5 Benefits of Mindfulness Practices for PDHPE

mindfulness pdhpe Jul 17, 2023

In today's tech-focused and highly distracted world, integrating mindfulness practices in the PDHPE classroom is transformative. Mindfulness offers numerous benefits for students, ranging from improved focus and reduced stress to enhanced self-awareness and stronger relationships. In this article, we will explore the advantages of incorporating mindfulness practices in PDHPE and provide practical examples of how you can implement mindfulness strategies to promote a positive learning environment. Specifically, I will address 5 key benefits:

  1. Improved focus and attention
  2. Reduced stress and anxiety
  3. Enhanced self-awareness and emotional intelligence
  4. Improved classroom climate and relationships
  5. Boosted Cognitive Skills and Academic Performance

Let's dive right into the first benefit.

1. Improved Focus and Attention

Mindfulness practices help students develop focus and attention skills, essential for effective learning. Mindful breathing is one strategy that could be used to do this. It involves the following steps:

  1. Have students sit in a relaxed state in their chairs. Emphasize the importance of a relaxed yet attentive posture.
  2. Talk to the students in a calm voice and bring their awareness to the natural rhythm of their breath. Encourage them to feel the sensations of the breath entering and leaving the body.
  3. Help students choose a specific point of focus for their breath, such as the feeling of air entering and leaving the nostrils or the rising and falling of the abdomen. Encourage them to focus on this point.
  4. Guide the students to take a few deep breaths, inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Encourage them to notice the sensation of the breath filling their lungs and the release as they exhale. As you do this it can be helpful to count the in and out breath and build up to 6 seconds or more.
  5. Thoughts may arise during the practice, tell students this is normal and part of the experience. Encourage them to acknowledge the thoughts and gently guide their attention back to their breath.
  6. After a few minutes of mindful breathing, slowly bring the practice to a close. Begin to bring their attention back to the present. Ask them to begin by wiggling their fingers slowly shift to opening their eyes and coming back to the lesson. 

By incorporating mindful breathing exercises, you can help students centre themselves before lessons, promoting a state of calm alertness. This results in a greater focus on learning and a quieter classroom. 

Additionally, mindful listening activities can enhance active listening skills during class discussions, fostering deeper understanding and engagement. Below are the steps to use for mindful listening:

  1. Have students sit in a relaxed state in their chairs. Emphasize the importance of a relaxed yet attentive posture.
  2. Direct the students to focus on the sounds around them. Slowly help them to focus on one sound, how it rises and falls, its pitch etc
  3. Begin to direct them to hear more sounds, including ones they didn't notice before such as their breath or the sound of the fan.
  4. Play either an audio recording or some gentle music and ask the students to focus on the details of the sounds and the words that are used.
  5. Provide the students with a minute to reflect and then have them share with each other what they noticed about how this activity made them feel.

When you then have students engage in a class discussion or collaborative activity, they are better able to focus and listen to each other. This practice helps them to reduce their own distractions.

2. Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Mindfulness practices can alleviate stress and anxiety in students, creating a supportive and relaxed classroom atmosphere. Guided mindfulness meditation exercises, such as the mindful breathing activity already described, can be implemented during exam periods to provide students with relaxation and stress relief.

Mindful journaling or drawing activities also offer a creative outlet for self-expression and emotional regulation, helping students navigate challenging emotions and promote well-being. These types of activities can also be helpful when you are about to discuss a controversial or personal topic. Below are some steps you can follow for mindful journaling or drawing:

  1. Explain to the students that they will be engaging in mindful journaling or drawing to promote self-expression, self-reflection, and relaxation.
  2. Create a calm and quiet atmosphere in the classroom. Dim the lights, and play soft music to create a soothing calm atmosphere
  3. Provide students with journaling prompts or drawing themes to guide their mindful expression. Prompts can focus on gratitude, self-reflection, emotions, or capturing the present moment.
  4. Remind them to bring awareness to their thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they write or draw. Sometimes they will see these in their writing or drawing.
  5. Encourage students to observe their thoughts and emotions without evaluation. Remind them that there are no right or wrong answers, the process is about self-expression, self-reflection, and relaxation
  6. If appropriate and comfortable for the students, provide an opportunity for reflective sharing before concluding the activity.

Such an activity as this can be helpful for students to reflect after a discussion on a heated topic, or can be used as an example of a stress or anxiety management strategy one might use in life. It can also be used in relation to managing transitions and challenges, or even to reflect on one's own participation in a PE lesson.

3. Enhanced Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence

Mindfulness practices foster self-awareness and emotional intelligence, enabling students to better understand and manage their emotions. Through body scan meditations, students can connect with their physical sensations and emotions, promoting self-reflection and self-care. Mindful reflection exercises encourage students to recognize and understand their emotions and reactions, enhancing empathy, and developing a greater sense of self-awareness. Here are some steps you can follow for a body scan meditation practice. This can be used well in both practical and theory lessons.

