BUPA GLOBAL

MINDFULNESS IN SCHOOLS

Why schools are teaching mindfulness alongside maths

Girl at school

Many schools now recognise the power of ‘taking time out’ within a busy day to support their students. As studies increasingly show positive links between relaxation and health, how are children reaping the benefits of these techniques?

A busy school day might not seem like the natural place to seek inner tranquility. But for children coping with the pressures of schoolwork and modern life, it’s a great place to start. The introduction of breath and focus techniques into the classroom is helping to change the way that some forward-thinking schools are supporting their students’ wellbeing.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Two key techniques having a particularly positive impact are meditation and mindfulness. Meditation involves clearing the mind through focus on the breath, and sometimes on a particular word or sound, for sustained periods of time. The increasingly popular practice of mindfulness aims to help people to achieve a relaxed, non-judgmental awareness of their feelings and sensations through different mental exercises. Both techniques allow people to step back from their thoughts and gain inner peace and perspective.

New research 1 in the fields of psychology, education and neuroscience shows that teaching these kinds of skills in schools can deliver powerful positive improvements in students' wellbeing, social skills, concentration and academic performance.

Slow deep breaths increase the supply of oxygen to the brain, helping you think more clearly. Studies show that even a few minutes daily can significantly reduce anxiety and stress, and even help lift depression .

"Practising relaxation techniques with your children can help reduce stress and increase focus and mental clarity."

In San Francisco, schools that participated in the Quiet Time Program, formulated around regular practice of transcendental meditation (TM), reported an increase in grades. At the same time attendance rose, suspensions fell and many participating students showed significant increases in self esteem, happiness and positive relationships2.

The benefits don’t just stop in the classroom. Simple mindfulness and meditation techniques to try include:

  • Taking a walk in nature and picking a natural organism to focus on for a minute or two. Give it your undivided attention and allow yourself to notice and just 'be'
  • Checking in with your body, scanning it for any sensations of discomfort or tension and asking yourself what experiences these might be coming from
  • Downloading a guided meditation and mindfulness app and using it to create a minute or two of stillness in your day
  • Calming your mind by focusing on your breathing for one minute, holding your breath for six seconds on each inhale, and then breathing out slowly.

Yoga

Yoga is another relaxation technique that has become increasingly popular as a way to improve wellbeing – adding physical movement to mental stillness. And it’s not just adults that are discovering this ancient Indian discipline.

Children, as young as those in preschool, are now being introduced to yoga, learning to perform a downward-dog or cat poses¬ as part of a system of movements, or ‘postures’, designed to increase strength and flexibility. But it’s not only the body that benefits – the practice has been shown to improve resilience, mood and to help students of all ages to self-regulate emotions and stress levels3.

In the Encinitas (California) Union School District, yoga practice has been introduced into all of its schools alongside traditional sports - with forward-thinking educationalists hailing it as the “21st-century physical education”4.

The concept of quiet time in school isn’t new, but encouraging children to relax and de-stress may be the most important way to ensure they reach their full potential. Take time to practice relaxation techniques with your children at home and you could even reap the health benefits too. So breathe deeply - and enjoy a happier, healthier life all round.



1. Contemplative Education: A Systematic, Evidence-Based Review of the effect of Meditation Interventions in Schools

2. Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education

3. Khalsa SBS. Yoga in schools research: improving mental and emotional health. Invited Presentation at the Second International Conference on Yoga for Health and Social Transformation Haridwar: Patanjali Research Foundation (2013)

4. Yoga in Schools: Phys Ed for the 21st Century - Huffington Post

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