Be mindful and be successful
It’s not a new concept, but the idea of mindfulness – paying attention to the moment, not what’s already happened or might do in the future – now has a significant following among educators around the world.
We all know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. You might have too many tasks to get through in a day, be thinking about what you need to get organised for the evening or next day, or spend a lot of time worrying about the future; a growing body of research now suggests you can manage a lot of that worry by practising mindfulness.
A recent primary school-based study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education has shown how mindfulness education in the classroom can reduce students' sense of stress and lengthen attention spans. Teachers put time aside to practice mindfulness techniques – meditation, focusing etc – with students each day. The study’s findings suggested the work boosted students’ attention skills, as well as helped them develop coping mechanisms for stress.
Wider research has also found that ongoing mindfulness practice can reduce anxiety, improve concentration and calmness, help people deal better with stressful situation, focuses better on work or school, increase wellbeing and help people become more successful.
Closer to home, mindfulness is making a foray into New Zealand classrooms with positive results.
NZ Psychologist Nigel Latta lauded the practice of mindfulness in schools in a recent TVNZ parenting series. He talks about the Pause, Breathe, Smile programme promoted by the Mindfulness Education Group NZ, saying it is a great way to deal with anxiety and negative thoughts.
There are other NZ groups offering mindfulness training in NZ classrooms and a quick search of the internet brings up many examples of how the technique is helping to improve people’s lives.
Simply put, mindfulness is a purposeful act where people stop for a moment and focus their attention on what’s happening right now – thinking about things without judging and pushing aside all other thoughts. It uses techniques like meditation and other training – focusing on breathing, “body scans” where you pause to think about how you are feeling physically or other techniques.
It’s a fairly simple, quick and inexpensive process and an internet search of “mindfulness techniques” brings up plenty of ideas. Worth a look as we head into the busy exam and holiday season!