Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Mindfulness can be a powerful way to decrease stress, boost our immune system, and promote overall healing. It can also help boost student achievement, buffer against bullying, and create resilient students. Mindfulness reduces the stress, depression, and anxiety that our students face every day (yes, even kids feel stress). This enables them to focus more on their academic success (Positive Psychology Program, 2018).
Research has found that:
- Elementary students who practice mindfulness exhibit greater prosocial behaviors, emotion regulation, and academic performance (Harpin, Rossi, Kim, & Swanson, 2016).
- Teenagers studying for a general education certificate who participated in a mindfulness program experienced lower depression and anxiety, which contributed to improved academic attainment (Bennett & Dorjee, 2016).
- Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who participated in a five week mindfulness program reported decreased stress, allowing them to focus on school (Costello & Lawler, 2014).
- Urban male youth who participated in MBSR experienced less stress, anxiety, and negative coping, improving their ability to deal with academic stress and achieve academic success (Sibinga, Perry-Parrish, Chung, Johnson, Smith, & Ellen, 2013).
- Children with ADHD displayed less aggression and conduct problems when exposed to mindfulness therapy, which helps them focus on their academics (Singh, Soamya, & Ramnath, 2016).
- Homeless middle school students who participated in a mindfulness course reported greater well-being and a higher incidence of using mindfulness in school, which can lead to greater quality of life and academic achievement (Viafora, Mathiesen, & Unsworth, 2015).
This is powerful! So how do we harness that power for the benefit of our students? Let’s dive in.
Work Mindfulness Activities Into Your Classroom Routine
Taking just a few short minutes a day to practice mindfulness can have a big impact. Try adding one (or more) of these ideas into your classroom routine:
- Closing eyes and taking deep breaths (meditation)
- Coloring pages
The above activities may seem simple, but that is the point. You want simple activities that help bring you and your students into the present moment. Letting our thoughts take control leads us to obsessive thinking, worry, and stress. The three activities listed above can help calm those thoughts and lower stress levels.
Have your students find a comfortable position to sit or stand in. Have them maintain good posture without getting stiff. They can close their eyes or leave them open. Then, have your students take in a deep breath through their nose, hold it for a few seconds, and breathe out through their mouth. Their thoughts should be focused on following their breath through that process. If their mind starts to wander, they refocus on their breathing.
Start with one minute and work your way up to 5-10. This can be done at the beginning of the day or right after lunch.
Books I Recommend for Mindfulness:
Practicing simple yoga poses is also a great way to bring more mindfulness into your classroom. Your students can sit or stand in different poses when practicing their meditation or you can use them as a brain break throughout the day.
I was blessed to have a p.e. specialist in our school who taught all of our p.e. classes. She was fantastic. She would do yoga throughout the year and the kids LOVED it. It’s a great way to get their bodies moving (yoga is harder than you think!) and bring them into the present.
Books I Recommend for Student Yoga:
This one may make you stop and roll your eyes. You might think to yourself, “How can coloring practice mindfulness?”. When students take a quiet moment to color something risk-free (meaning not graded), they can relax and focus on being in the moment. Coloring is a self-soothing activity that can help reduce stress levels of everyone in your room. I recommend playing some quiet music in the background as kids color.
You can grab my Growth Mindset Coloring Pages Pack on Teachers Pay Teachers.
APPS AND OTHER RESOURCES FOR MINDFULNESS
There are many apps and programs that can also be used to promote mindfulness. Each app listed below has different activities to reduce stress, increase focus, and promote mindfulness. Most are free, but usually have a better paid version or in-app purchases.
Some of my favorites are:
- GoNoodle (They have many different mindful and relaxing videos. Look for one called Flow.)
- Mind Yeti (they have a free and paid version)
- Smiling Mind
I truly believe that incorporating some of these ideas into your room can be a powerful way to increase student learning while lowering stress levels in your students.