Often these terms are grouped together, and while they are both positive strategies to better your well being they are very different. These tools can be used in your personal life or you can incorporate them into your classroom. Lately, I’ve seen several great ideas on how teachers and schools are using meditation and/or mindfulness during the school day.
So what is mindfulness?
This practice is all about living in the moment without judgment or worry. It’s simply allowing yourself to experience the moment as it is, and then letting it float right away. Practicing mindfulness can allow you to better enjoy your life without worrying about the future or focusing on the past.
A simple way to begin being more mindful is to quietly sit still for 5 minutes and just observe your surroundings. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? Often we get caught up in our daily mindless routines, and instead of being in the moment we are stuck thinking in our minds. This is a good opportunity to practice being more mindful. When I’m on my way to work I try to enjoy the scenery or enjoy the feeling of the heat on my feet rather than worrying about a meeting I have that day or facing my to do list.
So what is meditation? The biggest different is meditation is about calming your mind and taking a break from what is going on around you while with mindfulness you are taking in everything in the current moment with acceptance. Meditation helps you quiet your worries and thoughts and just be with yourself in a calm state. You can individualize your experience. Some people may like to mediate standing outside in a garden while some may like to sit inside in their favorite chair. It’s finding a quiet and private place you can be comfortable in. There are many types of meditation, and it can be done in 10 minutes or you can mediate for an hour. There are no strict rules.
Often meditation involves a body scan of any tension or pain with deep breathing to help relax and center yourself. The goal of meditation is not to stop thinking but it’s to guide your thinking. Positive affirmations can be used during meditation where you repeat a positive phrase about yourself. You can find apps or videos with guided meditation practices that can be helpful for beginners.
With anything that’s new it takes time and practice so be patient and kind with yourself if you give meditation or mindfulness a try.
How can mindfulness and meditation impact students?
Similar to the positive benefits for adults, children can experience decreased anxiety and increased self-awareness. These practices can help us better understand our thoughts and give us a positive coping strategy to use when we are upset. It can lead to a better ability to focus, decrease attention problems, increase social skills, and help overall well-being.
The internet has lots of great ideas for incorporating mindfulness and mediation at school. You can even use the apps or videos with guided meditation practices. You can listen to calming music and have children focus on their breathing or take a mindfulness walk where children observe certain things in nature. Blowing bubbles or balloons can help children focus on their breathing and be in the moment. It’s important to explain the purpose of the task in a developmentally appropriate way so they will learn how to more effectively use it.
I hope this brief introduction to mindfulness and meditation will help improve your well-being as well as your students’.