The benefits of mindfulness in education

17/03/2021 | Santander Universidades

Do you find it difficult to concentrate when you are studying? Do you need to reduce your stress levels? Applying mindfulness to education can be the key to fostering creativity, reducing anxiety, and improving your attention span. Find out all about its benefits and how to put mindfulness into practice. 

We live in a world full of non-stop stimuli, in a large part because of the internet and social media: we constantly receive WhatsApp messages, emails, we read the news, look at ads, memes, videos, photos, etc. Over-exposure to information can lead us to reflect on the need to stop and look inside ourselves to attain tranquillity and an awareness of our emotions. 

According to a study conducted by Teesside University (UK) and presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society, mindfulness helps teachers and students to efficiently manage stress. Their research showed that as the understanding and awareness of mindfulness grew, in both teachers and students, stress was significantly reduced. But mindfulness offers many more benefits besides. So, what exactly is mindfulness?

mindfulness education

What is mindfulness?

As Jon Kabat-Zinn —a pioneer of its therapeutic application— explains in his book Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, mindfulness can be defined as the act of paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. Mindfulness can be applied to a variety of contexts such as the workplace or education, and it helps us to understand what is happening inside and around us. 

Kabat-Zinn also highlights several fundamental factors in the practice of mindfulness: 

  • The importance of not judging. 
  • Patience or allowing things to happen at the right time. 
  • The beginner's mind, in other words, the ability to see things as though happening for the first time. 
  • Trust in your own intuition. 
  • Acceptance of feeling and thoughts. 
  • The ability to give up and let go so as to not become attached to thoughts.

The benefits of mindfulness in education

In recent years, various programmes have been conducted that focus on teachers and students, with the aim of encouraging the development of mindfulness. The benefits reaped through the application of mindfulness in education are as follows: 

  • An increase in academic performance. Mindfulness boosts focus and relaxation, so students who practice it improve their performance at school, university or whichever educational institution they study at. Notable in this, for example, is a study by Clemente Franco, Encarnación Soriano and Eduardo Justo, from University of Almeria, to evaluate the impact of a mindfulness programme on immigrant students at secondary school. The result was a significant improvement in the levels of self-concept and academic performance. 
  • Development of creativity. The ability to create something new and useful is one of the most in-demand skills for companies looking to recruit new staff. However, it's not just a question of creating something, but rather of creating something that addresses people's needs. Calm and rest are vital to obtaining results, and mindfulness offers both. The creative process usually goes through several phases: preparation, when the available information is organised and ordered in the mind; incubation, which sees an idea take shape; illumination, which is the moment the idea takes on a physical form, and verification, which is when we find out whether the idea is actually effective or not. In each stage, calm is a necessary element to better reflect. 
  • A better understanding of our inner world. Students are in a phase of physical and psychological development; hence mindfulness can help them to understand and accept themselves, increasing their self-esteem and improving their relationships with others. This reduces problems in the classroom and improves the atmosphere of the education centre. 
  • Reduces stress. Self-awareness is vital to understanding your emotions and controlling your impulses. Thus, we can reduce stress levels and anxiety, which can lead to exhaustion, depression, dizziness, jitteriness and breathing difficulties. 

Mindfulness applied to the field of education benefits both students and teachers.

mindfulness education

How to practice mindfulness

If you want to practice mindfulness and take full advantage of its benefits for education, just follow these steps:  

  • Find a quiet place, turn off your mobile phone and any other devices that might distract you, put on some relaxing music and if you like, light some incense. 
  • You can assume the lotus position or just sit with your back against a wall to avoid muscle aches. 
  • Focus your attention on something and take a few deep breaths. 
  • Close your eyes and concentrate on your body's sensations: feel everything you touch, notice how the air enters your lungs, how your heart beats. If you lose concentration, don't worry, just refocus and concentrate on your body. 
  • Leave all thoughts, distractions and feelings to one side. 
  • Come back to focus on your breathing and reflect on what you felt while you were watching your own body. 
  • Open your eyes slowly and, when ready, stand up and get back to your daily activities. 

You can practice mindfulness for 5 minutes a day and gradually increase this time until you reach 20 to 30 minutes a day, or even more.  

Applying mindfulness to education not only helps you to focus and achieve better results, but also to acquire transferable skills such as empathy, leadership, and negotiation skills, which can all facilitate inclusion in the job market.  

As a result, mindfulness in education has become a highly valued approach due to its positive impact on students' emotional and cognitive well-being. However, for this practice to be effective and have a real impact on the educational environment, it is essential that teachers acquire solid training in mindfulness and develop their pedagogical skills to ensure a holistic and quality education that promotes the holistic growth of students in a healthy educational environment.

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