October 02, 2017
Mindfulness at schools is on the rise in Australia, but what exactly is it, and what are the benefits?
Mindfulness is the steady, non-judgemental awareness and acceptance of the present moment. When we practice this, it leads to self-awareness and allows us to see clearly what is happening and how we are reacting, so we can respond to triggers and traumas with far more open-mindedness, and more flexibility and tolerance. According to author and psychologist Linda Graham, being mindful simply means paying attention to the experience of the moment, whether inner or outer, with an acceptance or friendliness toward the experience and without judgement or ill will.
In recent years, mindfulness programs have been incorporated into workplaces, hospitals and prisons. Research has overwhelmingly highlighted the many benefits of the practice in adult populations, including enhanced performance, improved emotional management and reduced workplace stress; inspiring even more workplaces to implement mindfulness training programs.
These favourable results have led teachers to consider the potential value of mindfulness at schools to improve student concentration and overall wellbeing; particularly given the myriad multimedia distractions they face and the rising incidence of anxiety and depression.
How to practice mindfulness at school?
We can begin cultivating mindfulness by focusing our attention on one specific object of awareness –usually the breath. As we practice becoming mindful of various objects – the breath, a pain in the knee, a memory of a friend – we become aware of awareness itself. We notice, and we notice that we are noticing, with practice in mindfulness, our awareness steadies. We can readily notice when we’re “awake” and when we are not, when we are present and engaged and when we’re not. This awareness of being aware helps us feel safe while we begin to notice patterns through our mindfulness. James Baraz, from Spirit Rock Meditation Center in San Francisco points out “That which is aware of fear is not itself afraid” – or sad, angry, or overwhelmed. Any time we can notice and name the experience of the moment, we have reengaged our prefrontal cortex.
With the World Health Organisation having predicted that mental health issues are likely to form the biggest burden on healthcare resources by 2030, many consider mindfulness at schools to be part of the solution and an effective antidote to the pressures of modern life.
Contact us at The Wellness Union to find out how we can integrate mindfulness at your school.
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