Is Mindfulness The New Mathematics?

kids-in-school

Hundreds of schools in the UK introduce mindfulness as a new subject.

370 schools in Great Britain will be teaching Mindfulness to their students, as a part of a study that aims to combat mental health issues among youth today. This study brings the UK on board one of the largest trials in the world that explores what works to improve mental health and well-being in our society.

The government issued a statement via their website gov.uk stating that ‘hundreds of children and young people will learn how to use a range of innovative techniques to promote good mental health through one of the largest studies in the world of its kind.’ The statement also mentions that ‘children will benefit from mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises to help them regulate their emotions, alongside pupil sessions with mental health experts. The study will run until 2021 and aims to give schools new, robust evidence about what works best for their students’ mental health and wellbeing.’

Education Secretary, Damian Hinds said that ‘as a society, we are much more open about our mental health than ever before, but the modern world has brought new pressures for children, while potentially making others worse.’ Mental health issues among children and young adults today are unfortunately on the rise, with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) claiming that 7.1% of children in the US aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety and 1.9 million children in the US have diagnosed depression.

Mindfulness is a brilliant tool for managing mental health issues by encouraging awareness of our emotions so that we are able to manage them in a more insightful, rational way, as well as encouraging us to return to the present moment which is often difficult to do when we are plagued with anxiety. Mindfulness has been proven to promote increased activity in the pre-frontal cortex (the area of the brain associated with positive emotion) and there is evidence showing that mindfulness reduces anxiety and depression as well as boosts overall wellbeing.

According to a 2015 article on The Huffington Post, mindfulness is revolutionizing mental health care and we are only just beginning to understand its benefits. It works on a neurological level by facilitating neuroplasticity – the creation of new connections and neural pathways in the brain, which has a long-term impact on our brains. This reaffirms the importance of teaching such an important subject to children and young adults in an attempt to implement the practice at a young age. The curriculum in schools has been long overdue an update and this seems like a wonderful step forwards. If you are a parent, I’d love to hear from you about whether you teach mindfulness to your children and if so, how do you go about it? Are you a teacher who teaches the technique in a school and if so, how do your students respond?

www.mindfulschools.org has some fascinating information and tips for introducing mindfulness within your school and also credits mindfulness with ‘the development of heartfulness’, which is ‘the intentional nurturing of positive mind states such as kindness and compassion’. I think this is something all the world could benefit from and it’s fantastic to instill this within the next generation during such formative years of their lives. I strongly believe that the world can only benefit from everyone having a mindfulness practice and I hope other countries follow suit!

Meditation and Mindfulness: How Often Are You Fully Present?

Mediation

Do you meditate? Do you want to but don’t know how or don’t have the time? Meditation is widely-regarded as being an essential daily practice for maintaining a state of presence, calming the mind, controlling anxiety and having awareness of what we are feeling and what is going on around us. Presence allows us to fully be in the moment and meditation is a great way to achieve presence and remain in that place throughout the day. Those who meditate on a regular basis cannot speak highly enough about the incredible benefits and notice a huge difference when they fall out of the practice. I have dipped in and out of meditation for years and although I don’t have a consistent practice, I always come back to it when I feel depression and anxiety arising, and it really does help.

According to meditation app Headspace, ‘meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.’ 


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This practice is also known as ‘mindfulness’, which is essentially a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment. We can practice mindfulness at any moment in life by simply being aware of what is going on around us. This is something that is becoming increasingly harder to do these days, especially with the rising addiction we all have to our smartphones which provide endless entertainment and distraction, removing us from the present moment. Watch a small child or an animal and regard how hyper-present they are. They hear every sound, watch every thing and are curious about what is going around them. As a result, their senses are sharp and they are living fully in each moment. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? More than that, it is our birthright. However, daily stresses and worries can remove us from the present moment and mean that we aren’t fully experiencing life. How often are you fully present? Check in with yourself now by taking a moment to breathe. Feel your breath. Listen to the noises around you. What can you hear? What can you see? Taking a second to reconnect can be incredibly grounding.

So, how we can make mindfulness a practice?

It is fair to say that not all of us have time to sit and meditate each morning but remember that meditation can happen at any moment. All you need to do is put your attention on your breath and that will automatically return you to the present moment.

A great app for helping with this is the Breathe app which focuses on resonant breathing, something that ‘induces a state of restful alertness and mental clarity.’ You notice a benefit simply by inhaling as the ball on your screen goes from small to large, and exhaling as it does the reverse. Something so simple really does help. Headspace teaches you how to meditate and holds you accountable each day, while also gently reminding you that it’s okay for your mind to wander and to struggle at first. You can even start by simply doing one minute meditations and tailor the experience to you. The app can also send daily mindfulness reminders to your phone, one of which is to simply ‘remember that blue sky’. Calm is another popular app, which offers meditation for sleep and stress reduction. The benefits of meditation really are endless and there are so many ways to incorporate it into your daily routine.

To get started, here is a basic meditation from www.mindful.org

The first thing to clarify: what we’re doing here is aiming for mindfulness, not some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in our brains. We’re just practicing bringing our attention to our breath, and then back to the breath when we notice our attention has wandered.

  1. Get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes. After you stop reading this, you’re going to simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath.
  2. Focus on your breath. Where do you feel your breath most? In your belly? In your nose? Try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale.
  3. Follow your breath for two minutes. You can imagine the breath ball—inhaling as the ball expands, exhaling when the ball contracts.

For more meditation tips, check out https://www.headspace.com/meditation/tips

If you are interested in learning more about a meditation practice, research meditation studios or classes that may be located near you as this is also a great way to incorporate meditation into your weekly routine and meet new people. Classes are a wonderful way to discover the type of meditation that works for you and they are lead by an instructor who will guide you through the session. I attend meditation classes in LA at The Den Meditation and Unplug Meditation as then I commit to meditating for the 45 minutes that I’m there, and I always leave having taken something positive from the experience. Alternatively, YouTube is a great resource and there are many online courses which are often free and provide you with a guided meditation. Deepak Chopra offers a 21-day meditation experience with Oprah, which is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in a meditation experience, hold yourself accountable and maintain a meditation practice.

Whatever your lifestyle, know that there is a way you can incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your daily life, as it really does only take a few seconds to feel your breath and reconnect to the present moment, yet the benefits are truly endless. I always remind myself that simply being aware of everything going on around me, having my senses engaged, breathing deeply and living fully in that moment is a form of mindfulness. It also helps us to feel more grounded and gain mental clarity, which is crucial for handling situations with rationality and being able to truly appreciate all of the little things around us. I am making a pledge to be more mindful in my every day life and I’d love you to join me!