The pressures of modern schooling can often take a toll on a child’s health and mental well-being – an issue that schools are working hard to address through a range of well-being programs and initiatives.
International research shows that one of the most effective ways to ensure that children are relaxed, happy and focused is through the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
And given the busy, and often stressful role, of teachers, this practice can have various benefits for them also.
Studies have shown that when teachers learn mindfulness, they not only reap personal benefits such as reduced stress and burnout but their schools do as well.
Brain-imaging studies at Harvard and Mass General Hospital have shown that long-term mindfulness training can even help thicken the cortical regions related to attention and sensory processing, and may offset thinning of those areas that typically comes with aging.
And the positive effects of mindfulness are not only limited to behind school gates. People randomly assigned to mindfulness training are more likely to help someone in need and have greater self-compassion.
So with the benefits of mindfulness clear, how should schools go about developing this behaviour in students?
A study, titled: ‘Start Early: Promoting Mindfulness in Primary Schools to Delay the Onset of Stress’, cautioned that mindfulness is “not an innate state of being, nor does one instinctively produce mindful patterns of behaviour”.
“[Mindfulness needs to be learnt and repetitively practiced in order to sustain long-term effects,” the study’s author, Cagla Dincsoy from the University of Wollongong, said.
“Teachers, as part of the educational setting can fulfill this role as they have a duty of care, which goes beyond a solitary focus of catering to students’ academic needs.”
Dincsoy added that whether it is assisting professionals in delivering the intervention or integrating it into the curriculum as an extracurricula activity, teaching mindfulness is of great value.
“Teaching mindfulness equips students with the coping mechanisms to confront psychosocial stressors and overcome distressing circumstances later on in life,” she said.