Mindfulness is the practice of paying purposeful, nonjudgmental attention to the present moment. It's a skill that can benefit students far beyond the classroom. Studies have shown the practice enhances focus, may reduce depression and anxiety, improves cognition, and promotes physical and emotional health.
Mindfulness is more relevant to educators today than ever with the growth of technology – and the increase of distractions that come with it. Incorporating mindfulness techniques in the classroom also assists educators with addressing the Digital Citizen Standard within the ISTE Standards
Here are three tech and three non-tech tools to help educators bring mindfulness to their classes:
- Calm. Calm is a meditation and mindfulness app that provides a daily meditation and inspiration. It also provides "sleep stories" to help calm the brain when trying to sleep.
- Forest. Forest gamifies focus and gives back to the world. Participants set goals for when and how they will use their personal devices, and Forest will plant a tree when they meet their goals. Since its creation, over 230,000 trees have been planted.
- Buddhify. Buddhify is a meditation and mindfulness app recommended by Anna Decker Smyth, a mindfulness educator and practitioner in Salt Lake City, Utah. It offers guided meditations for traveling, handling intense emotions like grief and stress, going to sleep and even ways to practice mindfulness while using your phone.
- Breathing. Breathing is a common focus for gaining focus and calming the body down. One popular exercise is the 4-7-8 breath. After exhaling completely, close your mouth and inhale four seconds through your nose. Then, hold your breath for seven seconds, then exhale completely for eight seconds. Repeat as needed.
- Muscle meditation. In muscle meditation, also called body scan meditation, the focus is on the feelings in the body. Starting at the toes, the meditator will bring their attention to each part of their body, wiggling and tensing each part. Move from the toes all the way to the forehead, trying to keep the rest of the body "asleep." Repeat the exercise again, taking longer on each part of the body.
- Coloring. Coloring, like with other forms of art therapy, has been found to reduce stress and improve focus. It takes attention away from the individual and focuses on the present moment. Coloring is effective for children and adults. It and can be incorporated into a classroom routines or when students need a mental break. Consider offering coloring books or pages during a classroom discussion on sensitive topics or a debate. The coloring can calm anxiety when discussing tough topics.
Educators don't need any tools or even formal training to incorporate mindfulness into their instruction. Classroom instruction can start with just a three-minute exercise at the beginning of class and go from there. "There are endless articles and books and videos on mindfulness, just as there are endless food blogs and cookbooks,” Smyth said. But consuming media about food doesn't fill your belly. Similarly, the only way to really understand and benefit from mindfulness is to practice!"
Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is the CEO of Digital Respons-Ability, and teaches students, parents and educators about digital citizenship. Digital Respons-Ability incorporates practices like mindfulness and meditation in their digital citizenship programs.