help students to manage their emotions. That’s where mindfulness comes in.
Infusing moments of mindfulness in the classroom is not only powerful, it’s also quite simple. In general, to practice mindfulness, have students start by bringing attention to their own body. Then, have them breathe in through their noses and out through their mouths. When they notice that their mind has wondered away from the present moment, they should gently bring their attention back to their breathing.
It’s also a great idea to intentionally plan moments of mindfulness in the classroom! Here are some simple ways to do just that…
1. A Mindful MomentAt the beginning of class, or after a transition, have your students close their eyes and take several deep breaths. Ask them to pay attention to their breathing and what it feels like.
2. A Mindful BreakOnce or twice during a standard length class, just stop. Have your students stand up and stretch and then sit back down and do 30 seconds of mindful breathing. This takes no more than a minute, and it gives everyone a needed break.
3. A Mindful QuoteUse motivational and inspirational quotes to help focus students’ minds during a moment of mindfulness.
It’s as easy as sharing a quote, or you can download this free set of mindfulness quotes and put together a container to pull from all year long.
If you'd like me to send you a free set of 24 mindfulness quotes and the materials to make a container like above, add your name and email address below: 4. Attention CheckDuring a long lesson, stop and ask your students to pause and “check their attention.” Is their mind on what is being done in class, or has it been wandering? This gives kids the chance to deliberately redirect their attention to the matter at hand.
5. Finger LabyrinthsTraditionally, labyrinths are used for mediation and relaxation. Often, people walk through labyrinths. Give students the same sensation with finger labyrinths.
I’ve made a collection of them that students can use when they need to focus their minds. Students simply trace the spiral paths as they practice mindfulness.
Add your name and email address below to receive the finger labyrinths and mindfulness quotes in your email inbox!
6. Mindful ClosureAt the end of class, have students close their eyes and focus on their breathing again. Ask them to think of what they have learned and perhaps congratulate themselves on their progress and accomplishments.
As teachers. we have many opportunities to introduce students to mindfulness practices. Of course, one of the most important ways we can do this is by cultivating mindfulness in ourselves. If we, as teachers, are present and aware of our own emotions and responses, we set an invaluable example for our students.
Thanks so much for stopping by!