In today’s fast-paced academic environment, students are facing intensive academic workloads and a myriad of outside responsibilities - they certainly have a lot on their plates. This begs the question, “How can we help our children approach their academic lives free from stress and anxiety?”
Mindfulness practice is a tangible way for students to cultivate peace of mind and confidence in their studies. With the development of mindfulness in their daily lives, students can build autonomy and joy in their learning, while performing to their highest potential. People are becoming more aware of the benefits of mindfulness in education. As noted in our previous mindfulness blog post, studies like those conducted by the Department of Education and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia in 2014, as well as Department of Psychiatry and Brain Sciences at the University of Louisville in 2015 have been published showing the positive effects of mindfulness in the classroom. So, how do students begin the practice and incorporate it into their daily lives and studies?
Mindfulness practices incorporate two approaches to help cultivate the qualities of peace of mind and confidence. They are: 1. Stopping and 2. Seeing. Stopping means taking the time to pause from the activities and multi-layered thoughts of our day. Seeing means to turn our focus from the outside to the inside. Here are a couple of introductory mindfulness activities for students to try out:
How can we practice Mindfulness? Here are two activities you can do at home:
- Counting the Out-Breath
- Posture:While sitting comfortably (on the floor, on a cushion, or in a chair), straighten your back. Roll your shoulders up and back as to prevent slouching forward. Imagine a string on the top of your head gently pulling up, bringing your upper body into alignment. Close your mouth and rest the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth. Pick a spot roughly 6 feet in front of you on the ground to rest your eyes in a soft focus (keeping your eyes open will help prevent wandering thoughts). Rest your hands on your lap or in a meditation mudra below your navel (you may also place your hands on your abdomen to feel your breath).
Breathing: Begin to bring your focus to your breath. When you inhale, experience the expansion of your stomach with deep diaphragm breathing. When you exhale bring your full attention to the entire length of the breath. You can focus on the air passing through your nose. As you exhale, silently count the number “1” in your mind for the full duration of the exhalation. Again, return to experiencing your inhale in your expanding abdomen, then on the next exhale silently count the number “2” in your mind for the full duration of the exhalation. Repeat that sequence through the number 10. Once you reach 10, start over from 1 again. When distracting thoughts, concerns, hopes, fears, etc. enter you mind, notice them, then guide your mind back to the practice of counting and experiencing your whole breath.
- Consistency: Try this for just 3-5 minutes at a time at first, and build from there. With the goal of creating a lasting mindfulness practice, it is best to start small and be consistent rather than trying to practice for long periods right away. Think quality over quantity. Often, sitting in the morning before you start your day is a great time for practice.
Eating an Orange with Mindful Awareness: In our busy lives, we tend to eat quickly. Either grabbing something on the go, eating while multi-tasking, or even eating while enjoying conversation and social interactions. A great introductory mindfulness activity is to find a juicy orange and to eat it quietly and wholeheartedly.
Grab an orange and take each step of eating it slowly and thoroughly. Try approaching eating the orange with a beginner’s mind, as if you were eating an orange for the first time. From washing it, to looking at all of the interesting bumps on the peel, to peeling it slowly. Notice the fresh smell and gentle spray of the orange when it is peeled. Notice the texture of the white pith between the fruit and the peel. When you peel that back, peel off a small section of the orange. When you bite into it, take it slowly. Experience the initial burst of juice and how wonderful that tastes. Go ahead and chew the slice of orange, but chew it 20-30 times. Watching the experience of chewing and what happens to the orange through the process of swallowing. This is a really fun activity to do with your kids. It promotes slowing down and really experiencing our world that is right in front of us.
For further information on mindfulness for students, or to schedule introductory mindfulness coaching for your child, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.