Bringing Mindfulness to the Classroom

Author: 
Wellness Resource Center

Mindfulness is becoming more popular in American culture. As the large body of research about its benefits continues to grow, increased attention has been paid to integrate mindfulness into educational institutions, from K-12 schools to colleges and universities.

What is mindfulness, exactly?

Mindfulness is the capacity to be aware of the present moment (rather than getting caught up in the past or future); it is both innate and a skill that can be honed through regular practice. Mindfulness can be practiced by bringing focused attention to the present-moment experience with kindness and free of judgment. The more we practice this skill, the better we can become at recognizing our thoughts, emotions, and bodies and better manage stress. Even a couple of minutes per day can help someone (especially students with busy schedules) prioritize their well-being. Mindfulness can be practiced formally through meditation exercises, and also informally during regular daily activities by bringing attention to the present moment experience. Anything can be done mindfully, from eating to moving and even washing the dishes!

Organizations and researchers have found many benefits:

How can mindfulness be useful as an instructor?

The American College Health Association found student well-being impacts how they are showing up in the classroom. By acknowledging their lives outside of academics and taking a “whole person” approach, we can cultivate a community where students feel more open to take care of themselves as a way of supporting their goals and well-being.

It is important to consider how mindfulness shows up in your own life. Having your own mindfulness practice can benefit your well-being and performance as an instructor. It can also help you integrate some of these approaches and strategies into your classroom. Mindfulness can be quite personal; how much you share about your own experience is always at your discretion.

How can mindfulness be implemented?

There are a few things to note about your approach to bringing mindfulness to your classroom:

  • Explain why you’re introducing this to your classroom and relate it back to the course (e.g. when students are well, they do better in class).
  • Make it accessible. Use simple, neutral language to avoid jargon or terms that may not feel as relevant to students. For example, students may be more receptive to the term “mindfulness” rather than “meditation.”
  • Make it optional. It’s important for folks to be open to mindfulness and approach it with curiosity. If it feels forced, it probably won’t go well. Let’s students know that it’s an invitation and not a requirement.

You can integrate mindfulness and related approaches by:

  • Taking a few mindful breaths together at the beginning or end of each class.
  • Setting aside 5-10 minutes to do a guided mindfulness practice together as a class. You can find free recordings online.
  • Including assignments that align with a mindfulness approach.
  • Acknowledging that you care about student well-being and providing periodic reminders about self-care, especially during high-stress times of the semester.
    • Remind students that grades do not define their worth and that they deserve to take care of themselves.
      • Students can take care of themselves by building routines around food and meal times, sleep and rest, movement or physical activity and leaving even a few minutes of “you” time to do things that help them feel well.
    • Spending a minute or two talking about this at the beginning of class can be a helpful way to cultivate community in your classroom. It can also serve as a reminder that self-care is important for well-being, and can benefit their academic performance.

Encourage students to access mindfulness resources on campus:

The Wellness Resource Center (WRC) is Temple University’s health promotion office. The WRC offers a variety of intentional learning opportunities to promote well-being and cultivate community. Services include peer-led workshops, campus-wide events, staff and faculty training, wellness consultations, and safer sex supply sales. Learn more about these services and how to request programming at wellness.temple.edu or connect with the WRC on social media (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) @BeWellTU.

Image credit: "Body of Water and Sunlight" released under Creative Commons CC0 (public domain) by PeakPx.com.
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