Why should we practice mindfulness? In order to delve into why we should practice mindfulness, we must first explore what it actually is.
The practice of mindfulness is a fairly simple concept, but one that is not always easily attained. Mindfulness is the state of being aware; aware of your thoughts, body, smells, feelings, and place in space. Simple enough right? For most, it is as clear as mud. As a Behavior Education Specialist, I feel it is so important for students to have the language and vocabulary of strategies that will help them be successful for the rest of their lives. This is why exploring mindfulness is critical, especially with adolescents.
When I explain to my students why we need mindfulness I start by talking about an overworked phone. Often our phones have multiple open tabs running at once. Eventually our phone cannot keep up with our overwhelming web searches, endless open apps, and trying to use it at the same time. The phone starts to crash and freeze up. If we think of our brains as the phones we have the same concept. Our brain is always overworking itself. Multi-tasking on several things at once eventually causing our brain to freeze up and shut down. Shut down leads to memory problems, problems with emotional regulation, a hard time focusing, difficult time with work completion, and many other tasks the brain can usually handle with ease.
In our current culture we have wired our brains to constantly need to have several “tabs” open at one time, when our brains aren’t being stimulated we don’t know what to do. When our brains are asked to focus on one thing at a time we struggle to do so. In our students we see a trend of difficulty focusing, over generalized sense of being bored, learned helplessness, restlessness, and other problems associated with over stimulated brains.
This is where mindfulness comes in. During a school day, we ask our students to focus on a task, become part of a story they are reading for comprehension, or understand a complex emotional situation and react appropriately. Students are struggling to complete these tasks due to their inability to practicing mindfulness. Teaching a student mindfulness teaches them how their brain works and how to turn on certain parts of the brain when they need it to work.
GoNoodle helps us teachers out with the teaching portion of this with some quick videos. Maximo teaches students to be mindful of their bodies and focus to perform each yoga position correctly. Flow, Empower Tools and Think About It activities are amazing for teaching deep breathing and reflective thinking about challenging emotional events. Mr. CatMan Brainercise videos get students to really focus on a seemingly simple task by pinpointing their thoughts through simple actions. I also love the feature to add videos to the YouTube channel. There are several really greatly guided mindfulness activities available on YouTube. These videos make mindfulness lessons so simple and quick.
I have been incorporating mindfulness into my classroom routines for the last two years and can’t believe how well the students have picked up on it. I have kids coming into my classroom during challenging moments and requesting to do Rainbow Breath or Melting videos to help them calm down. It is so amazing to see young kids understanding their brains and emotions. They are not fully ready to regulate these things on their own, but now they have tools to help them. I also love the fact that the tools are so engaging and my students request to use them without suggestions from me or their classroom teachers.
I would highly encourage the introduction of mindfulness into any and every classroom. Start small as this process is quite confusing for kiddos as well as us adults. Have fun with the process and show your students that you are learning too. Mindfulness is a process and we must practice and train our brains to do what want them to do. Happy brain awareness!