We all know that teaching can be a daunting task these days for a number of reasons. With 30 or more teenagers rolling into your classroom, ten minutes late, on a miserable, wet Monday morning, how exactly are you going to get them interested in mindfulness?
Not to mention they are probably tired from the lack of sleep over the weekend, hungry because they skipped breakfast and they would rather be playing on their phones. They have never heard of mindfulness and quite honestly it doesn’t sound that exciting to your average uncommunicative teen!
Especially if you tell them it involves long periods of stillness and silence. You’ve probably already lost their attention. How on earth are you going to try and convince them that mindfulness is a key skill which will make a real difference to their lives?
Help is at hand! All you have to do is ask. Mindfulness is not biased, and it is not affiliated with any religion, nor is it opposed to any religion. It’s very simple to begin integrating mindfulness principles into everyday life also. It involves learning to take time out to access what is happening right then and there.
As simple as this sounds, learning to take a moment to evaluate yourself and the situation around you can be revolutionary. Mindfulness is already taking the health services by storm, and by some it has been regarded as a life saver as it has taught patients with all kinds of conditions to improve their physical and mental health.
It’s not just physical health where mindfulness can be useful, it is also used in the business world by enhancing leadership, work related performance, satisfaction, and stress levels. Mindfulness is defined as being “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.”
How do you start?
The ‘Stop, Breathe and Be’ technique is common in mindfulness, it offers a way that is fun, accessible and is of some genuine use in their lives. The aims are for all (including teachers) to know about mindfulness, for the exercises to be enjoyed, and for people to remember them so they feel they have a support system they can call upon at any time. Nowadays there are many communities that offer courses and one day seminars to children (both primary and secondary ages), staff and parents too.
This is a very self-explanatory exercise, it is commonly performed whilst the person is laying down, they are asked to think of a recent time where they felt particularly stressed or unhappy and to think about the situation and to breathe away all of your feelings, exhaling the anger and taking a few minutes to come to the conclusion that it’s over and you need to put the past behind you.
You can’t drag a sack round of regrets and problems around all day with you. People who hold a grudge particularly well can really struggle with this exercise as it requires a certain amount of acceptance of the situation and you need the maturity to move on with your life.
You are asked to inhale for 3 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds, really feeling that deep breath and stretch in your lungs. You should aim to do this a minimum of 5 times – the longer the better! You must let everything go, totally relax and find the inner peace that we all need from time to time to make sure we are on the right path.
Lying down not for you? No problem, it’s ok to be sitting, just ensure that you are in a comfortable position and most importantly that you are located in an environment that you feel comfortable in, otherwise you could find it hard to relax.
The benefits for your pupils!
Mindfulness does not depend on or interfere with any religion, ethnic context or special belief system. Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention; it is the mental faculty of purposefully bringing awareness to one’s experience. It can be applied to sensory experience, such as our thoughts, and emotions by using sustained attention to assess the situation.
However, for many pupils the course can lead to immediate and striking results: they can instantly feel cheerier, calmer and more content; concentration can be improved and you have prepared them so they have their very own, fully equipped tool kit to deal with all of the stress and anxiety that they are facing on a daily basis.
Even though many people don’t agree, some young people really do have it tough – they live in a world of constant distraction, media pressure, social networking and they have access to mobile phones which have constant internet access 24/7. Meanwhile teachers are under constant pressure with a huge workload and enormous demands – some don’t know if they’re coming or going and quite a few are giving up in despair at the stress of it all.
Schools where they already exercise mindfulness are finding that their students and staff perform and feel better, are less stressed, calmer, with better focus in class, greater belief in themselves and able to relate more effectively with others. The list of advantages really is endless, the effects are different for different people, so even though the students may not benefit immediately, they may want to use the methods later in life.
A few of the main benefits to health include:
- A dramatic drop in stress levels – it has been proven with research published just last month in the journal Health Psychology that mindfulness is not only associated with feeling less stressed, it’s also linked with decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol
- We can be realistic – Mindfulness can help us see beyond those rose-coloured glasses when we need to really objectively analyse ourselves
- Educational improvements – Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that college students who were trained in mindfulness performed better on the verbal reasoning section and also experienced improvements in their working memory.
If mindfulness is something that you feel may appeal to you, your business or your school, don’t hesitate to seek help today. Mindfulness doesn’t discriminate and can help everyone in some way or another, whether you realise it or not.
- License: Creative Commons image source
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://all-free-download.com/free-photos/school_bus_186787.html
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://all-free-download.com/free-photos/rest_bank_chill_out_220760.html
Karen has for a number of years been drawing on the mindfulness skills she learned years ago from Mindfulness CIC, and enjoys sharing her knowledge of Mindfulness with her colleagues and family.