Mindfulness: Its Benefits to Students Inside and Outside of the Classroom
Pause. Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth. Recenter yourself in your space. Sit up straight, press your feet against the floor, and release the tension you are holding. Now, notice and acknowledge your emotions and focus on this article. Although it was brief, you just practiced mindfulness. According to Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, mindfulness “means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens” (“What Is Mindfulness?”). Another central aspect of mindfulness is acceptance of ourselves and our thoughts as they are—without judgment or overthinking—so that we are present in the moment.
Acknowledgment of Mindfulness
In the past decade, mindfulness has grown in popularity with mainstream adult culture, manifesting in yoga and meditation practices. However, the importance of mindfulness in children is often overlooked, as their mental health is often disregarded. The statement that children have not yet experienced the stress of the “real world” (which consists of work, bills, taxes, and adult responsibilities) fails to acknowledge the responsibilities and pressure inherently embedded in education and adolescence. Thus, mindfulness has immense benefits for children, as it helps them develop their sense of character and further their impact on the communities around them.
Studies on the Benefits of Mindfulness
Generalizations such as better grades, focus, and drive are often credited to the incorporation of mindfulness in the classroom, but many skeptics have been quick to criticize this progress—claiming that these results did not correlate with the incorporation of mindfulness. So, over the past decade, a myriad of research studies have been conducted to back up these positive claims and mindfulness’s impact.
In 2013, a British study was conducted with 500 students in six schools who were taught MiSP curriculum. MiSP, the Mindfulness in Schools Program, “consists of nine scripted mindfulness lessons, delivered weekly by trained classroom teachers” (Campbell). These six MiSP schools were paired with six, similar, but non-MiSP schools. After the curriculum was taught at the MiSP schools, an end-of-study survey and follow-up surveys over the next three months were conducted. The students in MiSP schools “reported significantly less stress and symptoms of depression and significantly greater well-being compared to their non-MiSP counterparts” (Campbell). Moreover, MiSP students who used mindfulness practices more often than their peers also scored higher, indicating that increased frequency of mindfulness is also associated with increased academic results.
More recently in 2019, researchers from the Boston Charter Research Collaborative designed a study to determine the effectiveness of school-based mindfulness training on sixth graders in the Boston Area. A group of students was taught mindfulness techniques four times a week and reported fewer stress symptoms than students who did not receive the training, demonstrating the behavioral results of mindfulness practices. Half of the mindfulness group participants also opted into receiving brain scans before and after the study. In these participants scans, their “amygdalae — the part of the brain that controls emotion — responded less to pictures of fearful faces than they did before the mindfulness work, suggesting their brains were less sensitive to negative stimuli, or, in other words, that they were less prone to get stressed out and lose focus” than before the training (Campbell). With scientific evidence backing up its claims, this groundbreaking research strongly points to a correlation between mindfulness and improved behavioral traits.
Summary of Mindfulness’s Benefits
After reviewing each of these studies, it is apparent that mindfulness has clear benefits for children. Like all parents, caregivers, and educators know, behavioral traits such as attention span and self-control allow students to focus better on their academics, yielding higher scores. However, not only does mindfulness strengthen the academic aspect of children, but it also clearly improves their mental health. With a decrease in stress and depression symptoms, the children who participated in mindfulness reported that they were genuinely happier. As this field of study continues to grow, parents, caregivers, and educators can expect to see even further correlations between mindfulness and these benefits. Certain studies even suggest that mindfulness instruction could be especially effective in trauma-informed education, assisting students with coping mechanisms for triggers and stress.
How to Incorporate Mindfulness
So, what can you do to secure these benefits for the children you are around? On the education side, it is recommended for schools to build mindfulness training into the school curriculum, ensuring that there is sufficient time for “staff and students to learn about the theory and science behind mindfulness” as well as its applications (Tatter). However, as parents do not have complete control over the curriculum, parents can incorporate mindfulness into their own routine with their children. Here is a list of ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your child’s life. Whatever technique you choose, make sure to practice it regularly as consistency is key to helping your child make mindfulness a habit.
Model breathing techniques to use during tantrums
Practice guided meditation together
Stretch in the mornings after waking up and focus on your breathing
Ask your child about their five senses when they need help calming down: What do they see, hear, smell, feel, and taste
Camp Kindness Counts’s Approach to Mindfulness
Camp Kindness Counts focuses on building character in children through the power of kindness. We understand the importance of reflection in the development of character strengths, so we make sure to incorporate mindfulness into all aspects of our program. With the support of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, we developed a series of Kind World Explorer Guidebooks, each focusing on a different character strength. Each guidebook focuses on three themes: My World, Your World, and Our World. My World specifically focuses on mindfulness, encouraging children to reflect on their personal growth. You can access a sneak peek of the Gratitude Kind World Explorer guidebook here to incorporate character development and mindfulness in your home, classroom, or community. Be sure to subscribe to The Power of Kindness to ensure you do not miss out on any future articles, including ones that will dive deeper into how to practice mindfulness.
Written By: Shivani Modi | Camp Kindness Counts TIPS Intern
Black, David S, and Randima Fernando. “Mindfulness Training and Classroom Behavior Among Lower-Income and Ethnic Minority Elementary School Children.”Journal of Child and Family Studies, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4304073/.
Campbell, Emily Campbell. “Research Round-Up: Mindfulness in Schools.” Greater Good, 10 Oct. 2013, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/research_round_up_school_based_mindfulness_programs.
Lantieri, Linda, and Vicki Zakrzewski. “How SEL and Mindfulness Can Work Together.” Greater Good, 7 Apr. 2015, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_social_emotional_learning_and_mindfulness_can_work_together.
“Mindfulness Definition: What Is Mindfulness.” Greater Good, greatergood.berkeley.edu/to pic/mindfulness/definition.
Tatter, Grace. “Mindfulness for Children.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Jan. 2019, www.nytimes.com/guides/well/mindfulness-for-children.