Mindfulness is the state of being conscious or aware of something. This can include one's awareness of the present moment, one's feelings, thoughts, or inner experiences. The practice of mindfulness, then, allows us to build a discipline of emotional regulation as well as acceptance for ourselves, for others, and for our experiences. For kids specifically, early adoption of mindfulness-based practices can also build self-esteem and engender a more equitable, inclusive mindset early on.
Over the past few decades, mindfulness' applications in the modern world are far reaching. Jon Kabat-Zinn is largely responsible for influencing mindfulness' role in Western psychology by developing the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Since, mindfulness has been popularized in various institutional practices ranging from health care to education as a means of reducing stress, trauma, and anxiety for individuals and communities.
While the universality of its teachings has given palatable access points beyond secular and religious traditions, the way we practice mindfulness in the West today owes its roots to Eastern religions. The practice of mindfulness is deeply steeped in the time-honored Buddhist and Hindu traditions where meditation, yoga, and breath work serve as vital pillars to personal and spiritual growth.
There's a growing body of work that emphasizes the importance of social-emotional learning in a child's development, and when paired with the practices of mindfulness, there can be a meaningful path for kids to more deeply connect with themselves and the world around them. Below are a few paths of integration between social-emotional learning as well as the benefits of mindfulness:
- Self-awareness: Students’ self-awareness deepens when enhanced by the mindfulness practices of focusing attention and self-compassion.
- Self-management: Mindfulness increases students’ emotion regulation skills, which enhances their ability to resolve conflict more creatively or to say how they’re feeling in an emotionally balanced way.
- Social awareness: Mindfulness increases students’ empathy by helping them to regulate their emotions rather than get emotionally overwhelmed when faced with a difficult situation. As a result, their capacity to notice another person’s suffering and respond to it increases.
- Relationship skills: Mindfulness increases compassion. Thus, when students practice SEL skills such as creating a win-win solution with someone who challenges them, they are doing so with more compassionate understanding.
- Decision-making: Mindfulness increases cognitive flexibility and creativity, which gives students a wider range of responses to challenging situations.
As we create resources that encourage the social and emotional development of children, we continue to be students of mindfulness ourselves and invite a diverse tapestry of perspectives to influence our work. We welcome your feedback, input, and unique experiences and hope to hear from you - please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.