If you haven’t heard of the term mindfulness yet, now might be a good time to familiarise yourself. Business leaders, politicians, academics and now educationalists are utilising the practice to improve mental well-being.
Schools Minister David Laws recently told MPs that himself and his colleague Liz Truss (Education Minister) are interested in promoting the idea and believe it is an area that merits consideration based on the growing body of evidence.
What this means is that mindfulness could be coming to a classroom near you.
So what exactly is mindfulness? Originally a Buddhist meditation technique, mindfulness has developed into a brain-training technique, designed to help you achieve mental clarity. The practice is based on breathing techniques similar to meditation and yoga, but rather than helping you ‘zone out’ you are encouraged to ‘zone in’.
A lot of the time we find ourselves preoccupied with thoughts about the past or worries about the future. This can lead us to live our lives on autopilot and be more susceptible to stress. Mindfulness looks to focus on the present moment so we are living with purpose and are more able to cope with difficult situations when they arise.
Research continues on mindfulness with a growing body of evidence to suggest its effectiveness to reduce depression, anxiety and stress – some of the most common mental health problems we face as a nation.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for those with recurrent depression, and it has been found to be successful in half of all cases. The US military also offers marines mindfulness training before being deployed, while a range of businesses (including Google) encourage mindfulness at work.
The logical next step therefore, is to bring it into schools. When applied to schools, mindfulness has been found to boost children’s self-esteem and performance.
Claire Kelly, a mindfulness practitioner involved in the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) says:
“I used to teach at a highly academic independent girls’ school, and I found that by introducing mindfulness into lessons, it had a profound effect on the students’ anxiety levels, their confidence and their concentration.
“Teaching mindfulness to young people gives them crucial tools to deal with the pressures of life. It’s empowering, and once they know how to do it, they can draw on it whenever they need to.”