Although the practice of mindfulness meditation has been around for a while, it is only in recent times that it has begun to gain traction in schools. As more research builds up to support the case for mindfulness, more schools are beginning to incorporate mindfulness into the curriculum.
The body of scientific research illustrating the positive effects of mindfulness training on mental health and well-being—at the level of the brain as well as at the level of behavior—grows steadily more well-established: It improves attention, reduces stress, and results in better emotional regulation and an improved capacity for compassion and empathy. Brain-imaging studies at Harvard and Mass General Hospital have shown that long-term mindfulness training can help thicken the cortical regions related to attention and sensory processing, and may offset thinning of those areas that typically comes with aging. It may also be useful for for children and adolescents with aggression, ADHD, or mental-health problems like anxiety. – The Atlantic
The most convincing story for me was the case of Visitacion Valley Middle School:
The school is located in a neighbourhood where gunfire was a common occurrence. Most of the students either know someone who had been shot or did the shooting. Murders were so frequent that a full-time grief counselor was employed by the school.
Students were often fighting in the corridors, graffiting on the walls and cursing their teachers. The school had one of the highest rates of absenteeism and suspensions in the city. Teachers were worn-down and often sick. Academics suffered.
The school tried everything, from counseling and peer support to after-school tutoring and sports. Nothing worked until they started incorporating meditative quiet time into the school day.
In the first year, suspensions fell by 45 percent. Within four years, they had one of the lowest suspension rates in the city. Daily attendance rates rose to 98 percent, well above the citywide average. Grade point averages improved markedly. About 20 percent of graduates are admitted to Lowell High School – before Quiet Time, getting any students into the elite high school was a rarity. In the annual California Healthy Kids Survey, the students recorded the highest happiness levels in San Francisco.
What Mindfulness Does to the Brain
Why is mindfulness so effective? Here’s what happens to the brain when we practice mindfulness:
Daily Mindfulness Practice
So what can we do to incorporate mindfulness into our daily practice? Here are 4 suggestions from Harvard Health:
- Body Scan – pay attention to any tension of stress in each part of your body.
- Yoga – begin the day with a basic sun salutation.
- Breathe – take a break and check in with your breathing any time during the day.
- Relax – follow a guided meditation at the end of the day.
Spend 10 to 15 minutes a day practicing any of these activities. Remember that consistency is the key.
Mindfulness Programs in School
“dot be” stands for “Stop, Breathe, and be!”
Written by experienced classroom teachers and mindfulness practitioners, .b has had positive evaluation from the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford Brookes. .b is a 9 lesson course for students age 11 to 18 years. It covers the following topics:
- An introduction to mindfulness
- Puppy training
- Turning towards calm
- Recognising worry
- Being here now
- Moving mindfully
- Stepping back
- Befriending the difficult
- Pulling it all together
Designed to engage even the most cynical students, .b is taught using striking visuals, film clips, and activities that bring mindfulness to life without losing the integrity of classic mindfulness teaching.
.b aims to teach students mindfulness as a life-skill so they can use it to:
- feel happier, calmer and more fulfilled
- get on better with others
- help them concentrate and learn better
- help cope with stress and anxiety
- perform better in music and sport
The Paws b program was developed for children aged 7 to 11 years.
Digital Resources for Mindfulness
The Stop, Breathe and Think app is a free mindfulness, meditation and compassion-building tool that teaches you how to meditate and develop skills that help you relax, support academic and professional achievement, and engage in more positive interactions and relationships. Learn to:
- Deepen your awareness of your thoughts and emotions and recognize those feelings in others.
- Settle yourself down and proactively manage your emotions and reactions, like stress or anxiety.
- Approach people and everyday situations from the perspective of kindness and compassion.
