How Does Mindfulness Help Students Combat Stress, Anxiety and Attention Deficiency
Does school or life itself ever make you stressed or anxious? Do you sometimes have trouble focusing, finding yourself forgetting what you were just about to do, or drifting in and out of work and other tasks? You’re not alone!
In fact, recent evidence suggests that mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and ADHD have increased steadily in Australia (and in many other Western countries) for at least a decade. Today:
- 1 in 7 Australians aged between 4 and 17 are experiencing a mental health condition.
- As many as 1 in 3 young Australians are experiencing high psychological distress.
- Almost 7% of young people are suffering from an anxiety disorder.
- As many as 1 in 10 children are suffering from ADHD.
- Suicide is the leading cause of death in young people.
But don’t despair! This isn’t a runaway train – the situation is firmly within your control, here we will explore how mindfulness helps students combat stress, anxiety and attention deficiency.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is nothing more than a deliberate focus on bringing one’s attention to the present moment. It might involve meditation, but it also might not. The practice of mindfulness could be literally hundreds of different things! Eating your lunch, walking to the bus stop, listening to music, playing sport – all of these activities may be a chance to practice mindfulness, so long as your attention is fully focused on that activity.
Why is mindfulness important?
Mindfulness is about training yourself to focus on the here and now, without being pulled away by distractions. It is about slowing down, and enjoying life for what it is, without becoming stressed or anxious or overwhelmed about what has happened, or what might happen – remembering that those time zones do not exist in the reality of the present.
I want you to stop and think for a moment. Bring to your mind the last time you scrolled through Instagram or TikTok, or the last time you sat and watched TV, or the last time you got the train home with your friend. How much of it can you recall? Were you fully focused on that moment, giving it your absolute attention, or did other things pull your attention away? Did you enjoy it? Were you happy in that moment? Or if not, what other things did you feel?
For better or worse, life has become chaotic and overloaded in many, many ways. Technologies have made us more connected than humans have ever been before. It is now so easy to send (and receive) a call, a message, or any other kind of alert or notification at any time on any day. Life is truly 24/7, it never seems to stop! As a result, we live life in a state of flux. It is harder and harder to devote our attention to one thing, without our minds constantly being pushed and pulled away.
How Mindfulness Can Help Students
The practice of mindfulness has been found to have a number of fantastic benefits for life, many of which can be directly applied to school and learning, including:
- Improved emotional and behavioural regulation. This allows us to respond to successes or failures with perspective, recognising that we are not defined by our results. Each day is a new chance to keep improving!
- Improved focus. The practice of focusing our attention on one thing for extended periods of time has obvious benefits when it comes time to work. By working mindfully, we reduce our susceptibility to distractions and can get into the zone. There’s a good chance this will boost academic performance too!
- Reduced feelings of anxiety. The practice of mindfulness is designed to bring our minds and our bodies into a state of unity, in which we feel and observe changes in the moment. It is the opposite of anxiety in the sense that, generally speaking, anxiety stems from a disconnect between brain and body, when we start perceiving our environments incorrectly,
- Better social skills. By practicing mindfulness, we become better at simply paying attention. In turn, this will allow us to connect with people more sincerely and deeply, paving the way for an improved social life.
How do I practice mindfulness?
As mentioned, the practice of mindfulness can take many different forms. Classic meditation is probably the best known, but honestly it can be anything, so long as it is an activity that you can commit all of your attention to. Here are a few easy practices to try:
Don’t be scared off by the name, you don’t have to be a hippie or a Buddhist monk to meditate – anyone can do it! Find somewhere comfortable. Sit down or lie down and close your eyes. Take deep breaths in and out, bringing your attention fully to your breathing as you do. Count your inhales and your exhales. You might like to try counting up to 10, and then backwards down to zero. Don’t put any pressure on yourself, if thoughts creep in or you lose count, simply start again. Also, you may like to set a timer (5 or 10 minutes or so), or else just do it for as long as feels comfortable.
Too many people say they don’t have time to meditate, but honestly we can all find 5 or 10 minutes from somewhere in our day.
Exercise? That isn’t mindfulness? You bet it is, and it can also be fun and healthy at the same time. Think about it, whether you’re simply going for a jog or you’re playing your favourite sport, the physically demanding nature of exercise makes it very hard to focus on anything else. I bet you’re not thinking about your maths homework on the soccer pitch or the netball court! Exercise is a sort of ‘natural’ way of practicing mindfulness. If meditation isn’t your thing, maybe this could be.
Also, exercising is a great way to enjoy some quality time with yourself. In the chaotic, ever-connected way of the world today, finding the time to be alone in your thoughts is becoming increasingly difficult. Switch your phone to aeroplane mode for half an hour, head out for a walk or a jog, and give yourself a bit of space from the mayhem.
Okay, so you’re not into meditation, and exercise isn’t too appealing either. No worries! An art session can be a fun and wonderful way to practice mindfulness. And it can be anything you like – drawing, painting, sculpting, woodwork – the list is endless. Like the other methods though, the trick is to focus your attention fully on the art. Throw on some relaxing music (but make sure your phone is on aeroplane mode!) and get creative!
Listening to music.
That’s right, practicing mindfulness can be as easy as listening to music. This method does present some challenges though, mostly because for most of us our music library is contained on the same device that pings with hundreds of notifications every day! So again, if you’re going to use this one, it’s absolutely essential that you’ve got your phone switched to aeroplane mode so it can’t be a distraction. Queue up a playlist, or a mix or an album, close your eyes if you like, and focus your attention completely on the music, as if you were seeing or hearing it live. Enjoy the beauty of the sounds and the lyrics and get lost in the music.
Eating or drinking.
Okay, if nothing has caught your eye yet, surely there’s no shying away from this one. Eating and drinking, which we all do every single day, are an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Again, like all of these methods, you need to be fully focused on the activity. Don’t be on your phone or watching TV. Sit down with your meal or your drink, and focus only on that. Try and pay attention to the smells and to the different tastes and textures. Cooking is a true art, and this is your chance to honour and experience it fully!
If you are wanting to improve your child’s mindfulness, our academic personal trainers would be able to help you! Click here to find a tutor today!