What's it about?
Mindful practices help to focus students’ attention to the present moment (the ‘here and now’), and to be accepting and curious. They're are often associated with meditation, but they can be part of routine daily activities—like walking, listening, and breathing—and can also include tai chi and yoga.
Educators in Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo Region of Alberta used mindful practices to support a healthy return to school following devastating wildfires in the area. They suggest that mindful practices may be useful in helping students get through other tough times, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mindful practices are most effective as part of a whole school approach, implemented in an intentional and systematic way. Here are some key elements:
Focus on professional development
- Get to know the theory behind mindfulness, and explore basic techniques before introducing it to your students. Take stock of training in your local area or online—be sure to look for high-quality, reputable programs. Start with our resource list, or use our guide to choosing school health resources.
- Talk to your colleagues about how they embed mindful practice into their day-to-day school routine. Some of the most common-based programs for schools have not been critically evaluated, or lack adequate evidence. Instead of turning to a packaged program, try informal ways of incorporating mindful practices into everyday life at school.
Look for everyday opportunities
Mindfulness is a skill that improves with regular, sustained practice. Build time for mindful practices into the daily classroom routine and look for informal opportunities for students to apply them. Try incorporating mindful practices into lessons related to social emotional skills.
Everyday mindful practices include:
- Calm breathing
- Paying attention to the present moment (noticing the ‘here and now’)
- Slowing down
Need help getting started?
Check out this Zen Me activity sampler from the Be Fit for Life Network.
Keep track and check in
Help students track their experience and progress with mindful practices. Some research suggests that many will find it helpful and enjoyable, but others may not take it seriously, or may find it boring, difficult, or unsettling.
Encourage students to talk about their impressions of mindfulness, log or chart their experiences, or journal. If they tap into a mindful practice that works for them, encourage them to create a visual reminder to display in the classroom or at home.
How it connects
Some studies suggest mindful practices may improve students’ school performance and behaviour, reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and improve sleep. They also appear to help teachers cope with stress and have more positive interactions with students.
However, there's still a lot to learn about the best ways to incorporate them into school life so that everyone benefits.
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