Cultivating Focus, Resilience, and Compassion
Mindfulness, the simple practice of bringing a gentle, accepting attitude to the present moment, may be one of the most important skills promoted at Harley. By developing compassion, focus, curiosity, and empathy children experience the power of mindfulness and understand the ways it can support them in personal growth, learning, and life.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Everyone faces adversity, no matter their age—after all, life is complicated! Every developmental stage can utilize mindfulness tools to decrease anxiety and promote happiness.
Mindfulness strengthens social and emotional learning practices, skills and outcomes, and is an essential component in dealing with physical and/or emotional stress.
Students who practice mindfulness experience increases in:
- Emotional control
- Prosocial goals
- Mindful attention
Habits formed early inform behaviors later, even extending into adulthood. Mindfulness provides the opportunity to provide children with the habit of being kind, peaceful, and accepting. It can offer relief from difficulties as well as allowing children the joy of being truly in the present.
As childrens’ brains develop, connections in the prefrontal circuits are created fastest during early childhood. Mindfulness, which promotes skills controlled in the prefrontal cortex such as cognitive control or focus, can make a meaningful impact.
One example can be found in our Art & Mindfulness program for Lower School. Art has a natural connection to the practice of being mindful. When the sensory experiences of art are combined with mindfulness, students not only gain a deeper, more creative, and fulfilling approach to art-making, they are able to express how they are feeling through their work. Additionally, the Lower School faculty and counselor support student Mindfulness practices through the implementation of daily Responsive Classroom strategies and as part of the Social Emotional Learning curriculum.
As children grow and become more independent, mindfulness is an important tool to have at the ready as they work through setbacks, meet new people, and take on new responsibilities. Using mindfulness, students can work through problems faster by understanding ways to stop and address an issue, remembering that difficulties will pass, and that they have control of themselves and their responses.
Every Grade 5 student attends a trimester-long Mindful Living class twice a week where they explore what it means to live mindfully; as well as how to integrate breathing, meditation, and mindful practices into their daily lives. Utilizing the Mindful Schools curriculum, students uncover skills they can use to cope with daily stresses, worries, fears and anxieties, as well as mindful tools to use in social interactions with others.
In Grade 6, this practice is deepened through our WISE (Working Together: International Student/Senior Exchange) program. Supported by a curriculum that is rooted in social-emotional learning, students engage in purposeful, intergenerational exchange with community-based elders. Together, students and elders learn and practice the tenets of the five core social-emotional competencies which are the foundation of a solid mindfulness education. Furthermore, our students are now challenged to apply their mindfulness skills in real world ways with people who are very different from them.
According to research from the American Psychological Association, teens report higher levels of stress than adults. They often engage in “escape” behaviors such as playing video games or surfing the net. As part of our Grade 10 Health curriculum, mindfulness is taught as an invaluable tool in gaining increased self-awareness and learning emotional regulation.
Mindfulness is especially appealing to this age group when students are able to apply it to relationships. One of our goals for Upper School is to reinforce that each relationship—and interaction—will benefit when students make an effort to stay present, listen carefully, and speak with honesty and kindness.
The Hospice course, a year-long elective for seniors, challenges students in their final year at Harley to apply the skills of mindfulness while connecting with and caring for people at the end of their lives. Through the course, students practice cultivating and offering the gift of compassionate, attuned presence to those who are grieving and dying.
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