How Meditation Can Help Students Master Life | Edudemic

Worth a try? I think that as the pace of our world tends to increase exponentially and time is our one major scarcity, it is scary to set aside some mental space for what seems to be the indulgent practice of simply calming ourselves down. But the article below cites studies that prove that in effect, taking this time to get more in touch with ourselves actually saves us time in the form of reduced stress, clarity of mind, more energy and better immune system.

It also gives three simple tricks on how you can implement this in the classroom. What would happen if we asked the students to arrive a few minutes before an exam (or started five minutes later) and took a minute to practice some mindfulness? I wonder if the results would not reflect the calmer state of mind…

Students benefit from meditation & the methods that they can use to excel in school, perform well in sports and activities, and have more emotional control.

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How Stress Affects the Brain During Learning | Edudemic

Credit: DUNCAN SHAW/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Universal Images Group

Credit: DUNCAN SHAW/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Universal Images Group

We are now well into the school year; the progress reports have been sent out and the countdown to the first report card has begun.

As a parent of two teenage daughters, I find myself with a lot of free time on the weekend. They are too busy doing homework to hang out with me (okay, that might just be a convenient excuse, but still. They do spend a lot of time working at their desks). In between sports teams, extra curricular activities and school work, I hardly see them and when I do, it is usually with a sort of deer-in-the-headlights look to them as they contemplate everything they have to get done.

Both as a person working in a school and as a mother, I am always searching for ways in which we can teach our youth to cope with the demands of everyday life. How to manage their time, how to cope with failure and build resistance. How to, in the way over-used words of poor old Churchill, how to keep calm and carry on.

The article below came to my attention yesterday just as I was listening to an episode on Mindfulness in the Classroom on CBC Radio One’s The Current. The first step in solving a problem is knowing what is causing it. It is helpful to understand as an adult in a child’s life how stress literally shuts down the brain. We have all seen it happen. I think the whole Mindfulness movement is probably one pretty high-powered tool in our toolbox to combat this kind of stress.

Is stress a concern for you in your classroom? How do you deal with it?

A fight or flight reaction may be useful in some situations, but it is highly detrimental in the classroom. Whether anxiety stems from test taking or from an unstable home environment, the brains of students experiencing high levels of stress look different than those who are not — and those brains behave differently, too. In

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Musings on Mindfulness

Photo by Scott Meltzer

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?