Benefits of Mindfulness
Everyone faces challenging situations and stressful events. Having the skills to manage difficult times can help our children thrive. Because children are not born with these skills, they need to be taught. One especially good skill to help children cope with challenges they face in their daily lives is mindfulness. Mindfulness can be thought of as a super-skill that’s made up of two small skills:
- Awareness: noticing the little things right now (thoughts, feelings, and sensations)
- Acceptance: maintaining this awareness with gentleness and kindness, rather than trying to change or judge the experience
Mindfulness helps children to pay attention to what’s going on right now, while also being kind to themselves and those around them—even when it’s hard to do.
Mental Health Effects of Mindfulness
The effects of mindfulness for children and adolescents has a growing scientific literature with evidence demonstrating it can:
- Reduce stress
- Reduce emotional problems
- Reduce behavior problems and aggression
- Reduce depression
- Improve happiness
- Increase self-regulation and attention abilities
- Increase calming and relaxation skills
- Improve cognitive performance
- Increase resilience
For more information on the research and practice of mindfulness visit UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.
Mindfulness for Elementary-Aged Children
Sometimes life presents stressful situations that can overwhelm us: we may not do well in school, have trouble with others, or feel really sad or angry for no real reason. The good news is that there are skills we can learn to help us in tough situations, so that we can overcome challenges and be the successful people we want to be. When we talk about overcoming challenges, this doesn’t mean that they go away. Mindfulness helps us to pay attention to our feelings and thoughts and allows us to make good choices and do our very best, even when things are hard.
Classrooms across our district are using "Mindful Minutes" on soundcloud.com, which provide brief guided mindfulness experiences as part of the Choose Love Program.
Here are a few examples of guided meditations for children:
Through the Choose Love social-emotional learning curriculum, students are learning how to take a Brave Breath. A Brave Breath helps to calm us down and regulate the fight or flight response we feel when we sense danger. Oftentimes our bodies are sending us a false alarm and there isn't any danger. At those times, people may feel worried. When we manage our stress response with a Brave Breath, we become more aware of ourselves and can build courage to face difficult situations with a sense of calm. When we are calm, we are better able to express ourselves and relate better to others.
Here is another example of a Brave Breath practice.
Mindfulness Research and Practice
Mindfulness for Adolescents
We all face challenging situations and in moments of stress we can either respond or react to perceived threats. When someone makes a hurtful comment or we struggle on a test, it is easy to react by lashing back with our own hurtful comments or immediately beating ourselves up. Mindfulness allows us to respond to threats, rather than react impulsively. Mindfulness helps us to pause and be aware of our experience in the moment without judgment, and provides the freedom to choose how we respond, rather than be swept up in emotion.
Mindfulness is a mental skill and, like every skill, takes practice to improve. Setting aside a period of the day to sit down, be still, and practice is a helpful way to better this skill. One way to practice is through mindfulness meditations. Free guided mindfulness meditations can be found at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center.
Books on Mindfulness
Most books are available at the Livermore Public Library
by Frank J. Sileo, PhD and Jennifer Zivoin Year Published: 2017
This book is written to show children ways to slow down in a fast-paced world. Illustrations capture people enjoying the small moments like eating an apple and taking a slow, silent walk. It allows children to begin to see instances where they can pause and notice the little moments in life.
by Kira Willey Year Published: 2017
Willey provides thirty quick and easy meditations for children with animal imagery. Filled with inviting and engaging illustrations, and a diverse selection of mindfulness practices.
(Also available at the Livermore Library in Spanish)
by Susan Kaiser Greenland Year Published: 2016
This collection of fifty mindfulness games teaches families attention, balance, and compassion. While the games are ways for children and teens to practice mindfulness, they can be done with the whole family and are designed with adults in mind as well.
by Christopher Willard, PsyD Year Published: 2006
Willard provides an introduction to mindfulness meditation and practice with young people. Meditations are short and designed for children. Written for parents to use as a guide in teaching their child.
by Jeffrey Bernstein, PhD Year Published: 2018
Bernstein writes an easily accessible guide filled with tools for teens to manage stress and chronic worry. This book teaches how to relax during times of stress and how to use the power of the breath to live in the moment.