The Art of Mindfulness

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As a society, we are much open about our mental health than ever before, but the modern world has brought new pressures for children. The art of mindfulness, as part of curriculum, can improve the mental health of students.

The recent news from the UK has buzzed up the entire education sector. Till now the students were learning conventional subjects like Mathematics, Science, History and Language. But hundreds of schools in the country are planning to expand their curriculum by introducing a new subject called mindfulness. The British Government said, “At least 370 English school students will start practicing the art of mindfulness as part of their study to improve the mental health of their pupils.”

The government release announces that, “The students will work with mental health experts to learn relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and other methods to help them regulate their emotions.” Damian Hinds, the British education secretary said, “As a society, we are much open about our mental health than ever before, but the modern world has brought new pressures for children.” He further added that the introduction of this programme in British schools will be the largest programme of its kind in the world. Here, the children will be introduced gradually to issues around mental health, well-being and happiness right from primary school.

The background…

The UK’s National Health Service survey found that 1 in 8 children in England between the ages of 5 to 19 suffered from at least one mental disorder. The survey, which was published in November, also indicated an increase in mental disorders in 5 to 15-year-old kids. Disorders like anxiety and depression were the most common, affecting 1 in 12 children and early adolescents, and appeared more in girls. Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns for Action for Children calls it a “children’s mental health crisis.” While the formal implementation of mindfulness programmes in schools can be traced from USA, but they were restricted to certain institutions only. The recent implementation by the UK government will provide the much-needed impetus to the programme worldwide.

The Indian link…

Renowned psychologist and child pedagogy expert Vikas Attry hails this move. He describes mindfulness as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. He said, although the western world traces the origin of mindfulness practices from Buddhist literature and Zen philosophy, it can further be traced from the ancient Indian texts like Vedas and Bhagawatam. Attry believes that mindfulness is natural but it can still be taught and cultivated amongst young children through proven techniques like meditation and dhyana.

Benefits of sports…

Yoga and sports play a pivotal role in inculcating mindfulness. Short pauses in everything we do strengthens it. When we are mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind and increase our attention span. We also focus on the wellbeing of others. That is exactly what the philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ teaches us.

Benefits of mindfulness practices…

The applications of mindfulness in schools are aimed at calming and relaxation of students as well as for educators to build compassion and empathy for others. The application of mindfulness practices shows an improvement of pupils’ attention and focus, emotional regulation, critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills.

The best part of mindfulness is not something which is coming from the outside world or something for which we need the experts to teach. Mindfulness is from within. It is related to everything we do and practice. One doesn’t need to change in order to learn the art of mindfulness, rather it shapes the best of us. Collective mindfulness has the potential to transform society. Mindfulness is for everyone and anybody can practice it. It requires universal human qualities rather than religious orientations. Mindfulness is a way of living that can spark innovation.

On a concluding note…

India also needs a constructive change like this in our education system. The best part is, mindfulness practices are fully aligned to our ‘Sanatana Dharma’. It’s just that we have to understand its high worth and how it can spread positivity.

Jagdeep S. More is an Educator having a decade of experience in education sector. He is a CBSE Resource Person and a mentor with Trinity College of London (India Office).He is a Cambridge CELTA certified professional having a Post Graduate Degree in English Literature and a Degree in Education.He is an avid writer who writes for newspapers and magazines on topics related to education.