(For the 3 Mini Moment follow here)
‘’Mindfulness is a technique that helps pupils cope with life, depression and lessons’. – Anthony Seldon (The Sunday Times)
Mindfulness in schools is a growing phenomena – albeit a slow one.
A 2,500 year old proven approach to cultivating a happy healthy mind, it has its roots in Buddhism, but has been adopted by the west in a very secular fashion – backed up empirically by the studies of neuroscience.
It appears to be quite the buzz word of now, and for three consecutive weeks, my paper of choice has published articles surrounding the benefits of a mindful approach for children suffering with depression and anxiety. According to recent studies, children as young as 7 are being diagnosed with depression, and the levels of stress and anxiety in 13 year olds and up has risen exponentially over the last decade.
Anthony Seldon makes the bold statement:
‘’Every school in Britain could begin this journey back to sanity and self control by introducing two minutes of stillness every day’’.
Two minutes! We all have two minutes and even if this is just the start, what possible excuse could we have for not finding two minutes?!
In our frenetic world of financial pressure and inexhaustible ‘to do’ lists, we may actually catch ourselves saying ‘we haven’t had 2 minutes to ourselves!’ But two minutes can be hiding in all sorts of places – before you jump out of the car for work, before you enter the house after work, … in the work loo!
Our warped approach to time management has rubbed off on our kids:
‘’The frenetic daily dash from home to school, often after too little sleep, a day of ceaseless activity, and then an evening trying to juggle homework with chatter from electronic devices, proves too much for many. The young desperately need to calm their lives’’.
But how did our children get so busy? Because we are busy.
I say this from a non judgmental place – from the place of someone who has been the stressed teacher, the stressed out parent – all with good intention. What I discovered is, we can learn to manage our incredibly busy lives if we spend our free moments wisely.
Because we do have free moments, but we often spend these moments attached to some kind of stimulus – I’ll only hint at one – there are many – but our phones and ipads have indeed become an extension of our arm.
I introduced a ‘3 Minute Mindful Moment’ into the timetables of my classes a few years back whilst working as a school teacher. The children would come in from break and lunch and we would take this time to bring their gaze inward, check in with how they are feeling and then begin to bring their awareness to their breath and their posture – breathing fully, therefore activating their parasympathetic nervous system (The body’s Rest and Digest response).
Teaching children to know ‘their inner landscape’, in other words – how they are feeling in the moment, empowers them to not only control their own mind and reactions, but to also identify feelings and emotions before they are taken over by them i.e. stress or anxiety. Including of course wonderful feelings too – which, when you identify and ‘feel into’ for a few moments, cultivates a real gratitude for that moment of your life.
This was not I have to say a completely altruistic approach! Teachers are stressed. Parents are stressed. As a teacher and a parent, I needed those few minutes as much as they did; this is my point: how did our kids get so stressed? Many kids are surrounded by stress. They learn it – they pick up on it, they feel it. On top of that they have their own social pressures and social expectations.
Mindful adults encourages mindful kids.
We are all teachers. We all interact with each other and we all have something to offer. By taking a few moments in our day to tune into ourselves, we become more responsive than reactive. We gain perspective and clarity and our hideous approach to running at full speed to achieve success becomes more realistic: we can still run, we can still aim, but we do it from the place of the compassionate observer rather than our harsh inner critic, which has completely unrealistic expectations.
As a nation, we need to wake up. Our children are the future and something isn’t working. As Einstein so eloquently puts it:
‘’Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting the same results’’.
And Anthony Seldon: ‘’Depression now affects children as young as 13. Eating disorders, acute anxiety and addictive behaviours have been found to be treatable by mindfulness’.
Mindfulness is not a panacea for our society’s problems but it is a start in a shift towards a more conscious culture – a culture whereby children are taught to know themselves better.
We can guide children to develop an ‘intuitive toolkit’ to be applied when needed, i.e. when sadness comes, when stress creeps in, when anxiety impedes their ability to express themselves etc.
Mindfulness doesn’t make these emotions disappear and there shouldn’t be an expectation of that. But it does mitigate the power these emotions have to take over.
We need to teach our children to fly their own plane – rather than be swept along on autopilot. We need to guide them towards a happy life.
And why not tag along on the journey? Why not practise what we preach? Why not lead by example? After all children are alot better at copying rather than listening!
So let’s all take 2 minutes. Let’s start with 2 and then many 2s, then maybe, just maybe, one day they’ll be more mindful moments than not.
If you know a teacher and/or parent why not share this article.
Whoever you are, you are connected to the next generation so why not try the steps linked in this article?
Personally…I’d aim higher and go for 3 minutes! You can link to the 3 minute Mindfulness for adult audio guidance here. Otherwise follow the link here: The Mindful Child in 3 Minutes guiding yourself, your kids, your class…
‘’Looking after oneself, one looks after others. Looking after others, one looks after oneself. ‘’ ~ Sedaka Sutta