Mindfulness: The Benefits for Students in Preschool-Middle School

Coming out of several years of a pandemic has certainly indicated a greater need for mental, emotional, behavioral, social, and overall psychological support. As we search for effective ways to help ourselves, our students/children, and our family members navigate increased stress, depression, and anxiety (to name a few), there is a wonderful tool at our fingertips. In years past, mindfulness and meditation may have been seen as alternative or too good to be true, but research has continued to show the incredible power of such a state and its practices.  

The American Psychological Association shares Walsh and Shapiro’s description of mindfulness as follows,

“We define mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. While it might be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them.  Several disciplines and practices can cultivate mindfulness, such as yoga, tai chi and qigong, but most of the literature has focused on mindfulness that is developed through mindfulness meditation — those self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calmness, clarity and concentration (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006).

Furthermore, if you are an empirical data person, the APA notes the research supporting the effectiveness of Mindfulness with the following information,

“Many studies show that practicing mindfulness reduces stress. In 2010, Hoffman et al. conducted a meta-analysis of 39 studies that explored the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The researchers concluded that mindfulness-based therapy may be useful in altering affective and cognitive processes that underlie multiple clinical issues. Those findings are consistent with evidence that mindfulness meditation increases positive affect and decreases anxiety and negative affect. In one study, participants randomly assigned to an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction group were compared with controls on self-reported measures of depression, anxiety and psychopathology, and on neural reactivity as measured by fMRI after watching sad films (Farb et al., 2010). The researchers found that the participants who experienced mindfulness-based stress reduction had significantly less anxiety, depression and somatic distress compared with the control group. In addition, the fMRI data indicated that the mindfulness group had less neural reactivity when they were exposed to the films than the control group, and they displayed distinctly different neural responses while watching the films than they did before their mindfulness training. These findings suggest that mindfulness meditation shifts people’s ability to use emotion regulation strategies in a way that enables them to experience emotion selectively, and that the emotions they experience may be processed differently in the brain (Farb et al., 2010; Williams, 2010).”

Boulder Country Day has been utilizing mindfulness techniques and practices with students for years. With a dedication to implementing empirically proven intervention strategies with our students, training and certifications in Mindful-Based Stress Reduction (https://www.mbsrtraining.com/), Yoga for the Classroom (https://yoga4classrooms.com/about/), and SKY meditation (https://skyschools.org/breathewithme/), mindful practices have been taught in Kid Power classes as well as in individual counseling with students. In addition to whole classroom instruction, just about 13 years ago we started using biofeedback as a tool with students on an individual basis in the counseling office to help them grow their emotional regulation skills, and help them feel more empowered regarding their big emotions/energy (https://wilddivine.com/pages/iom2).  A number of our teachers across campus are implementing and weaving mindfulness into daily routines. One can often witness teachers leading their classes in “mindful moments” throughout their days.  In middle school, yoga and mindfulness classes have been offered through the Explore program- which always get rave reviews from students. Even our youngest pre-school Bulldogs use meditative, slow-down exercises.  These tools have improved the wellness of our students, and we have seen the benefits first hand– and kids love it!  Teaching and using mindfulness in the classroom has been wonderful.

  • Authors: Sterling Kranjcec, BCD School Counselor and Mai Nguyen, BCD School Counselor

If you haven’t explored mindfulness, or you would like to learn more, we encourage you to attend our upcoming Parent Education Series on November 15th from 8-9am with Emily France, an author, lawyer, and fellow BCD parent, to learn how to incorporate mindfulness into life with young children.

Event details and registration here – Boulder Country Day School: Parent Education Series