Why teaching mindfulness in school makes perfect sense
By Tami Rogers, an award-winning writer, parent blogger, and mom of two daughters who are now in college.
For years, studies have shown positive effects on both the physical and emotional health of adults who practice yoga or meditation regularly. That’s probably not surprising to those of you already reaping the benefits.
But there is also growing evidence that mindfulness and yoga practices can make a positive impact on children of all ages.
What does mindfulness do exactly? It teaches children (and adults) how to live in the present moment, releasing the mind from patterns that can lead to worry, depression and anxiety. It also enables more intuitive and creative responses to new challenges.
Two systematic reviews and twenty individual studies of mindfulness interventions with school-aged children have been published in scientific journals. The studies involved all age ranges, including children without any known health issues, and others with a variety of mental and physical health problems.
The results were overwhelming. Children and teachers who took part reported improved mental, emotional, social and physical well-being. Practicing mindfulness also brought about reduced stress, anxiety and bad behavior. Overall, subjects reported greater calmness, relaxation, improved self-esteem and sleep.
In conclusion, “Mindfulness can contribute directly to the development of cognitive skills and executive function. It can help young people pay greater attention, be more focused and think in more innovative ways.”
The studies also show that children who are mindful tend to “experience more positive emotion, have a larger circle of friends and overall less anxiety in school.”
It’s no wonder these programs are showing up in several states and around the world. Imagine what bringing them into the classroom could mean for schools around the country.
What kids are saying about mindfulness
Many children who practice mindfulness in the classroom are singing its praises.
Here are just a few quotes from children who have benefited from the practice:
“You can use mindfulness to cure all the revenge in the world.” –-Fourth Grader
“I feel like I have the courage to do anything.” –-First Grader
High school aged kids say:
“It makes me happy and great. It’s calming and peaceful. It makes me grateful and light.”
“When my sister gets on my nerves I tell her to leave me alone so I can take a deep breath. I always use the technique whenever I am mad.”
Mindfulness in schools is being embraced in Britain
Britain’s Schools minister David Laws said: “We are very interested in promoting mindfulness in schools and we certainly think that it is an area that merits consideration based on the evidence we’ve seen to date. “My colleague [education minister] Liz Truss actually has been looking at this recently.”
In fact, there is a campaign in Britain to get mindfulness in schools. Called the Mindfulness in Schools Campaign, its mission is to make mindfulness a part of the U.K. National Curriculum by 2022.
And it couldn’t come at a better time. According to the World Health Organization, by 2030 mental health issues will be a bigger drain on health care resources than heart condition and cancer.
And with issues like bullying, violence and teen suicide growing in our local schools, isn’t it time we try a new approach? Promoting mindfulness in our children and in our local schools may be an idea whose time has come.
How parents and teachers can get involved
If you’re interested in learning more or bringing mindfulness training into your child’s school, please consult the following resources:
A collaborative association of organizations and individuals based in the USA. Working together, they provide mindfulness training as a component of K-12 education.
A UK grassroots Mindfulness in Schools Campaign, advocating and fundraising to make mindfulness available to all nine million UK school children by 2022. Its goal is to increase happiness and resilience in children while improving student outcomes.
An online and in-person training course for adults to learn how to teach mindfulness in a classroom setting.
BodiMojo’s top picks on mindfulness, self-care, parenting, and well-being.
Last Reviewed May 2018 by Tara Cousineau, PhD