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Teaching mindfulness at Riverway allows children and adolescents to learn how to pay attention to what is going on in their lives as a whole. When young people have the skills to manage their emotional and physical experiences, they are empowered to make healthier choices for themselves. Because mindfulness strengthens our abilities to focus and concentrate on what we are doing moment-by-moment, distractions, daydreams, fears and anxieties tend to fade away much easier. As a result young people are able to pay attention more completely, learn more easily, and increase learning comprehension. Mindfulness practice also increases self-awareness and impulse control, which results in individuals being better prepared for their academic and social lives.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention, with focused intention, to our internal and external experiences and sensations, moment by moment and without judgment. By looking with curiosity and an open mind at what is going on both inside and outside ourselves, we are able to more fully understand how we relate to ourselves and others. Mindfulness uses our breath and multiple senses to keep us present in our lives. This attention and awareness to what is taking place moment by moment can lower stress and anxiety, help increase concentration and the ability to focus, and improve social and emotional behaviors toward ourselves and others. Mindfulness is a skill that supports healthy habits and a well-balanced lifestyle.

Benefits of Mindfulness Skills Training in Schools:

  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Increased readiness for learning
  • Increased self-awareness and empathy
  • Increased impulse control
  • Increased emotional management and understanding of how to treat oneself and others better oneself and others better
  • Feelings of greater comfort and happiness

Riverway Students and staff are incorporating mindfulness into their school day by learning and practicing:

  • Mindful breathing- paying attention to the breath
  • Mindful listening- listening attentively to sounds in the environment
  • Mindful eating- using all senses of the body to engage in eating
  • Mindfulness of body- awareness of body and sensations inside and outside the body
  • Mindful movement- being aware of the space around one’s environment and understanding how best to move within that space
  • Heartfulness/Acts of Kindness- thinking of others and wishing good things for all people

* Research has 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 helps schools: There’s scientific evidence that teaching mindfulness in the classroom reduces behavior problems and aggression among students, and improves their happiness levels and ability to pay attention. Teachers trained in mindfulness also show lower blood pressure, less negative emotion and symptoms of depression, and greater compassion and empathy.
  • Mindfulness helps us focus: Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us tune out distractions and improves our memory and attention skills.
  • Mindfulness changes our brains: Research has found that it increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
  • Mindfulness fosters compassion and altruism: Research suggests mindfulness training makes us more likely to help someone in need and increases activity in neural networks involved in understanding the suffering of others and regulating emotions. Evidence suggests it might boost self-compassion as well.
  • Mindfulness is good for our bodies: A seminal study found that, after just eight weeks of training, practicing mindfulness meditation boosts our immune system’s ability to fight off illness.
  • Mindfulness is good for our minds: Several studies have found that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress. Indeed, at least one study suggests it may be as good as antidepressants in fighting depression and preventing relapse.

*from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/