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What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

How to Cultivate Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn emphasizes that although mindfulness can be cultivated through formal meditation, that’s not the only way. “It’s not really about sitting in the full lotus, like pretending you’re a statue in a British museum, it’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.”

Key components in the practice of mindfulness include:

  • Paying close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.

  • Noticing—really noticing—what you’re sensing in a given moment; the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.

  • Recognizing that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.

  • Becoming body’s physical sensations, from the water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.

Why Practice Mindfulness?

Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits. Here are some of these benefits, which extend across many different settings.

Mindfulness in Education

There is scientific evidence that teaching mindfulness in the classroom reduces behavior problems and aggression among students, and improves their happiness levels and ability to pay attentionTeachers trained in mindfulness also show lower blood pressure, less negative emotion and symptoms of depression, and greater compassion and empathy. The integration of mindfulness into the classroom is supported by prestigious institutions such as UCLA, UC Davis, UC Berkley as well as countless mental health professionals. 

Informal Implementation at LVJUSD

During the 2014-15 School years 2 teachers at Granada started implementing mindfulness activities during the first 3 – 15 minutes of class. Most activities were followed with a short discussion in which students were encouraged to freely share their experience. Activities focused on becoming more aware of the moment with the objective of increasing attention in the classroom and letting go of stress and anxiety. Even with this informal implementation by teachers with no prior experience in mindfulness, the results were impressive.  After just 5 weeks, student rating scales indicated improved self-esteem, interpersonal relations with classmates, attitude towards teachers and school, and improved focus.  Students also reported decreases in anxiety and social stress.  By the end of the year students exposed to mindfulness activities for at least one trimester reported more positive school and social experiences when compared to their peers. In 2017 the project was repeated at  Arroyo Seco Elementary School with very similar results:  2nd and 3rd grade classrooms who incorporated daily mindfulness activities into their learning had students who were more engaged in learning, reported feeling less bored in class and liking their teacher more than they had before they started practicing mindfulness.  One unexpected result -- the students that practiced mindfulness reported feeling more positive about going home after school--they even taught their families about mindfulness

The Gift of Mindfulness:
CAG Conference 2017
Mindfulness in Education:
Granada High School
Mindfulness in Education:
Arroyo Seco Elementary

Gail offers training on mindfulness from a simple introductory presentation to full staff training on the pathway to mindfulness                                                                            (or anything in between).                                                                       

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