I started practising and studying mindfulness and meditation early this year as a way of dealing with my own troubled stated of mind. It fast became an anchor, a place of peace, a place that allowed me to overcome emotional pains and automatic reactions. I also grew to love and value my meditation times; I wished I’d learnt this as a child. As a teacher I recognise a valuable life skill which I plan to gift to many children in the future.
Meditation is a strategy that can play an important role in every classroom, for cognitive focus and emotion control. Learning to quieten and focus their minds, children improve their abilities to pay attention, be better communicators, make better decisions, improve behaviour, and be compassionate.
Some studies of mindfulness programs in schools have found that regular practice improves student self-control and increases their classroom participation, respect for others, self-acceptance, happiness, and optimism. Even a few minutes meditation a day can make a difference; just taking a few deep breaths deactivates our fight or flight response (our sympathetic nervous system) and engages our parasympathetic nervous system which is our resting mode. As a teacher I have noticed that most of children’s problems in and outside the classroom derive from making instant judgements and not being able to notice the reality of a situation, and some of us never grow (or learn to) out of this.
- Mindfulness meditation can lead to increased mental clarity, cognitive reasoning by increasing the thickness of the cerebral and prefrontal cortex the areas of the brain responsible for attention, sensory processing and complex cognitive skills.
- Mindfulness meditation has been show to decrease activity in the anterior cingulate which controls thinking and emotions.
- Mindfulness meditation can assist us in developing self-acceptance by teaching us how to deal with our minds continuous negative self-chatter and be more connected to our own bodies.
- Mindfulness meditation can build compassion and reduce bullying.
So perhaps the Dalai Lama had a point when he said, “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” I would love to test this theory, but even if it didn't, I believe meditation has the power to make children better students and better human beings.