Mindfulness for Youth
In a world of constant motion, light and noise, buzz and hum, it’s not surprising that so many children are habitually distracted. More than ever, kids need opportunities to move their bodies, develop face-to-face communication skills and practice focusing on just one thing at a time. One way they can get them is through learning mindfulness.
Some Classroom Benefits of Mindfulness Training
Cited by Dr. Amy Saltzman in “Mindfulness: A Guide for Teachers”:
In a randomized controlled trial conducted by Maria Napoli, Ph.D., first, second, and third graders who participated in a bi-weekly, 12-session integrative program of mindfulness and relaxation showed significant increases in attention and social skills and decreases in test anxiety and ADHD behaviors. In studying second and third graders who did Mindfulness Awareness Practices for 30 minutes twice a week for 8 weeks, Lisa Flook, Ph.D. and her colleagues at the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA documented that children who began the study with poor executive function had gains in behavioral regulation, -cognition, and overall global executive control. These results indicate Mindfulness Awareness Practice training benefits children with executive function difficulties. A study conducted by Amy Saltzman, M.D., in collaboration with the Department of Psychology at Stanford, with 4th-7th graders and their parents, showed that after 1 hour of mindfulness training for 8 consecutive weeks the children demonstrated increased ability to orient their attention, as measured by the Attention Network Task, and decreased anxiety.
Mindfulness Is More than Just Paying Attention
Mindfulness is more than just paying attention. It’s developing awareness of what’s happening both outside and inside oneself, and one’s physical being in the world.
As Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” As such, mindfulness has far-reaching effects. It lowers stress, develops concentration skills and improves memory. It nurtures emotional regulation, impulse control and goal-directed behavior. It supports learning preparedness. No wonder school teachers and education professionals are embracing mindfulness as a key curricular component.
Mindfulness Is More than Just Relaxation
Mindfulness training in the classroom can sometimes seem little more than relaxation. Of course, relaxation is important. It reduces stress, which is toxic to attention, and helps children integrate experience and develop imagination and positive thoughts. But while relaxation can nurture mindfulness, it is not mindfulness itself.
Since children are naturally inclined toward stimulation and engagement, an integrated approach to teaching mindfulness is ideal. Simply, kids’ minds want to be engaged and their bodies need to move. Yoga Calm’s physical, mental and emotional approach fills such rivaling needs. Activities and class themes that incorporate the Yoga Calm principles of Stillness and Listening help children learn to be aware of their thoughts, emotions and what their bodies say and how they respond when in use. Physical balance poses, develop the Grounding principle and children’s concentration skills. Social-emotional games help children to find their personal strength as well as outside support, underlining the connections between mindfulness and pro-social behavior. In this way, kids are encouraged to engage, forming relationships with others and understanding the relatedness of the world and all that’s in it.