Photo by Scott Meltzer
I like the word mindfulness. It suggests a certain kind of paying attention, an awareness of your own actions and the consequent reactions of others. It is a calm, peaceful kind of word, the kind of adjective that suggests that your interaction with the world around you is more like the graceful dive of an Olympian and less like the colossal belly flop and subsequent tsunami that it usually feels like.
It is the word I use when talking to students about their online interactions. I had no idea it was an actual movement until I read an article about Mindfulness in business in the Corporate Knights magazine (the one that comes in the Globe and Mail). Oh. And now that I take a look at it again, I see that it was written by Old Girl Adria Vasil… huh. The world is such a small place, isn’t it?
Anyways, Vasil talks about how many of the large corporations have started incorporating “Mindfulness techniques” into their business practices. She was also reporting on the Wisdom 2.0 conference, who’s byline is “the premier gathering exploring Living Wisely in the Digital Age.”
What does Mindfulness mean exactly? Here is how Vasil describes it:
“Mindfulness, at its core, is pretty simple. It’s the practice of bringing a calm, non-judgmental awareness to the present moment. It can be as basic as taking a minute to get quiet and tune into your breath and senses. If there’s an aim to mindfulness it is to carry that tranquil “clear seeing” into your day, every day. ” Adria Vasil, The Mindful Corporation, Corporate Knights, Spring 2014
You can see where I am going with this, can’t you? My immediate thought was how to apply these ideas to the classroom. My second immediate thought was that I was probably not the first (or even the 100th) person to think about it. So I looked it up and yep, lo and behold, there is an organization called the Association for Mindfulness in Education. Their website is a veritable font of information on the benefits of teaching Mindfulness techniques but here are a few they outline in point form:
Documented Benefits of Mindfulness
- Increased emotional regulation
- Increased social skills
- Increased ability to orient attention
- Increased working memory and planning and organization
- Increased self esteem
- Increased sense of calmness, relaxation, and self acceptance.
- Increased quality of sleep
- Decreased test anxiety
- Decreased ADHD behaviors- specifically hyperactivity and impulsivity
- Decreased negative affect/ emotions
- Decreased anxiety
- Decreased depression
- Fewer conduct and anger management problems
Vasil mentions in her article that Google “does two-minute mindful meditations at the top of every meeting.” I wonder how it would be if the class got into the routine of doing the same before an exam? The Association cites articles and studies that document how Mindfulness is an effective treatment for anxiety, a condition too many of our students suffer from. And what of those kids who can’t seem to calm down or focus?
I think it is telling that this movement is being spear-headed in the business world by the big tech corporations like Google and Facebook, the ones with the most innovative and progressive approach to the workplace. As our world is being lived more online and we are more and more living the consequences of a 24 hour world, mindfulness seems like exactly what we should be thinking of.
In fact, it is a big part of the re-vamped social media policy for our school (not online yet but soon I hope). Ideas of balanced use and mindfulness will be key for our students to learn how to live in this constantly buzzing, online world without burning out.
What do you think? Do you practice mindfulness with your students?