by Cynthia James

Mindfulness has gained increasing recognition in education for its numerous benefits for both teachers and students.  It encompasses practices aimed at bringing one’s attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental manner, fostering self-awareness, emotional regulation, and overall well-being.

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings through a gentle, nurturing lens.  There is a lot of research on how mindfulness can have a positive effect in the classroom. Examples are the study Making time for education from Harvard University, or the article Mindfulness practice in the physics classroom by Karen Gipson, one of the teachers in the Teaching with Heart program.

Here are some benefits of mindfulness for teachers and students, along with simple exercises that can be incorporated into the classroom routine.

Benefits for Teachers: With heavy teaching schedules and student support activities, teachers can experience the following benefits bringing mindfulness into their classrooms:

  1. Stress Reduction: Teaching can be a demanding profession, and mindfulness practices can help teachers manage stress and prevent burnout.
  2. Enhanced Focus and Attention: Mindfulness can improve a teacher’s ability to stay focused and present during lessons, leading to more effective teaching.
  3. Increased Empathy: By cultivating mindfulness, teachers can develop greater empathy towards their students, leading to improved relationships and a more positive classroom environment.
  4. Better Decision Making: Mindfulness practices can enhance a teacher’s ability to respond thoughtfully rather than react impulsively to challenging situations in the classroom.

Benefits for Students:  Mindfulness is great for any young person who has a hard time paying attention. It helps students gain clarity about their feelings and choices they are making. Mindfulness can help with transition times, when young people can often have trouble shifting their focus from something they’re involved into something new.

  1. Improved Academic Performance: Mindfulness has been shown to enhance students’ attention, memory, and cognitive abilities, leading to better academic performance.
  2. Emotional Regulation: Mindfulness helps students develop skills for managing emotions, reducing stress, and enhancing overall emotional well-being.
  3. Enhanced Social Skills: Mindfulness practices promote empathy, compassion, and communication skills, which are essential for healthy social interactions and relationships.
  4. Reduced Behavioral Issues: Mindfulness can help decrease disruptive behaviors in the classroom by promoting self-regulation and impulse control among students.

Simple Mindfulness Exercises for the Classroom

  1. Mindful Breathing: Guide students to focus on their breath for a few minutes. Encourage them to notice the sensation of breathing in and out, bringing their attention back whenever it wanders.
  2. Body Scan: Lead students through a body scan exercise where they pay attention to each part of their body, starting from their toes up to the top of their head, noticing any sensations without judgment.
  3. Mindful Listening: Have students close their eyes and focus on the sounds around them for a few minutes. Encourage them to notice both close and distant sounds without labeling or judging them.
  4. Gratitude Practice: Incorporate a gratitude exercise where students take a moment to reflect on something they are thankful for, either silently or by sharing with a partner.
  5. Mindful Walking: Take students outside for a short mindful walking exercise. Encourage them to pay attention to the sensation of each step and the movement of their body as they walk slowly and deliberately.
  6. Moving The Body: Having students dance and move their bodies to upbeat music for a short period of time really supports relaxation and the release of body tension.

Benefits of mindful education and implementation may also include an increase in overall emotional health, self-compassion and a reduction in self-harm and stress. Mindfulness in the classroom has also proven to result in improved cognitive performance and engagement.

Discussion points

  • Do you think there is place or a need for mindfulness in higher education in STEM fields?
  • What do you now for being mindful in your teaching?
  • What do you do now to grow a mindful attitude of your students?
  • What steps could you take grow your own mindfulness, or that of your students?