We have seen an explosion of interest in mindfulness over the last decade and it has been used as an intervention for stress, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, addiction and burnout.
In the adult world, mindfulness is well-used and well-known so it is not surprising that there has been increased interest in integrating mindfulness practices into education and health services. Kids Kicking Cancer is one powerful example of how Martial Arts mindfulness is being used as a mind-body technique and a non-pharmacological strategy to fight and cope with illness.
Mindfulness has been practised more and more in schools and proponents argue that it has the potential to enhance children’s attention and focus, and improve memory, self-acceptance, self-management skills, and self-understanding. Research suggests that mindfulness can deliver lasting improvements in self-awareness and emotional stability.
Interventions that nurture mindfulness in children may be a feasible and effective method of building resilience.
Such interventions may be particularly well suited for young people exposed to stress and adversity, who are at risk for cognitive and emotional impairment.
Marusak et al (2018) say, “Such interventions may be particularly well suited for youth exposed to stress and adversity, who are at risk for cognitive and emotional impairment.”
According to Weare (2013) mindfulness can have a positive impact:
When well taught and when practised regularly, it has been shown to be capable of improving mental health and well‐being, mood, self‐esteem, self‐regulation, positive behaviour and academic learning.
Despite its apparent ubiquity, mindfulness is still very much misunderstood and there are various myths about what it is and what it does.
So, what is mindfulness. That’s a good one – there isn’t a single definition that we all agree on and that’s makes interpretation a problem. Bishop et al (2004) propose one definition and they say that it is the ability to stay aware of and focus attention on experiences in the present moment, in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner.
The one that tops the bill for me though comes from the marvellous Smiling Mind website:
Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity and without judgement.
Smiling Mind say that mindfulness is a tool that can help you to:
- Reduce worries, anxiety and distress
- Enjoy more energy
- Create a sense of calm
- Learn how to relax and regulate emotions
- Enhance awareness and creativity
- Improve concentration and increase productivity
- Develop a sense of empathy and connectedness
- Enjoy better health and sleep
Hear what Associate Professor Dr Craig Hassed has to say on the matter in the following video:
Smiling Mind is an Australian non-for-profit organisation (founded by Jane Martino and James Tutton) and it should be the go-to website for learning more about mindfulness across the world. Although the curriculum materials they offer are for Australia we have a lot to learn from them and in particular their whole approach.
They have produced ‘Evidence based guidelines for mindfulness in schools‘ and inside they list some of the common myths associated with mindfulness as being:
- Mindfulness is based on religion
- Mindfulness is just about being kind
- Mindfulness is just about relaxing
- Mindfulness suppresses emotions
- Mindfulness only focuses on positivity
Smiling Mind have also produced a free, state-of-the-art app with hundreds of guided meditations and mindfulness activities – find out more here.
Smiling Mind is used by lots of teachers – here is a video of Anna who explains more about being a mindful teacher and colleague.
The empirical evidence for mindfulness-based approaches continues to grow and there is also evidence to support mindfulness being used as a welfare strategy for teachers to “enhance their personal mental health”.
Mental health has never been more in the spotlight and mindfulness can play its part and helping all of us to be in good mental shape. Mindfulness needs to be a way of life because it can change our lives, build our resilience and enhance our learning.