Mindfulness seems to be everywhere with now. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a new fad, the latest self-help craze, soon-to-be debunked and replaced with the-next-best-thing. But you’d be wrong.
Mindfulness has a rich and deep history. Whilst mindfulness has only recently been accepted in Western psychology, it is actually an ancient practice found in a wide range of Eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism and Yoga. Mindfulness involves consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience with openness, interest, and receptiveness. (Dr Russ Harris – The Happiness Trap)
Mindfulness can help you
- to be fully present, in this moment, right now
- to experience your thoughts and feelings safely
- to become aware of what it is that you are avoiding
- to become more connected to yourself, to others and to your surroundings
- to increase self-awareness
- to deal with unpleasant experiences without automatic reacting
- to learn that you are your thoughts; your thoughts do not define ‘Who You Are’
- to have a direct, non-judgmental contact with the world, rather than living through your thoughts
- to accept change – your thoughts and feelings are as changing as the weather
- to have more calm balance in your life
- to develop self-acceptance and self-compassion
If mindfulness can do all of this for you, just imagine what it can do for children!
School traditionally focusses on teaching children stuff and then testing them on it. All well and good (although even this focus seems very ‘20th Century’ in an age where a Google search can find stuff for you and the need to memorise facts seems increasingly redundant). How much better to teach children to get in touch with themselves, to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and build from a strong base of self-awareness?
Teaching children mindfulness increases their attention and social emotional awareness. Students are able to stay more focused and pay more attention in class and they can gain an increased awareness of their body, their thoughts and their emotions. Students experience less test anxiety. Mindfulness also improves children’s impulse control and interpersonal skills, leading to easier classroom management. And perhaps most importantly of all in terms of child development, mindfulness training can lead to increases in executive function. When children have opportunities to develop executive function and self-regulation skills, everybody wins. These are essential skills for learning and development.
Executive function and self-regulation skills depend on three related elements of the brain: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control.
These functions are highly connected and interdependent; the successful application of executive function skills requires them to work seamlessly with each other.
- Working memorycontrols our retention and manipulation of information over definite periods of time.
- Mental flexibilityenables us to sustain or alter attention in response to different stimuli and to apply different rules in different situations.
- Self-control lets us prioritize and not give in to instinctive or automatic responses.
These skills do not seem to be innate —children are born with the potential to develop them. For children to blossom and thrive, their environment needs to nurture these skills. Indeed, toxic environments can directly impair brain architecture and lead to the non-development or delayed development of executive skills.
Check out the ‘Resources and Research’ section for much, much more…