Mindfulness in education: is it actually helpful?


Photo by Danyelle Yoerg

Taking a break from the busyness of everyday life is proven to positively affect those who practice this tactic of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is defined as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” Many schools have adopted the techniques of applying mindfulness throughout the school day. The founding father of secular mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, described mindfulness as ‘being alive and knowing it.’

Sartell High School has applied small bits of mindfulness throughout Sabre Advisory. Some students are for it and some think it is a waste of time, but what are the true facts of how mindfulness affects students?

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in eight children in the United States suffers from anxiety disorders. Roughly one in five students suffer from a mental illness or learning disorder. As a way to combat these shocking statistics, teachers and education administrators decided to try a new way of relieving stress.

Studies have shown that by integrating mindfulness practice in schools, students may benefit through an increased focus, self-control, attention span, academic performance, and overall well-being, as well as decreased levels of stress, anxiety, and disruptive behavior.

Many confuse meditating with mindfulness, while meditating may bring you mindfulness, it is not a necessary action to partake in. Mindfulness is more so a practice of stopping and noticing. It is important to stop and take a breather from the busyness of everyday life. These moments offer space to make clear choices and just ‘be.’

It can also help focus attention to what is happening in the now and not what will happen in the future or what has already happened. This awareness allows people to respond more skillfully to whatever is thrown at them in the present moment.

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The most common form of mindfulness in schools is taking a small amount of time to sit and focus on intentional breathing patterns. For example, taking a deep breath in for five seconds, holding it for five seconds, and then exhaling for five seconds. By focusing on breathing it allows the mind to relax and destress.

Stress from studying for the ACT or applying to college could be greatly reduced if students focused on the now and not the future. With the help of a little mindfulness throughout the school day, students could take a break from all the pressures of school and put the nonstop busyness on pause.