  1. Have the students lie flat on the floor or sit up in a relaxed posture in their chairs.
  2. Begin by guiding the students through some deep breaths focusing on their breathing.
  3. Direct students to focus their attention on a specific starting point, usually the top of the head or the tips of the toes.
  4. Guide them progressively up or down their body, noticing sensations as they go. Guide them through each body part, one by one, moving slowly and mindfully. Encourage them to observe any sensations that arise. These may include warmth, tingling, tension, or any other physical sensations. If this is being done after a practical lesson, you may also have them think about any burning sensations, how puffed they are, if any muscles hurt at all, or a tight and tense.
  5. You will then guide the students to relax each section of their body. Sometimes as I do this I might also get the students to contract their muscles in this area before they relax, this can help them relax completely.
  6.  Throughout the body scan, encourage students to maintain awareness of their breath. 
  7. After the body scan, allow students to slowly come back to the room, open their eyes and sit up.
  8. Have students discuss how their body felt, and the changes that occurred as they relaxed each part of their body.

4. Improved Classroom Climate and Relationships

Integrating mindfulness practices in the classroom contributes to a positive and supportive environment. Mindful gratitude activities nurture appreciation and empathy among students, fostering a sense of community. For example, you could institute gratitude jars or have students write positive letters to each other. Here is how it might work.

  1. Have students decorate their own jar, with their name on it.
  2. Every week give the students a moment to reflect on their time with other students in the class. What are they grateful for about another student? This should be specific and not general. e.g. NOT I like that she is kind, but I am grateful for how you stood up for me at lunch and stopped Kim from talking about my parent's divorce.
  3. They should then write this down on a small piece of paper or sticky note. Let the students write as many as they like, but encourage them to do at least 3 different people.
  4. They then take the notes and place them in each other's jars. 
  5. The students can then go back to their jar and read what others have written.

Please note, there is an opportunity here for a student to be rude or write something that is unhelpful. Consider how you will monitor what is written and/or identify who wrote it. Perhaps give each student s different coloured piece of paper so they are easy for you to identify, or ensure you can be the "postman" and collect the notes before putting them into the jars

Mindful communication exercises, such as active listening techniques also promote respectful and effective communication, strengthening relationships and collaboration within the classroom. One of the most important active listening techniques is empathetic listening. This involves understanding and acknowledging the speaker's emotions and perspective. Training students to put themselves in the other student's shoes with the goal of understanding, not responding. This technique fosters trust and promotes a supportive environment for open communication.

5. Boosted Cognitive Skills and Academic Performance

Mindfulness practices support cognitive skills and academic success. By cultivating mindful awareness of thoughts and emotions, students develop self-regulation and decision-making abilities. Mindful study techniques, such as focused attention exercises such as focused object training.

  1. Provide each student with a small object, such as a pencil, paperclip, or stone.
  2. Instruct students to hold the object in their hands and examine it closely without speaking.
  3. Encourage them to observe the object's texture, shape, weight, and any other details they notice.
  4. Ask students to take turns sharing their observations with a partner or writing them down in a journal.
  5. Emphasize the importance of focused attention and being fully present in the moment while examining the object.
  6. Repeat this exercise with different objects, even having the students examine each other's faces, to further enhance students' observational skills and concentration.

Mindful reading strategies, such as annotating and reflecting can also enhance concentration, memory retention, and information processing, ultimately improving academic performance.

  1. Before starting the reading, have students gather a pen or pencil and a notebook.
  2. As they read, teach them to underline or highlight key passages or sentences that resonate with them or are key to understanding the topic.
  3. In the margins or in a separate journal, have them jot down reflections, questions, and insights that emerge as they read. Have students write down their thoughts and make clear connections to other ideas or personal experiences they have.
  4. Take brief breaks to pause and reflect on what they have read. Use this time to engage in brief mindfulness practice, such as deep breathing or a moment of silent awareness, to refocus their attention.
  5. After completing the reading, have students review their annotations and reflections. Consider the overall message or theme of the text and how it relates to their own life, experiences, or understanding of the world.
  6. Finally, have them engage in a discussion or share their reflections with others if appropriate, as this can deepen their understanding and provide an opportunity for further exploration and connection.


Integrating mindfulness practices in the classroom offers a wide range of benefits for students, contributing to their overall well-being and learning. By incorporating mindfulness strategies, you can nurture focus, reduce stress, enhance self-awareness, foster positive relationships, and boost cognitive skills. All of which have clear connections to our syllabus. The examples provided serve as a starting point for you to explore and implement mindfulness practices in your classrooms. As we embrace mindfulness in education, we create environments that support students' holistic development, equipping them with valuable tools for lifelong well-being and success.

References

  1. Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom - Patricia A. Jennings
  2. The Power of Mindful Learning - Ellen Langer
  3. Mindful Learning: Reduce Stress and Improve Brain Performance for Effective Learning - Dr Craig Hassed & Dr Richard Chambers
  4. Check out my interview with Kailey Lefko below from EdCalme

 

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