Teaching mindfulness in school

Studies suggest mindfulness boosts concentration, decreases stress

Students aren't just studying reading and arithmetic anymore. Fourth graders are meditating.

"Feel all that tension go."

Kindergartners are practicing mindful breathing.

"One more time and hold it. And out like Darth Vader."

At Harris Hill Elementary School, every class is learning how to be more mindful of themselves and others.

"Mindfulness can be different things like meditating, deep breathing," said fourth grader Adam Elbousty.

Teachers have noticed a difference.

"They're less impulsive with each other. They think about their words before they speak, so it definitely spills to into the daily routines," Heidi Palmiero-Potter, a fourth grade teacher, said.

Mindfulness and meditation techniques are now being used in schools across the country.

A recent study by the University of California-Davis and the nonprofit organization Mindful Schools found mindfulness training triples students' ability to focus and participate in class activities.

School psychologist Michelle Braun-Burget began testing these techniques with students three years ago.

"What I'm finding is there are a lot of students even at this age, which is K through fifth grade, 5-year-olds to 10, and 11-year-olds, who are anxious and nervous and have trouble focusing," Braun-Burget said.

She said now students are more self-confident.

"They're just more aware of themselves and what makes them upset, what makes them nervous, and they have better control now of how to deal with it."

A recent Australian study found mindfulness can also improve sleep quality and lessen disruptive and bullying behavior in schools.

"If someone's having a hard time, they give them the strategies also," Palmiero-Potter said. "I've heard students say, 'Do your breathing.'"

It's a lesson that extends beyond the classroom.

"The point behind the techniques that mindfulness brings is helping those children learn coping strategies no matter what their circumstances are," Braun-Burget said.

Mindfulschools.org says it has trained teachers in all 50 states and more than 100 countries. To learn more, click here.

To watch the short film on school mindfulness, "Just Breathe," click here.

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