Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention — to thoughts, physical sensations, and the environment — without constantly feeling the need to judge what’s happening or to make it other than it is. Mindfulness is a way of meeting our experience with the presence of mind to respond skillfully to life’s challenges, rather than reacting based on intense emotions.
Mindfulness is simple, but not easy. It is a skill that we need to practice.
When we practice it, mindfulness allows us to live with a greater sense of calm, balance, and ease.
Why Teach Mindfulness in Schools?
Studies show mindfulness training for students:
promotes empathy and optimism
helps students regulate stress, and calm down when upset
improves focus, attention, and executive function
leads to lower levels of depression and aggression
improves impulse control
Paying attention and regulating emotions are teachable skills!
A recent University of British Columbia study found significant academic and affective benefits for students after implementing a mindfulness-based social and emotional learning program with 4th- and 5th-graders:
“Children with the mindful intervention… outperformed their peers in cognitive control, stress levels, emotional control, optimism, empathy, mindfulness and aggression.”University of British Columbia
improvement in math scores
increase in social behaviors
Why Teach Mindfulness to Teachers?
Studies show teachers who receive mindfulness training:
have greater self-compassion and less emotional exhaustion
demonstrate improved classroom organization
use more effective teaching practices
have fewer symptoms of stress and burnout
demonstrate less emotional reactivity and fewer attentional biases
Mindfulness cultivates healthy habits of mind!
The SMART-in-Education program, a mindfulness-based wellness program for teachers, has been shown to promote better mental health and effective teaching practices:
“The teachers also reported experiencing less on-the-job stress, less worry about work when at home, less self-blame for when things are stressful at work, and fewer feelings of occupational burnout, anxiety, and depression.
Teachers in the SMART program also reported greater efficacy in regulating their emotions at work, better moods at work and at home, better and longer sleep, and more confidence in their ability to forgive their colleagues when inevitable conflicts arose at work. They expressed more positive attitudes towards their “most challenging student.” (read more here)Report from the SMART-in-Education Program for Teachers
A 2013 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found significant differences between teachers who received mindfulness training during the school year, and those who did not.
The researchers found that teachers who received the mindfulness training:
- displayed reductions in psychological stress
- showed improvements in classroom organization
- reported increased self-compassion
- used more effective teaching practices
In comparison, the group that did not receive the training showed signs of increased stress and burnout over the course of the school year.” (read more here)
Additional Research Highlights
Mindfulness helps teachers reduce emotional reactivity and change their approach to working with students through awareness of emotions and emotional reappraisal of situations (Jennings and Sharp, 2015).
In a Mindful Schools study of 829 K-5 students (90% of whom received free-and-reduced lunch), students showed significant improvements in attention, self-care and participation, and showing care for others (study in collaboration with UC-Davis, 2011-2012).
50% of adolescents who received mindfulness instruction at school were still practicing on their own 6 months later. Those who were practicing had betterconcentration in class and on hobbies, were more effective at managing stress and coping with difficult emotions, and were getting along better with family and friends, were sleeping better, and were getting better grades (Knittle and Suominen, 2015).
A study of 300 5th-8th grade students in Baltimore Public Schools (99% F/RL, 99% minority) concluded mindfulness instruction improved psychological functioning and helped ameliorate the effect of poverty-related stress and trauma. Students in the mindfulness condition had lower rates of depression, negative affect, negative coping, rumination, self-hostility, and PTSD severity (Sibinga, Webb, and Ghazarian, 2016).
A 2015 study of 198 public middle school students found significant improvements in working memory and attention span. Students in the mindfulness condition increased working memory capacity by 29% (versus 11% in yoga class and 5% in control condition) (Quach, Jastrowski Mano, and Alexander, 2015).