"Why is teaching mindfulness in schools so helpful?"
You can type this question into Google and get a surprising variety of answers - not all of them are 'positive'. Some critics think mindfulness may be 'a waste of time' and others that say it may even be harmful! The scientific evidence tends to be positive. Yet Mindfulness is an art, more than a science, so it isn't black and white: on the one hand promising results about anxiety are clear - where existing anxiety exists it is reduced and focus and enjoyment increases. But on the other hand some studies suggest that mindfulness may not perform any better than other forms of education or therapy (Eg. exercise, massage, exercise, muscle relaxation, or cognitive behavioural therapy) and there is some fear of pathologising children and creating fear where it doesn't exist.
So what’s the truth?
Mindfulness is designed as a way of training the mind to be present (and playful). In the 21st Century this is a skill under threat through compulsive negative thinking, driven by mass marketing, cell phones, internet technology and old fashioned teaching and parenting, that isn’t keeping pace with the information age. Instant gratification is only one factor of these. Simon Sineck spoke provocatively about how this creates first impatience and entitlement, and then fragility of ego, emotions and mind. These problems do exist, even if they do not seem apparent in a young person, at the present moment.
Well - here’s the thing. Mindfulness, just like anything else, is not for everyone and certainly the timing of the invitation to study and practice mindfulness may not be the right timing for every student in the classroom. Mindfulness is far more than meditation. The work that I do often has to involve parents and teachers in order to be truly effective, and that’s not often possible. And that’s ok, because there are a few key points that journalism fails to recognise::
I have recently trained in a new course to teach to students aged 8-13 years - written by Youth Mindfulness. The reason I liked this course even more than my training by the Mindfulness in Schools Project (which I trained in two years ago, to teach teenagers). This course has a beautiful arc to the teaching:
What’s The Research?
There are dozens of reports into emotional wellbeing and mindfulness, including the government's own paper on wellbeing. The Youth Mindfulness website shows a study conducted at the University of Edinburgh in 2014, exploring children’s experiences of the Youth Mindfulness Kids Programme. The results included:
Help me teach more young people and teachers:
I am now looking for schools to teach to in 2018, so I have a favour to ask: Please could you spread the word and pass this blog onto someone you know in education. If you believe children could use a hand with emotional intelligence and cultivating skills mentioned here then please help me to facilitate that.
Mindfulness Practitioner, Positively-Mindful.com
Neil Morbey is a meditation teacher, group facilitator and inspiration guide for Positively-Mindful.com