“Mindfulness”: How to Influence Kids
You’re sitting in a classroom somewhere in America, working to talk about a topic that’s deeply important to you. Perhaps you’re discussing social justice. Perhaps it’s something related to weight loss. Maybe it’s a topic that involves topics we’re all passionate about, such as school shootings. Perhaps it’s something you’re passionate about but simply haven’t thought about deeply enough to be ready for.
Whatever the topic, it’s a good day in your classroom.
But wait. What is this thing called mindfulness? Did you know it was even a concept? Did you know you could learn more? Did you know it actually works?
Well, let’s put these questions to rest with a quick fact about mindfulness and how its use might change the experience of a classroom.
Mindfulness: If you asked a classroom teacher today what might bring increased concentration to their school, only about one third of them would answer “mindfulness.”
But mindfulness is one of the most powerful tools to boost memory and attention in children. For instance, a 2008 study of 140,000 adults showed that mindfulness-based training improved students’ memory. A 2011 study found that mindfulness training had similar effects on their thinking and learning abilities. So now what?
Going Beyond Silence
For starters, mindfulness doesn’t mean solitude; it means paying attention to your experience.
“If you don’t have a person in front of you, if you don’t have an object in front of you, then you are by definition not in the moment,” said Scott Brown, co-founder of University of Phoenix Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. “[This] is when we learn to ‘taste’ the present moment.”
When you are in the moment, you’re still paying attention, but not distracted by thoughts or other stimuli.
As a long-time meditation teacher, Brown has developed the first MBSR online program. MBSR stands for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which is a three-step process that involves visualization, dialoguing, and observing. Once you learn how to fall asleep or stay awake in the MBSR program, you begin to see how it applies to regular life as well.
Every day, Brown teaches these three components to teachers to combat stress and boost student performance. “I tell people if they’re not paying attention, it means they’re not enjoying what they’re doing,” Brown said.
But mindfulness doesn’t stop there. After you’ve moved on from the thoughts that distracted you in class, you should discuss what took your mind off.
The power of conversation
According to Brown, the moment you start a conversation, you feel present with the person you’re engaging.
That’s because the moment you start a conversation with someone — whether that’s in school or at home — you become more aware of your experience.
“Mindfulness helps you become aware, and, in turn, allows you to take pleasure in the moment,” said Brown. “[It] allows you to become more conscious of your present emotions.”
In an effort to increase concentration, Brown recommends slowing down to think about a topic with your eyes closed.
Mindfulness at Work
And when you’re at work? For the same reason that we’re moved to make eye contact with a stranger, let’s make eye contact with our colleagues, too. So even in a professional environment, you’re showing that you’re engaged with the people around you.
Many mindfulness programs focus on the particular teachers or students, but Brown also advocates a use of mindfulness at work.
“We need to look at how people behave at work,” Brown said. “We need to look at how they interact with each other, and … we need to bring in the journey of consciousness as opposed to the journey of the practice.”
Better Now, Better Later
Additionally, mindfulness is a great tool for parents to help their kids stay focused and organized.
It works because it’s a holistic approach that makes sense for kids both in preschool and high school. When your kids are young, it focuses on what they should know at home and in school, and it does this by ensuring focus and focus.
When they’re teens, mindfulness teaches a skill that can support decision-making and get them thinking before they act.
For Brown, mindfulness is about understanding and accessing the meaning of moments. It encourages “a sense of attention.”