Can Students Benefit from Mindfulness Training?

Contrary to popular belief, children and teens experience stress and anxiety just like adults.  Children can get stressed out over hearing their parents argue, sickness or disability within the family, dissent among siblings, divorce, and a host of other domestic issues.  Then there are school experiences that can be just as stressful such as social tension with peers and teachers, keeping up with assignments, or performing in sports activities. Even current world events cause many students to experience excessive amounts of anxiety.  More and more, experts are seeing the benefit of mindfulness training in helping students independently relieve the stress loads that they encounter on a daily basis.  Furthermore, teaching these important principles of focused attention to children forms a beneficial habit that is carried over into adulthood.  Learning to practice mindfulness in response to stress is certainly one of the most useful tools that youngsters can acquire in order to help them navigate the difficult times in their lives.

What is Mindfulness?
Although an expansive subject, mindfulness, in a nutshell, is the state where a person becomes more aware of the here and now and refrains from paying so much attention to the past or future.  Mindfulness is being in the present moment; it is being awake; it is becoming aware of the experiences and the sensations of being alive. Sounds simple, huh?  Becoming mindful is, indeed, a simple concept, but it is not always an easy task to accomplish.  The reason for the difficulty is that our brains have been conditioned to put all of our attention on past events or fretfully construct and contemplate our future.  We do all of this at the expense of the present moment.

The Association for Mindfulness in Education (AME) defines mindfulness this way:
“Mindfulness is paying attention here and now with kindness and curiosity. Mindfulness reconnects students to their five senses, bringing them into a moment to moment awareness of themselves and their surroundings.”

Benefits of Being Mindful
Researchers are becoming very interested in the results being produced by stress-relieving practices such as mindfulness.  Over the past few decades, they have uncovered some fascinating positive correlations between the practice of being mindful and noteworthy increases in memory, concentration, focus, emotional awareness, impulse control, and even physical coordination.  In addition, studies show that students who are able to master mindfulness skills are better equipped to resolve conflicts with peers, manage anger and aggression, and independently reduce anxieties associated with personal performance and test-taking.

Students who are trained to become mindful develop a deep sensitivity to their feelings and they are more capable of slowing down the endless flow of anxious thoughts, as well.  They find that they are able to calmly observe their physical and emotional sensations as they arise.

Young people are naturally more open to mindfulness training because of their lack of habituated negative thought patterns that develop over years of practice.  Because becoming mindful has so many benefits which includes improved concentration, greatly reduced stress and anxiety levels, and better overall health and wellness, this specialized training is being incorporated into the curriculum of many schools across the country.

References:
Napoli, M., Krech, P. R., & Holley, L. C. (2005). Mindfulness training for elementary school students: The attention academy. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 21(1), 99-125.
Wall, R. B. (2005). Tai chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction in a Boston public middle school. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19(4), 230-237.

About Melissa J. Murphy

Melissa Murphy is in the business of building self-esteem, instilling confidence, and restoring hope in those who have given up on life. She is currently completing her degree in psychology, and has worked as a life coach and faith-based counselor for more than a decade. By bringing her personal life experiences into her work, Melissa is able to help others survive their wounds, heal their pain, and live a life of success despite having incurred overwhelming emotional scars. For the last few years, she has discovered the joys of writing and has published a growing number of articles. Melissa currently resides in the Houston area with her husband and her two wonderful children.

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