Mindfulness by @iSENCO1

The power of using mindfulness in the classroom

Having recently completed an excellent training course with Will Ord, I am now busy readjusting all my intervention planning to ensure that sessions include mindfulness activities.

This is a re-blog post by @iSENCO1 and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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I’ve been aware of mindfulness for a while now; it’s something I do as part of yoga lessons and I’ve found it to be calming and relaxing. I have not however, fully realised its potential for the children I teach until now.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of mindfulness, it is simply:

  • Paying attention
  • On purpose
  • In the present moment
  • Non-judgementally

This is the definition from Jon Kabat Zinn (Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts).

Others describe it as a very simple form of meditation. Unfortunately, as soon as we talk about meditation, images of monks, incense sticks and religion seem to enter the brain and this can make parents wary.

Mindfulness is not a religion. It is a simple and effective method of mind training which improves, amongst other things, thinking skills.

The godfather of psychology, William James, once said:

“The capacity to voluntarily bring back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgement, character and will. No one is compos sui (master of oneself) if he has it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.”

Only now are his words being proved true by recent studies undertaken by people such as Professor Mark Williams and Jon Kabat Zinn.

Scientists and psychotherapists have discovered that mindfulness can:

  • Improve both mental and physical health
  • Help relieve stress
  • Treat heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Improve sleep
  • Alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
  • Foster resilience in both teachers and learners
  • Help learners to regulate their minds
  • Improve memory
  • Help people respond to internal and external events rather than react to them
  • Reduce stress and other negative emotions such as anger and anxiety

It can also be a treatment for:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Couples’ conflicts
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

If there’s even a small chance that mindfulness can improve the mental and physical health of pupils then I find myself wondering, why aren’t more schools implementing it?

Having recently read Mindfulness; A Practical guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, I will certainly be exploring the use of mindfulness activities with my pupils. If you’re even remotely interested in mindfulness then I can definitely recommend this book. It’s simple to read, states exactly what mindfulness is and isn’t, and then guides you through an 8 week mindfulness course so that you can try it for yourself.

In school, with a small group of 8 year old boys, I’m currently using a very accessible book called Mindful Movements. The boys in this group need to improve a variety of social skills ranging from making eye contact to touching others appropriately. They certainly enjoy these activities and have described them as “making me feel quieter inside.”

I’m looking forwards to continuing these and other activities to see whether they can help these children better control their impulses.

If you’d like to try these activities but don’t have access to this book then there is another version here. There’s also a You Tube video here:

Given the wealth of research about mindfulness being undertaken right now, I’m certainly going to be trying it out more and more and am feeling excited about the results that can be achieved.

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