Benefits of Mindfulness




photo by Brenkee for Pixabay



I'd like to mention something about my own perspective on this before jumping right into the research links.

I think the greatest benefits of practicing awareness and compassion are spiritual and societal. While I'm a firm believer in mindfulness, I want to caution against over-stating and over-emphasizing the scientific evidence when mental states and personal experiences are so hard to measure. 

Also please keep in mind that there's a wide range of perspectives on what should and shouldn't be labeled 'mindfulness'. I've talked to a couple of people who insist it means only specific types of breath-based practices, which is fascinating since that isn't the main emphasis of most of the teachers I've interviewed. Meanwhile, I know Christians who are upset that there's so much emphasis on traditional Buddhist teachings, and Buddhists who object to the ways traditional teachings have been secularized.  


I recommend this interview from Tricycle.org on the history and possible future of the mindfulness movement.

I also recommend this article from Greater Good on the different benefits of different types of meditation.


Scroll down for 
  • an explanation of how mindfulness-based brain training produces permanent structural changes in the brain;
  • links with more information about how mindfulness benefits adults;
  • information about mindfulness and compassion for educators;
  • information about how mindfulness benefits kids; and 
  • links to brief videos about school-based mindfulness programs.


image by Ohmega1982 for FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to Dr. Kirk Strosahl and Dr. Patricia Robinson, "research indicates that brain training involving mindfulness practices can strengthen areas of the brain responsible for attention, emotional control, and problem solving… There is even emerging evidence that mindfulness-based brain training produces permanent structural changes in the brain.” 

Specifically, mindfulness training can help with:
  • Observing: Our typical reaction to stress is bottom-up attention, which "originates in the core structures of the limbic system and evolved to help us scan for immediate threats to our survival." Mindfulness training allows us to shift to top-down attention, which "originates in the insula, a higher-order brain structure, [and] allows you to shift your attention inward so you can monitor and regulate how your body is reacting to stress," and helps to "visualize and implement solutions to stress-producing problems."
  • Detachment: "If you get absorbed in a negative appraisal, like telling yourself that feeling angry isn't okay because you should be positive... the neural circuitry responsible for exerting a calming influence isn't being activated. This leaves the limbic system in a state of constant arousal... Acceptance of emotion without the need to react... triggers PNS [parasympathetic nervous system] activation, which in turn reduces activity of the arousal centers of the limbic system."
  • Self-Compassion: "Compassion-based mindfulness practice increases the density of gray matter in certain areas of the brain... involved in learning and memory processes, as well as emotional control, self-awareness, and perspective taking... It also appears that the experience of compassion for oneself and others strengthens neural circuitry responsible for regulating the activity of the amygdala, the brain center involved in producing negative emotions."

  • Dr. Kirk Strosahl and Dr. Patricia Robinson, In This Moment: Five Steps to Transcending Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroscience


The following links have more information about the benefits of practicing mindfulness:




Mindfulness and Compassion for Educators
"When the adult in the room is transformed, the classroom climate changes, too. This is the ultimate goal: not to introduce mindfulness as a strategy-based intervention, but instead to change the overall climate, tone, and quality of interaction so that it is more conducive to the health and wholeness of teacher and student."
Brandi Lust of Learning Lab Consulting, in a guest post on "Mindfulness in Schools: Research-Based Support for Teacher Training." Brandi Lust is the author of Myths of Being Human: Four Paths to Connect With What Matters.
The following links have more information about the benefits of mindfulness and compassion for educators:



Mindfulness for Kids

"Mindfulness as a skill can help youth learn to be less impulsive and more self-regulated, and to develop a stronger ability to choose in their lives. The idea is that we’re teaching young people to gain greater autonomy and choicefulness."  
Dr. Sam Himelstein, in an interview on "How Mindfulness Helps Teens and the Adults Who Care about Them"

The following links have more information about how kids can benefit from mindfulness training:


Here are several brief (5-10 minute) videos about school-based mindfulness programs:



19 comments:

  1. Great collection of resources and pieces of information. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you're finding the resources useful.

      Delete
    2. This is great. I would like to use this along with Growth Mindset. This seems very similar.

      Delete
    3. Thanks for your comment, Melissa. I think Growth Mindset can be quite compatible with mindfulness and compassion. All the best with your teaching!

      Delete
  2. Great video resources! I'm giving a workshop to colleagues next week on how to start mindful teaching and learning! These will be fabulous additions to my program!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, and all the best with your presentation!

      Delete
    2. Fantastic list of resources!!! Both personal and professional!!!

      Delete
  3. The students seem very positive about this approach to dealing with stress and anger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, when it's taught in an engaging, sensitive way, students tend to have a positive experience with mindfulness.

      Delete
  4. Mindfulness is a state of being in which a person can view oneself, holistically, at the present moment. This state is very important for my students, at the elementary level, to learn how to self-regulate. For if one isn't aware of oneself, how can one affect change or control over oneself? It is a change agent.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mindfulness for the teacher relates to not responding from the threatened core but allow yourself to be engaged in the inner core where more choices and feelings are available. With students mindfulness lets them be less impulsive and to learn more about self control.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment--that's a great explanation!

      Delete
  6. I am very pleased that there are schools doing this. I wanted to incorporate yoga into my classroom a few years ago after a workshop I had at Penland. Breathing exercises and mindfulness are perfect!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, it's wonderful that there are now so many schools finding different ways of incorporating yoga and mindfulness.

      Delete
  7. I haven't tried this in my classroom. I have heard great things about practicing yoga in the classroom. I even met teachers that practice "desk" yoga where students don't even leave their desk. I'm not sure if that would work.. ???

    ReplyDelete
  8. I would like to incorporate yoga as well

    ReplyDelete