Mindfulness in Schools: Research-Based Support for Teacher Training
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Why Adults Need Mindfulness Training:
“It is easy to get swept away on a strong current of thoughts and feelings. We lose ourselves, and we lose track of what’s actually happening around us. We are obsessed with something that happened in the past, or we are frantically agitated about something that might happen in the future. We are no longer present. Such moments in which we lose our way can do great harm. They make us forgetful and unaware. We are prone to accidents. We can be flooded with feelings of fear and aggression. Many people who have committed acts of violence speak of being lost to themselves in that moment.”
The Qigong Workbook for Anxiety, Master Kam Chuen Lam
Why Kids Need Mindfulness Training:
"Regardless of race, education, or socioeconomic status, an alarming number of children and adolescents are being diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, obesity, eating disorders, and addictions, and engaging in cutting and other self-destructive behaviors, including suicide."
A Still Quiet Place: A Mindfulness Program for Teaching Children and Adolescents to Ease Stress and Difficult Emotions, Dr. Amy Saltzman
Mindfulness and the Brain
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There is a lot of recent research about the neuroplasticity of the brain and on the positive impact of mindfulness practices. 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."
In This Moment: Five Steps to Transcending Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroscience, Dr. Kirk Strosahl and Dr. Patricia Robinson
Research on Mindfulness and Compassion
American Mindfulness Research Association
The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE)
UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
Mindfulness in Schools
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What are the benefits of mindfulness in educational settings?
- Increases responsiveness to students' needs.
- Supports stress management and stress reduction.
- Enhances classroom climate.
- Strengthens attention and concentration.
- Reduces anxiety before testing.
- Improves classroom participation.
- Enhances social and emotional learning.
Quoted from Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness
by Deborah Schoeberlein
[At least in the U.S., many conservative Christian parents are concerned about mindfulness in the public schools. If that's your situation, you might want to start with
How Christians Can Benefit from Mindfulness Practice, an interview with Christian mindfulness teacher Dr. Irene Kraegel.]
Here is a sample of some of the research done on mindfulness-related programs for students and teachers...
Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People, by Professor Katherine Weare for .b The Mindfulness in Schools Project and The University of Exeter Mood Disorders Centre, April 2012
CARE for Teachers: "The research team found significant improvements in well-being, efficacy, and mindfulness among teachers who participated in the CARE program compared to the control group." http://www.care4teachers.org/impact/
The Greater Good Science Center "studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society."
Here are some additional perspectives on the benefits of mindfulness in schools...
Mindfulness practice helps... suicide prevention efforts
by Lailani Upham at Char-Koosta News
Mindfulness training can help reduce teacher stress and burnout
by Jill Ladwig at University of Wisconsin News
Why teaching mindfulness benefits students’ learning
by Patricia C. Broderick at Mind/Shift
Videos about school-based mindfulness programs:
"Aliza and the Mind Jar"
Clicking on an image will open an embedded video on this page; clicking on the link below will open a new youtube window.
3 1/2 minutes
5 1/2 minutes
Kids Explain the Benefits of Mindfulness in Their Own Words
Mindful Schools In-Class Instruction
Mindfulness in Action by Sherry-Lynne Kirschner
7 1/2 minutes
Learning to Breathe: A Mindfulness Curriculum
Mindfulness and Education: interview with Daniel Rechtschaffen of Mindful Schools
3 1/2 minutes
A School Transformed: King-Chavez Elementary School
5 1/2 minutes
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