In the United States, the mental health of students has become a growing concern. Although awareness and helpful resources have increased, a number of students remain reluctant to seek help due to the social stigma. According to the American College Health Association, in a 2018 assessment, 63% of college students in the U.S. felt overwhelming anxiety in the past year.
As an individual goes through life and is presented with many new hardships, stress becomes inevitable- and sometimes seems insurmountable with the additional challenges of social media. More and more we see students indulging in ineffective “self-care” trends and avoidant behaviors for a temporary escape from reality.
Avoidance tends to make anxiety worse. Unproductive coping methods may lead to a path of self-sabotaging behaviors in response to stressors. It seems logical to teach healthy approaches for dealing with stress head-on BEFORE throwing students into the real world full of adversity.
We can prepare students to face their anxieties and push forward by implementing mindfulness policies within the classroom.
Major Benefits of Mindfulness
1. Mindfulness decreases stress and anxiety
Meditation practices have been shown to lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone) in the body. Reductions in cortisol levels leads to lower stress and anxiety levels in individuals.
2. Mindfulness improves attention
Studies have shown how mindfulness helps activate parts of the brain that are involved in attention. Being able to control attention may improve one’s ability to focus on present tasks.
3. Mindfulness encourages greater compassion
Mindfulness-based stress reduction programs have resulted in an increase in self-compassion, perspective taking and spirituality while decreasing stress symptoms and mood disturbances. Thus, mindfulness increases the ability to adopt other’s perspectives, reduce distress when witnessing other’s negative experiences, and allow more compassionate responses and empathy.
4. Mindfulness may improve emotional regulation
Research shows that participants who increased engagement in mindfulness meditation practices found improvements in psychological functioning and a greater perception of internal body awareness. Being aware of internal sensations allows for better emotional regulation which leads to improved well-being.
“Incorporating mindfulness into education has been linked to improving academic and social and emotional learning. Also, mindfulness strengthens some underlying development processes- such as focus, resilience, and self-soothing- that will help kids in the long run.”Amy Saltzman, M.D., director of the Association for Mindfulness in Education
how to Implement Mindfulness Practices in Classroom Curriculum
Challenging situations often trigger physical responses such as shallow breathes in the chest and an increase in heart rate. Students may default to these responses during difficult situations. Throughout the day or prior to exams, simple breathing techniques may be used to calm overwhelming emotions.
2. Stay Grounded
To stay grounded means to stay living in the present moment- when we lose ourselves, our bodies are set to default and we are more easily affected by our emotions and the stressful conditions we’re in. To keep students grounded- have students journal to check in with themselves and stay connected with their thoughts.
3. Meditation Practices
According to #1 international bestselling author of “The Miracle Morning” and top-rated key note speaker, Hal Elrod, mediation is a powerful tool that can improve emotional health, increase self awareness, and strengthen attention span and focus. Sitting for 10 minutes in silence while centering thoughts around positive affirmations lowers cortisol levels, helps gain clarity, and promotes new insights.
Try taking intentional breaks throughout the day or “meditation moments” to lower stress levels in students and have them recenter their focus.
Why should we incorporate mindfulness?
Schools have a responsibility to protect and help develop students social and emotional well being in addition to their cognitive skills. Research on taking a more holistic approach to learning has shown a reduction in anti-social behavior and an improvement in academic achievement and long-term health.