Mindfulness is an opposite to “Mind is FULL”. When our mind is full – our thoughts or senses take a vast of our attention and create a big noise in our head (in case of overthinking) or in a body (if the pain or hunger appears). In such a condition concentration on tasks, hearing and learning is particularly poor. When somebody tries to bring us back and requires concentration our frustration grows exponentially and creates bigger noise which finally may transform into anxiety, stress and push to resistant or defensive behaviours. However, mindfulness does not mean an empty mind, or mind without thoughts.
Mindfulness helps prevent overthinking or oversensing to balance the working modes (thinking mode and sensing mode) of a mind and help keep attention and control attention.
How overthinking and oversensing appears?
It’s because of our safety instincts which came from the very old times when human had to be always beware of danger coming from wild animals and/or nature and learn how to avoid it.
Our brain, the mind used to pay attention to the source of danger and plan overcoming strategies. Nowadays our mind still devotes a biggest part of its attention to potential threats, trying to preserve negative circumstances and consequences.
Even if the present body or mind state is calm and satisfying a small thing, like a accidental look of another person to us, or text messages, a heard word may catch attention of a mind which will do its job in analysing, judging, evaluating, forecasting leading to snowball effect and making our mind full of alarming noise. The same with pain, hunger or other stronger senses which may appear.
So, mindfulness is our ability to use your attention. It’s a kind of training for brain muscle to lift our focus of attention – from potential danger to current event, to a moment of now.
Why now? Because human is in even bigger potential danger if he or she is not aware of what is happening in a current moment, current place. An example is driving a car. If your focus of thinking is out for planning your day and you drive in brain autopilot mode, the time to act correctly in a real danger situation on the road may not be enough to avoid accident.
So, using mindfulness we ask our brain to continue guarding us, but in a way of learning from what is happening now, and not paying attention to past events or possible future.
What does it give? Pure concentration on things happening, less heat on the brain, less energy spent on thinking or feeling, less information missing, calmer state, better health state, less stress, less fatigue, less anxiety, higher satisfaction about the present.
How to do it?
Mindfulness is a conscious purposeful action which is needed to be trained. It does not require a special environment, clothes or time, but it requires our attention, wherever we would be, whatever we would do.
Mindfulness for teachers
Teachers need to have understood mindfulness personally – from the inside – before they can be expected to use it well and safely to young people.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness depending on the time of the day and time resources, environment and level of stress or anxiety.
This paper will not prepare you to become a mindfulness practitioner – a longer time and training – individual or with certified trainer – would be needed for that. But it will surely explain the benefits of this unique technique and let try some elements of it, which can be applicable in a daily life and help achieve better results in a class.
Mindfulness is about HOW TO STOP THINKING ABOUT A LOT at the same time and FOCUS on what is most important – the NOW.
This simple exercise will help to experience that process.
You will need 3-4 minutes to proceed. Stand, sit or lie comfortably.
Turn your attention on your whole body. Scan it with your inner view. Try do feel each major part separately. This should not take long time, just an overview. If you are sitting, try to feel the place your body touches the surface on which you are sitting. How does it feel like – cold? Warm? Hard? Soft?
If you are standing or sitting, try to feel your feet touching the floor – how your feet is feeling there? Is it comfortable in the shoes? How each toe is filling? What does it say?
Fix your attention on the breathing. Try to identify main sections of this procedure – inhale, the breast or bally is rising, air is filling the chest, exhale – the breast or bally is coming down, air is coming out of your nose or mouth. Put your hand on the bally and feel with it how it goes up together with your bally when you inhale and comes downs when you exhale.
Try to measure temperature coming in through your nose and then measure the warmness of the air coming out through your mouth. You feel it with the edges of your nose and with your lips.
Finish the exercise when you are ready.
Mindfulness for students
Surely you wonder how mindfulness may be applied to a daily curriculum. Applications are more likely to be the same for youngsters and the adults. But we can choose more playful ways of delivering attention training activities when it comes to children, kids or teens.
Before you decide to try it in your class, be sure you know, why are you doing that. What is the purpose of this and what outcomes are you trying to achieve at the end of the day.
For some students at the beginning it may seem weird and uncomfortable to close their eyes and do something when everybody else is watching as they think.
That is why the instructions and agreements are needed.
This paper shall encourage you to try using the elements of the technique and learn how to improve it. In the paper IO2 – digital tools supporting mindfulness activities will be offered. So you will feel more comfortable.
For the start we suggest concentrating on the very simple elements of mindfulness practice. Please use those practices at class, which you already have tested by yourself alone or with the family and you are confident with them.
Most importantly, if you want to achieve certain change – whatever you might want to, like improving concentration during the class, or make the emotional climate warmer, or prevent stress during or between the classes – you must perform exercises continuously – every day. Firstly, by yourself. Secondly – together with students.
For best experiences we advise to include mindfulness exercises into formal curricular and start and/or end your lessons with simple attention to breathing or body scanning exercises, which are clearly described previously.
Students will like it, especially during the math, language, physics, geography or any other hard subject. Because it will create a different experience for them, make fun, something that is out of common rules they are got used to. It shall help to release tension created by seriousness before the class and remind them to be mindful even when the class is over – which might help to get better rest during the break and prevent negative behaviours.
For those teachers who might experience difficulties in insertion of the kind of informal activity into regular lesson, we advise to use part of a break or subjects related to health and/or other life-skill development.