- Free access to Take10, the first level of our Foundation Course – learn the basics in 10 x 10 minute meditation exercises designed for beginners
- Personalised progress page to track your stats
- Buddy system for you and your friends to motivate each other on your Headspace Journey
- Rewards for regularly using our meditation app
- Reminders to keep you on track with your practice
- Options for you to continue your journey after Take10, with inspiring packs and one-off sessions on a range of topics such as stress relief, happiness, mental health and appreciation
- Ability to download sessions for offline use
Smiling Mind is a not-for-profit initiative that provides six free Mindfulness Meditation Programs including:
- Bite Size
- 7-11 Years
- 12-15 Years
- 16-22 Years
- Extended Meditations
Calm has three mediation options:
- Guided Programs:
- 7 Days of Calm – free introductory program teaches the basics of mindfulness meditation.
- 21 Days of Calm – deeper training so you can meditate on your own without your smartphone.
- 7 Days of Sleep – premium program to help with sleep.
- Unguided meditation sessions: 25 relaxing options with no voice-over; 10 immersive nature scenes, 16 blissful music tracks by Kip Mazuy.
- Guided sessions: 25 guided meditation session that last from just a couple of minutes to up to about 20 minutes.
Free, 4-week, online mindfulness course with step-by-step guide.
MindShift is an app designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety. It will help you learn how to relax, develop more helpful ways of thinking, and identify active steps that will help you take charge of your anxiety. This app includes strategies to deal with everyday anxiety, as well as specific tools to tackle:
- Test Anxiety
- Social Anxiety
- Performance Anxiety
MindShift was developed by AnxietyBC, a non-profit organization devoted to increasing the public’s awareness and access to evidence-based resources on anxiety disorders, and BC Children’s Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority.
Books for Mindfulness
The book is based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) – a straightforward form of mindfulness meditation which takes just 10 to 20 minutes a day. It is recommended not only for people who are depressed but those who are struggling to keep up with the constant demands of the modern world.
MBCT was developed by the book’s author, Oxford professor Mark Williams, and his colleagues at the Universities of Cambridge and Toronto. The book includes links to audio meditations to help guide you through the process.
This book features practical, illustrated step-by-step exercises to help you:
- understand and adopt the mindfulness approach
- master key techniques such as breathing, relaxation, body scanning and concentration building.
Learn to completely engage in the present moment, and in the process overcome negative thoughts and feelings. The book also includes chapters on using mindfulness to self-treat such specific problems as depression, stress and anxiety, and relationship issues.
This new book shares the secrets of the Mindfulness-based approaches to pain and illness therapy. It is developed by Vidyamala Burch at the Breathworks centre in Manchester and which has its roots in the groundbreaking work of pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn from the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre in the US. The eight-week programme at the heart of this book takes just 10-20 minutes per day.
Full Catastrophe Living is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s renowned mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Kabat-Zinn’s groundbreaking work—which gave rise to a whole new field in medicine and psychology—shows you how to use medically proven mind-body approaches derived from meditation and yoga to counteract stress, establish greater balance of body and mind, and stimulate well-being and healing. By engaging in these mindfulness practices and integrating them into your life from moment to moment and from day to day, you can learn to manage chronic pain, promote optimal healing, reduce anxiety and feelings of panic, and improve the overall quality of your life, relationships, and social networks.
Written by a pioneer in neuroscience, this book brings a new understanding of our emotions – why each of us responds so differently to the same life events and what we can do to change and improve our emotional lives.
From thirty years of studying brain chemistry, Davidson shows just why and how we are all so different. Just as we all have our own DNA, so we each have our own emotional ‘style’ depending on our individual levels of dimensions like resilience, attention and self-awareness. Helping us to recognise our own emotional style, Davidson also shows how our brain patterns can change over our lives – and, through his fascinating experiments, what we can do to improve our emotional responses through, for example, meditation.
Deepening our understanding of the mind-body connection – as well as conditions like autism and depression – Davidson stretches beyond mainstream psychology and neuroscience and expands our view of what it means to be human.
- What is Mindfulness Meditation?
- Mindfulness Training Can Improve Working Memory, Reading Comprehension, and Task Focus
- Meditation Improves Learning and Memory Processes
- Teaching Children How Practicing Mindfulness can Help Them
- Mindfulness Resources for Families
- Easy Ways to Practice Mindfulness with Children
- MindUP Curriculum