As education continues to evolve, becoming ever more competitive and fast-paced, our framework as educators must evolve along with it. Equally as important as ensuring solid educational foundations is the challenge of building healthy, lasting habits.
Meditation and mindfulness have gained traction in recent years as legitimate means of securing a sound mental foundation. Whereas in the past these ideas were dismissed as “fringe” or “taboo,” mindfulness has become mainstream, resulting in serious discussion about its application to all walks of life—education and learning being no exception.
What Is “Mindfulness?”
The term alone sounds vague—at first blush we perhaps think of old sayings: “Mind your manners,” or “Be mindful of the fact….” These are more colloquial versions of the true essence of mindfulness, which is actually quite straightforward.
Mindfulness is simply the ability to be completely immersed in a single activity at one time and to remain aware of different sensations, changes in perception, and one’s overall state of being. A simpler way of putting this is—slowing down and being more self-aware.
Mindfulness doesn’t necessarily have to tie into any other sort of practice or religion, such as Buddhism, although it is a large part of many cultures. Now more than ever, the idea and practice of mindfulness is being adopted as people see fit for their lives.
Is It Legitimate?
Mindfulness has gained traction recently in the neuroscience community, to quote from an article from Mind Shift
Neuroscience, too, has offered evidence to support a holistic message about cognitive, social, and emotional development. Recent scientific advances have led to rejection of a cognitive versus affective framework to describe human cognition. Evidence shows that the prefrontal cortex, considered the center of higher-level cognition in the brain, also plays a dramatically important role in emotion processing and regulation. Thus, the operation of the brain is more like an orchestra than a number of soloists. This paradigm-shifting evidence has forced us to rethink the relationship between reason and emotion.
That is to say, the governance of our emotions ties directly into the way we learn and process—this is where mindfulness plays its biggest role.
What Does It Have to Do with Learning?
Mindfulness can play a role in all students' learning, but it is perhaps most poignant in those with learning disabilities. Students with learning differences or disabilities experience the largest amount of emotional turmoil around school and education. The impact that mindfulness has on students who deal with these struggles is its ability to help soothe and regulate emotion, clearing the way for more effective (and less stressful) learning.
Not only does mindfulness have immediate impacts in this respect during high school, but if taught at a young age it can be a valuable skill throughout one’s entire life.
Being in the moment is difficult for just about anyone. However, it’s when we’re fully engaged that we’re not only able to realize important aspects about ourselves…we’re also able to realize our full potential.
Teaching, or at least discussing, mindfulness is going to become increasingly important in classrooms as we move toward a more nurturing and diverse learning environment.