Mindfulness among students is the need of the hour

Here in India, it’s been nine months of living with a pandemic. Students have been learning online since March and the experience of sitting in a classroom with friends is a memory for now. Exams have been delayed or cancelled - imagine preparing for exams only for them to be cancelled!  

And so the list goes on. All in all, it has been a weird academic year. Like adults, students have also felt worried about the past and wondered about the future. They hope to return to classes soon. They want to meet their friends soon.

As educators, we can’t change the circumstances. But we can help our students be present in the moment. We thought about how best to do this. Mindfulness Mondays was born out of that thought.

Every Monday, students can sign up for a mindfulness session. Each session starts with a basic breathing practice and is followed by a guided mindfulness practice.

In the last session, students were asked to imagine that they were the eye of the hurricane – the calmest point of the hurricane. The hurricane in their life could be a to-do list to finish, or an upcoming test. The practice helped them find the calmness within themselves.

After the practice, a student said that he could imagine the hurricane. Another student admitted that she felt scared that she might get pulled into the hurricane. But all students said that they felt calm, and happy, and peaceful. They felt present in that moment.

In another session, students were asked to imagine that they were sitting next to a gentle stream of water with leaves floating along the surface. Each thought that came into their mind was like a leaf, floating by.

“Allow the stream to flow at its own pace. Don’t try to speed it up and rush your thoughts along. You’re not trying to get rid of your thoughts. You are allowing them to come and go at their own pace…” said Manisha Thangaraj, who has been conducting these sessions.

Thangaraj is a Club Manager at Openhouse. “Mindfulness is about being very gentle and kind to yourself. It’s about acknowledging your thoughts, and looking at them in a very objective way,” she said.

Bringing mindfulness in the classroom can help students cope with their stress better. In 2019, the Centre for Education Policy Research at Harvard University conducted an eight-week mindfulness program for sixth graders in a Boston school. The study showed that sixth graders who practiced mindfulness were less stressed than their classmates who had spent that time studying.

By learning mindfulness, children learn to pay attention on purpose, increasing the ability to focus and improving their academic performance.  

Better focus and better academic performance are good by products of practicing mindfulness. But for us, the greatest reward is a student saying “they felt calm and peaceful”. Just that feeling is reason enough to bring mindfulness to our students.