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Understanding the Benefits of Mindfulness in Schools
Improving the attention and overall general well-being of children is of utmost importance to schools. The effects of teaching mindfulness can include more focused attention, a calmer persona, a kinder attitude and an overall more positive outlook on life.
In this article, the team at TTS andGuy Samuels, a Youth Mindfulness Teacher, take a look at how to encourage Mindfulness and well-being in schools for both teachers and children.
Many people may wonder what mindfulness is. To put it simply, mindfulness is the state of being aware and conscious of the present moment in a non-judgmental fashion; to be nothing more than an objective observer to what is happening in the here and now.
So often, people can get carried away with their thoughts, feelings and emotions; so much so, that it can become a burden on them and a struggle for them to carry out simple tasks in their day to day lives. The fact that 1 in 10 children between the ages of 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder shows how this is affecting children just as much as adults.
When people are stressed their minds can race around like branches on a tree in a stormy gale. Thoughts can relive past events and can worry about upcoming future events in a manner of seconds, attaching emotions to those thoughts and giving people virtual experiences as though it were happening to them at that moment in time. However, one important thing to keep in mind is that it is not possible to think of two things simultaneously.
Mindfulness can help alleviate some of the stresses that may trouble people, especially children. The main form of exercise that is practiced through mindfulness is meditation. Within meditation, you are required to focus on an object to keep your concentration in one place. The most common object used is the breath.
There are ways that one can use the breath in a form of meditation. Some of the most common ways are as follows:
1. Counting the Breath
To keep your mind constantly busy, a simple exercise to try and follow is to feel and follow a whole cycle of an in-breath and out-breath and count “1” then to follow another cycle of an in-breath and out-breath, count “2.” Do this all the way until you reach 10 and then start over from 1 again. If your mind wanders and you lose count, simply start from the beginning again.
2. Body Scan
Another extremely common form of practicing mindfulness is to focus on sensations in and around your body. When you are breathing, try and really pay attention to where you feel the breath in your body. Do you feel the rise and fall of your chest or your diaphragm? Do you notice the sensations where the air passes through your nostrils and going all the way down your throat? Where else in your body can you feel the sensation of your breath if you just take the time to sit and pay attention to it?
Visualisation can be a slightly more advanced form of practice in mindfulness, but it can be extremely effective. By using your imagination and the sensations of your breath, try and put images in place of your breath or your body. Ask yourself interesting questions such as, ‘If the way my body currently feels was a type of weather, what kind of weather would it be?’ Or, ‘If my current emotive state was a colour, what colour would that be?’ When asking yourself these types of questions don’t try and force an answer, let an answer come to you and accept it.
Two main rules to adhere to when practicing mindfulness are:
1. Don’t be so hard on yourself
One of the main principles in mindfulness is to be non-judgmental, so if you find that your mind keeps wandering every time you sit down to meditate, don’t get frustrated with yourself, simply acknowledge that your mind wandered, take a breath and try again.
2. Practice makes perfect
A simple rule, but an essential one to understand – don’t expect to be able to meditate for a full hour on your first try. Work in small increments. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up slowly. When teaching children, go even slower. For the first time most children won’t even be able to sit still for 1 minute, but with enough time and practice you can have a group of children focused and quiet for meditation for up to 10-15 minutes. By rule of thumb, a child (with practice) should be able to meditate for as many minutes as their current age.