The Role of Mindfulness Practices in Supporting Student Well-being and Learning



30 June, 2023

The Role of Mindfulness Practices in Supporting Student Well-being and Learning

Who remembers the very famous dialogue “Hamare zamane mein…” by Atmaram Tukaram Bhide from the Indian sitcom Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah? Similarly, we all have heard stories from our parents and grandparents from their zamana. Jokes apart, they shared their stories which highlighted that they had a much more mindful experience than the GenZ.  Our generation, indubitably, is more inclined towards the new trends, advancing technology and fancy shenanigans. Ok, let’s cut to the chase, as good as the technological and digital world is, it has also taken a toll on our mental health.

With the advancement of technology, today we can connect to people living in other countries, meet them virtually, stalk them on social media, and whatnot. But it has also forced us to compete with others, feel less of ourselves and make virtual reality a big deal. Now, you might question that there are various dieticians, nutritionists, and dermatologists who share valuable insights but believe us that they are selling a vague dream.

To solve all these issues and truly preach mindfulness, we will discuss more about it and what is the role of education in doing so. In today’s fast-paced world, the well-being of students is of paramount importance. As educators, we strive to create an environment where students can thrive academically and personally. And as much as we grow in terms of technology and digitisation, we still strive to live a life in peace and for that mindfulness education is the way to go. By incorporating mindfulness practices into classrooms, we can support students’ well-being and enhance their learning experiences.

What is Mindfulness Education?As the name suggests, the incorporation of mindfulness into education is Mindfulness Education. It involves cultivating present-moment awareness and unwavering attention. It is believed that it was derived from the ancient practices such as meditation and breathing exercises and adapted for educational settings. Ancient India is well-known worldwide for the holistic development of students, preaching practices that are focused on education as well as ethics, students’ well-being, and much more. It was supposed to help students in every manner possible, that is, physically, mentally, and emotionally. By teaching students to be fully present, mindful, and aware, it helped them to respond skillfully to their thoughts, emotions, and the world around them.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Research suggests that regular mindfulness practice can enhance attention and concentration, reduce stress and anxiety, improve emotional regulation, and promote overall well-being. Hence, it is safe to say that mindfulness practices offer a range of benefits, both general and education-related. If you think about it, these benefits translate into improved focus, better self-regulation, enhanced interpersonal skills, and increased resilience.

Benefits for Educators and Students

Implementing mindfulness practices in schools not only benefits students but also supports educators’ well-being. Teachers who practise mindfulness report reduced stress levels, increased job satisfaction, and improved emotional resilience. Additionally, by taking care of their own well-being, educators are better equipped to create a positive classroom environment, foster stronger relationships with students, and effectively manage challenging situations.

Now, we will take a look at the anatomy of the brain and the impact of mindfulness on it. Studies that show that mindful practices majorly affect three parts of the brain, that is, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex.

The Research on Teaching Mindfulness in Schools

Various studies have explored the impact of mindfulness education in schools, and offered promising results. For instance, according to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Developmental Psychology found that mindfulness interventions led to significant improvements in cognitive performance, well-being, and social-emotional skills among students. It also suggested that mindfulness practices can positively influence academic outcomes, social interactions, and emotional well-being in educational settings.

There are many other researches that demonstrate promising results. A study was also designed for sixth graders by researchers with the Boston Charter Research Collaborative. The study, published in a white paper by a team including Martin West of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, showed that students who participated in the eight-week mindfulness were less stressed than the students who hadn’t. Practising mindfulness helps them to focus in the moment, and enhance their capacity to learn and process their emotions effectively.

What Does a Mindfulness Curriculum Include?

A mindfulness curriculum brings out the true meaning of “Mindful Education”. As we move from a skill-based economy to a brain-based economy, our inclination towards the metaverse is evident. And a mindfulness curriculum is just the first step to reaching there. Such a curriculum incorporates a variety of activities and exercises designed to cultivate present-moment awareness. These may include guided meditations, body scans, mindful breathing exercises, and mindful movement practices like yoga. Additionally, the curriculum may introduce discussions on emotions, empathy, and gratitude, fostering a holistic approach to well-being.

And now we will take a look at some of the mindful activities that educational institutions can easily adopt. This list was shared by TeachStarter, which promotes setting aside 5 to 10 minutes per day to focus especially on breathing, which, according to the article, is the first and foremost step of preaching mindfulness.

  1. Mindful Breathing
  2. Pinwheel Breathing
  3. Belly Buddies
  4. Shark Fin
  5. Back-to-Back Breathing, and others

Resources and Activities to Implement Mindfulness

Numerous resources and activities are available to help educators incorporate mindfulness in various educational settings. Websites, apps, and books provide guided meditations, lesson plans, and printable materials. Engaging in activities like “mindful minutes” at the beginning or end of class, breathing exercises during transitions, and incorporating mindfulness into existing subjects. Hence, mindful practices can be seamlessly integrated into the daily routine.

Furthermore, researchers like Erica Baxter (Surya Chandra Healing Yoga) and Richard Burnett have shared helpful suggestions for those looking to implement mindfulness programmes in school and how it can be of help to educators. Additionally, according to a 2015 research, “It is relatively easy to incorporate mindfulness into schools, provided there is sensitivity to the developmental stages and needs of the students.” The research also supported other statements as well.

Mindfulness Education for Continuing and Higher Education

Education, in the 21st century, is not restricted to primary and secondary education. But, today, universities and institutes around the world are embracing mindfulness as a means to support the well-being and success of their students. By integrating mindfulness into the curriculum, organising mindfulness workshops, and much more, higher education institutions are equipping students with essential tools for personal and academic growth.

Many organisations specifically target the audience who want to incorporate mindfulness in their daily life both personally and professionally. The most popular activities and exercises adopted are mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy exercises (MBCT). MBSR was developed by the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970s by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is an eight-week evidence-based programme that uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, yoga, and behaviour. And MBCT is one tool that can help us learn to recognise and understand our thought and feeling patterns, with the goal of creating new, more effective patterns. Organisations that have adopted these two activities have reported positive results and definitely plan to pursue them in the long term.

Mindfulness, nowadays, is not only a popular topic for researchers and academics but also for big companies. In fact, it has also become a global phenomenon. Countries like the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand are the ones to set an example for the world. Organisations like the Mindfulness in Schools Project have introduced a comprehensive training programme, that is, .b (“dot-b”) programme. It focuses on helping students between the ages of 11 to 18 learn more about mindful practices. Thus, promoting well-being and emotional resilience.

In Australia and New Zealand, mindfulness education is making strides. Organisations like Smiling Mind and Mindfulness Education Australia provide resources and training. Since its inception in 2012, Smiling Mind is considered to be one of the world’s leaders in the pre-emptive mental health space and Australia’s go-to expert for youth-based mindfulness programmes.

Way Forward

With so much happening around the world and many countries initiating mindfulness activities with an effort to include them in education, we have come a long way. But it’s not the end, rather it’s a start. A start to build a more mindful educational culture and help students understand its importance. In fact, social media is also acting as a catalyst in this transition, since we spend a huge amount of time-consuming content. That’s when the world should focus on joining hands with technology so as to target the young generation.

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