Thich Nhat Hanh posited that, “The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion,” and in today’s world, distractions, internal and external, abound that make it difficult for people to live presently, wholeheartedly accept themselves, and live life more fully. Mindfulness, or “the act of consciously focusing your mind in the present moment without judgment and without attachment to the moment” (Linehan, 2015) helps us become more aware of what is going on for us internally and externally and could have widespread application in multiple settings.
“Mindfulness practices can help us to increase our ability to regulate emotions, decrease stress, anxiety and depression. It can also help us to focus our attention, as well as to observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment.” In a school setting, this practice could prove to be invaluable, for the aforementioned are skills necessary to fully participate in the learning process, acquire knowledge and information, take risks, and build relationships.
To clear up any misconceptions, mindfulness:
· Is not about fixing you (you’re not broken)
· Is not about stopping your thoughts
· Does not belong to a religion, and
· Is not an escape from reality
Mindfulness, however, does mean maintaining a “moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” The important factor about practicing mindfulness is to tune our thoughts into what we're sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. Therefore, for those struggling with toxic stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, and procrastination, learning about and implementing mindful skills into your life can be quite beneficial.
Just think about it. When you’re experiencing anxious symptoms about impending assessments, traveling abroad, meeting new people, moving to a new school, completing mounds of homework, starting a new job, dealing with family stressors, or having tough conversations with loved ones/co-workers, being more mindful can turn once stress- inducing experiences into more tolerable and manageable events. The key to experiencing success with mindfulness is to practice being mindful as often as possible in the absence of stressors. Being mindful is not something you do once and poof, you’re an expert, but rather being mindful are skills you practice routinely, just like brushing your teeth or practicing your musical instrument.
Research states that incorporating mindfulness practices into your daily routine has numerous benefits, such as reduced rumination, stress reduction, boosts to working memory, improved focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, and increased relationship satisfaction, etc.
Furthermore, according to various studies, scholastic benefits of mindfulness include:
· Increased focus, attention, self-control, classroom participation, compassion
· Improved academic performance, conflict resolution, overall well-being
· Decreased levels of stress, depression, anxiety, disruptive behavior.
The following are some simple suggestions to begin to incorporate mindful practices into your classroom and school community:
· Practicing gratitude
· Mindful breathing exercises
· Guided meditation exercises
· Positive affirmations
So, knowing this, think back to a recent situation that caused you some stress or symptoms of anxiety. I wonder if you were aware of the strategies and benefits of mindfulness then could that situation have turned out differently. What could you have done in the moment to mitigate some of the negative symptoms of your stressors? Lastly, what would you be willing to incorporate into your life, now, to help deal with things that are on the horizon?
What’s great about being mindful is that the benefits are transferable to other areas of life, not simply academic life. Moreover, being more mindful could be the key to you experiencing life with more happiness, awareness, fulfillment, and gratitude.
I’d impress upon you to remember that the life you want can be achieved one mindful moment at a time. In the poignant words of Tara Brach, “There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life.” Imagine what life could be like if each day you said yes to being perfectly imperfect; if you realized that your power lies within non-judgmentally accepting your imperfections; if you chose to mindfully embrace the present and allow it to prepare you for your future. Today is all that you are granted. Be present. Be grateful. Be unapologetically you.
Davis, D., Hayes, J. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness. CE Corner, Vol. 43, No. 7. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner
Center for Change. (2019). Why be mindful. Retrieved from:
Gerszberg, C. (2019). Bringing mindfulness into schools. Mindful Magazine. Retrieved from: https://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-in-education/
Greater Good Magazine. (2019). What is Mindfulness. Retrieved from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition