Last week I spoke at an Early Childhood Education conference in Edmonton. Mindfulness served as the central theme for their event. And, as you might imagine, the practice of pausing for renewal and pausing to be more thoughtful, for which I’m known, fit right in.
It was a bonus for me to be able to sit in on a couple of other sessions, and I was intrigued to learn more about a new school-based program called MindUP. The program gives young students the tools they need to manage emotions and behaviors, reduce stress, sharpen concentration, and grow empathy and optimism. Sounds like something adults could use, too!
Two elements form the foundation for the program. Students are first introduced to basic brain science. They learn how stressful situations trigger natural defensive emotional reactions which shut down access to the thinking part of the brain. They are then taught to take charge of their brain and their behavior (to gather themselves) through the art of mindful breathing.
Breathing is presented as a way to settle the mind and the emotion – to sidetrack those ‘run away train’ feelings – so they can access the thinking part of the brain, the Prefrontal Cortex. Daily practice sessions (morning, midday and end of day) consist of three minutes of quiet, focused mindful breathing.
MindUP is showing strong results in developing emotional maturity (less anxiety and more calm), social relationships (greater empathy for others), and academic performance. And, the kids who see how well this works in their own lives are teaching their siblings and even their parents how to calm down and get a grip! How cool is that?
Action: Give it a try yourself this week. (more…)