Mindfulness is a way of being and thinking that grows out of paying attention, on purpose and without judgment, to what is happening in the present moment. When we are mindful, we deliberately slow down to notice what is happening inside us (our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations), and what is happening outside us, in our environment. The intention is to see things as they are, rather than as they used to be or as we wish they could be. The good news is that the development of mindfulness helps us notice our emotions without being triggered by them. It moves us from living on automatic pilot to pausing and paying deliberate attention to what is happening in the now.
Mindfulness For Youth While youth are constantly being told to pay attention, they receive very little instruction in how to do it. The truth is that once they step outside the classroom and leave algebra and world history behind, they are faced with real challenges and daily frustrations that can’t be solved with the knowledge of quadratic equations or battle dates. While the education system provides students with cognitive training, adolescents are mostly on their own to manage the emotional ups and downs that are part of their biological development.
With increasing numbers of students entering high school struggling to live happy and productive lives, the time is ripe for a type of education that serves the development of the whole person. Mindfulness and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) does just that. It is referred to as the “missing piece” in education and is a growing body of work that is being researched worldwide. For the most recent article on the subject matter, take a peek here at the research findings that emerged through the visionary leadership of the Collaborative of Academic, Social and Emotional Learning.
Many adolescents struggle with the uncertainty and transitions they face as they move into their adult lives. We know that mental health problems impact students academic and social functioning and interfere with their ability to learn. These problems when undetected can be exacerbated by the pressures of school, and so, place them at risk for more serious outcomes such as depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicide. What all the above means is that there is growing recognition that a well-rounded education must involve more than academics; it must also involve learning experiences and skills related to social and emotional literacy, including the practice of mindfulness.