Did you know that the ‘Father’ of mindfulness meditation is Jon Kabat-Zinn?
Yes, it was a molecular biologist, in the name of Jon Kabat-Zinn who introduced mindfulness meditation into the realms of medicine but without the accompanying Buddhism teachings.
Mindfulness meditation was introduced as a stress reduction program in the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979.
According to the founder, “mindfulness meditation is a moment-to-moment awareness cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of wisdom and control in our lives.”
Fast forward to more than 30 years after the introduction of mindfulness meditation, a lot of research has shown evidence that by practicing mindfulness; you reap various psychological and physical health benefits.
Mindfulness meditation is not focused on sitting rigidly on a lotus position as if you are the epitome of a Buddhist statue of meditation. In fact, it is more about living your life in the here and the now.
A Real-Life Example of Mindful Kids
There are a lot of school teachers who have turned to mindfulness meditation to reduce attention disorders, conflict, and anxiety in their classroom.
In one perfect example is the class of teacher Steve Reidman at Toluca Lake Elementary School in Los Angeles.
Reidman was a fourth grade schoolteacher for over several years when he began experiencing classroom management problems, which became a first for him. He saw that quarrels in the playground were increasing and affecting the schoolchildren’s ability to concentrate and settle down in class. That was when his friend Kaiser offered to teach mindfulness in his classroom.
According to teacher Reidman, he noticed a big difference in his classroom almost instantaneously. He noticed that the children were less anxious for a test and there was less conflict in the playground. Even with the way the kids walked to the classroom was different.
Further, he also asked the children to do some mindfulness breathing right before their exams and their state test scores went up that year. Although, Reidman believes that it is also because of his teaching skills that they were able to achieve higher score; but he also would like to attribute it to the kid’s better state of mind brought about by mindfulness meditation. And this was years ago.
Currently, a lot of classes in the same school make use of mindfulness meditation. As one teacher asked the classroom of kids, ‘what did you notice about your breath this morning?’ Some children would respond ‘it was like smoke’ and another said ‘mine was like a dragon.’
And one 7-year old child summed up the experience by saying, ‘I like the class because it makes me calm and soft inside.’ It was also documented that after two to three weeks of mindfulness instruction, one classroom, which had the most number of behavioral problems as gauged by visits to the principal’s office, progressed to having no behavioral problems.
In fact, in one second grade class, Emily was reported to verbalize that ‘last week she made a drawing for her best friend, but her little brother tore it and that she was quite mad at him.’ And she added that, she used deep breathing to calm herself and the good thing was, she got over her anger and realized that she could make the drawing again. This is such a huge leap of positive attitude from such a small person.
Based on further research, children and teacher interview, researchers have found that children who underwent mindfulness instructions were more attentive in class, less oppositional toward teachers, and less aggressive.
With children interviews, kids have reported that they are feeling more positive emotions like optimism. And based on teacher observations, the kids were more introspective than those who were not instructed in mindfulness meditation.
The Benefits of Mindfulness for Your Kid
There are so many benefits that we can reap from mindfulness. We will be basing the stated benefits of mindfulness in scientific and parallel studies.
1 - Acceptance
One of the components of mindfulness training is acceptance, where it is non-judgmental.
It is like an observance of the here and now, taking note of what’s really happening without identifying each item or action as good or bad.
In clinical and medical populations, mindfulness training includes acceptance of emotions, thoughts, worries, and pain without trying to change, avoid, or escape them.
Since the individuals are willing to stay with the negative emotions and pain, they benefit more because of a greater sense of self-acceptance.
2 - Relaxation
We have to emphasize that mindfulness is not the same as relaxation and nor is relaxation the goal of mindfulness.
To reiterate, the goal of mindfulness is living in the here and the now, a moment by moment of purposeful awareness.
However, through meditation a person does become relaxed.
Often, researchers observe that there is a decrease in heart rate, breathing and muscle tension because of practicing mindfulness which also slows down racing thoughts just by taking time to observe each thought.
3 - Self-Management
Mindfulness in itself is already a self-management intervention.
In self-awareness of a pattern or problem the first step is change.
Just by sitting down and focusing your attention and awareness on the moment and of the moment that the urges emerge, the stressors and triggers of the urge can also come into focus which will assist in an active problem solving.
This is especially useful in people who are facing addiction and behavioral problems like substance abuser and bulimic person.
4 - Cognitive Change
Cognitive change can also be achieved through mindfulness meditation.
It can lead to changes in the attitude of one’s thoughts and even in thought patterns.
Take for example, just because you are scared of monsters in the dark, do not necessarily mean there are really monsters there or just because you think that you are a failure does not make it so.
Once you realize and accept this concept, cognitive change happens.
5 - Health Benefits
So far there have been recorded observations of the benefits entailed with a mindfulness meditation therapy or training.
Various health benefits were seen and recorded but specific scientific reasons for the changes have not yet been looked into deeper.
Examples of the health benefits reaped by mindfulness meditation practitioners were: reduced cholesterol levels, a reduction in blood pressure, alleviate depression and other mental illness (eating disorders, post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety and more), improved ability to handle stress, and a reduction in chronic pain.
6 - Benefits for Children
Currently, there are few studies that really looked into the benefits of mindfulness training in children.
So, far here is what they have learned and observed when it comes to mindfulness benefits for children:
- As we have mentioned earlier, there was one classroom full of children who benefitted from mindfulness training with a positive behavioral change as gauged by the student’s visit to the principal’s office.
- In one study conducted by UCLA, they found that mindfulness meditation positively helps teenagers battle with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by increasing their ability to focus and reducing their anxiety levels.
- In one of the classroom examples we have cited above, it was found out that mindfulness meditation helps children lessen their anxiety for a test and they have also appeared to do better in their exam results.
So far, as experts in the field have put it, there’s still so much to be done and studies to really know the depths of how mindfulness can benefit a child.
Most studies available are based on adults and it has shown to be beneficial for adults in terms of increasing happiness, health, decreasing depressing, and stress—now, wouldn’t it be plain selfish to withhold these wonderful benefits from children?
Further, experts also speculate and wonder if the benefits of mindfulness can help preschoolers learn to regulate their behaviors and their emotions in order to be successful all throughout their schooling years.
Moreover, they also wonder if mindfulness can help children all throughout their life and if it could protect them against future mental illnesses in the future.
All of these possibilities are being looked forward to with optimism since responses to the program are positive and little resistance was encountered when the mindfulness program was introduced.