by Muriel Reddy

Mindfulness

Cartoon of meditating boy with brain above head

Mindfulness. Even the word makes you slow down.

And that’s exactly what this new movement in education is doing, making kids slow down to be present in the moment. It’s not only boosting their well-being but also building their resilience and improving their academic performance.

Once dismissed as ‘a lunatic fringe thing’, mindfulness has already nosed its way into medicine, science, elite sports and corporate life where it’s hailed as a powerful force in calming the mind and reducing stress and anxiety.

Even the notion of persuading a classroom of squirming kids or uber-cool teens to sit still and focus on the moment seems outrageous. But they’re embracing mindfulness with a surprising gusto  as a way to self-soothe. It provides a sort of mental reset button. Instead of feeling crushed by fear, worry, anxiety, regret or other negative emotions, mindfulness sets the mind free. And there’s a huge amount of research to support its power to reduce stress, anxiety and pressure.

“All children – and adults – need to be taught the skills to slow down and to focus on what they are doing,”

Addie Wootten, CEO of ‘Smiling Mind’

“All children – and adults – need to be taught the skills to slow down and to focus on what they are doing,” explains Addie Wootten, CEO of ‘Smiling Mind’, a mindfulness meditation program that has been developed especially for young people. “If you look at the mental health statistics, you will see that one in three adolescents is affected by a mental health disorder,” she explains. “….mindfulness is a tool that can be used to help them.” The free web and App-based program has recorded a million downloads in the past four years. It’s now averaging 45,000 a month, with 9,500 different education providers using it – proof that the mindfulness revolution is in full swing. “The more we teach our brains to focus on one thing at a time, the more we learn.”

Illustration of male looking into the sky with clouds obscuring his vision.

Illustration courtesy of Francesco Bongiorni, www.francescobongiorni.com

Bobbi Allan, a mindfulness practitioner for more than 35 years, is still astonished at the remarkable results it can achieve. It was one of the reasons she decided to take it into schools three years ago with the establishment of ‘Mindfulness in Education’. “By just concentrating on our breathing, we can calm our minds and refocus. We don’t have to get caught up in thoughts and emotions.”

Kay Rogers, a clinical psychologist and director of Student Growth and Well-Being at BGS, describes mindfulness as a portable tool that can empower students to be masters of their minds. ‘Still Cloud’, as the school calls it, is now available from ELC to Year 6 and there are plans to roll it out to other year levels.

“You don’t have to react but you do have a choice on how you respond. ”

Kay Rogers, Director of Wellbeing at Brighton Grammar School’

Rogers believes mindfulness is a critical key to unlocking a good life in the 21st Century. “The rate of change is unlike anything that has ever gone before. It’s impossible to know how to prepare students for the job market in 20 years but we can, and do need to, help them to develop softer skills like adaptability, creativity and problem solving at the highest levels. Mindfulness is a way of living. It allows you to begin to see your mind as noisy and the thoughts that arise in the mind can be witnessed and observed by you. You don’t have to react but you do have a choice on how you respond. And that occurs by just sitting and breathing.”

Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School, Melbourne. 

Muriel Reddy is a writer and journalist. This article is about

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