Mindfulness in the classroom: How children are being taught the value of positive thinking in schools

17 July 2017, by The Floatworks
Mindfulness in the classroom: How children are being taught the value of positive thinking in schools

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

He may have been speaking with a smidge of hyperbole, but The Dalai Lama touches on an important point. As adults, we have long been finding more and more ways of coping, preventing and treating the anxieties and mental health issues that plague us as a society, but it’s only relatively recently there’s been a shift in focus in introducing mindfulness, meditation and the like to our children.

A 2015 report commissioned by the Office for National Statistics showed that one in eight children between 10 and 15 reported symptoms of mental ill-health, and detailed bullying, family difficulties, lack of confidence and heavy social media use as key factors in elevated risks of being diagnosed with mental health disorders. And just one glance at the NHS’ page on anxiety disorders in children paints a harrowing enough picture. One in eight of our children has ill mental health, then. Staggering, isn’t it?

In recent years, thankfully, we’ve seen a credible rise in schools across the globe making positive changes to tackle this worldwide epidemic. From England to Dubai, curriculums are introducing mindfulness classes, meditation sessions and more to the daily routine of their kids, and evidence so far seems to show it’s helping.

The Mindfulness in Schools Project was established in the UK in 2009, and is the leading not-for-profit organisation working to train teachers and school facility staff in mindfulness, to take back to their schools and relay those skills to the pupils. Early research shows it’s working, with a range of small-scale studies displaying evidence that their specific curriculum is resulting in lower levels of depressive symptoms and stress in pupils, and greater wellbeing. And further theses are in the works to prove the benefits of their work at universities across the globe.

Further afield, one English-language school in the Middle Eastern kingdom of Dubai is taking a whole new approach to education. Instead of grades and exams at the end of each semester, pupils are graded red, amber, or green in a range of different areas, so next term’s teachers know more clearly their strengths and weaknesses for the month ahead. In one class, Gulf News reports, pupils sat silently with their eyes closed, tuned into whatever sound they could hear – the hum of the air conditioner, or the sound of their breath. One of many mindfulness practises they utilise at GEMS Founders in Dubai before the kids hit the books for the more conventional periods of study.

Over in the US state of Baltimore, Robert W Coleman Elementary School is replacing punishment with… meditation! Instead of being made to write lines, or sit in the principal’s office, or spend extra time after hours in the classroom closely monitored, disruptive kids are taken to the Mindful Moment Room, where they’re encouraged to go through simple meditation processes to help themselves calm down and re-centre. Then, they’re asked to talk through what happened, so they better understand their emotions or reactions to a given situation. The program is one of many run by the Holistic Life Foundation in the area, which has dozens of other projects in schools encouraging mindfulness, meditation and even yoga in kids!

The trend for mindfulness in schools is going global, then. But we’re not there just yet. There are ways you can encourage mindfulness classes in your children’s curriculum – write to their school, get in contact with one of the many charities in the UK like Youth Mindfulness or Mindful Schools, and of course, you can show them the basics at home, too!

And for those kids who need a bit of technology to get to grips with something, there’s a great Headspace for Kids app, and the Mindfulness For Children app is a simple introduction to the practice, too.

We’d love to know what you think about introducing mindfulness into the classroom. Tweet us, or drop up a comment on this article on Facebook, and let’s open up the discussion!