Is Mindful Learning the Cure?

Adapting to university life can be tough. You are usually worried about grades, living independently for the first time, planning for the future, and other countless things that could potentially become stressors depending on the person. Students experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety often see their wellbeing and academic success affected deeply. (C. Hassed, R. Chambers et 2014, J.Miller et 2014). 

One approach to solving the ‘stress crisis’ is meditation. Especially, mindfulness meditation has been the central study of several cases and articles focusing on its benefits in many areas of our life. 

Mindfulness in simple words is being aware of the present moment through the use of our senses. You might have heard the term if you know something about Buddhism. Mindfulness is part of Buddhist practices but in reality, it is not necessary to be into Buddhism to receive the positive effects of mindfulness techniques. 

Therefore mindfulness seems to be an apparent solution for today’s crisis claiming benefits like relieving stress, enhancing attention, and promoting cognitive and emotional development for the practitioner.

The positive effects of mindfulness are also backed by neuroscience. The benefits of mindfulness in the brain had been studied by neuroscientist Dan Siegel. Siegel found out that these practices supported the brain’s neural integration in young adults suggesting that mindfulness should be present in educational settings as they enter higher education. 

 

According to Candy Gunther Brown in his book Debating Mindfulness in Public Schools by 2018, more than 7 million preschool children were introduced to mindfulness through preschool curriculums such as MindUP, Mindful Schools and Calmer Choices. A number particularly low if we take into consideration the positive impact the evidence is showing about mindfulness.

 

The mindfulness practice as a teacher-learning experience study shows a qualitative example of how 52 graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of majors experience 10 min mindfulness practice at the start of each week’s class for a semester. Every single participant claimed to be more relax and focused. In the word of students: ‘’it helped with managing stress’’, ‘’I felt relax’’ and ‘’Great way to start the day’’. One common feedback was how they failed to maintain a habit of practicing at home. A suggestion was to have a recorded guided meditation which in reality could benefit both teachers and students.

 

Teachers were also part of a study in 2019, in which the impact of mindfulness on pre-service teachers transitioning to professional teaching was observed. The research was based on Instructional support, class organization, and emotional support. The experiment lasted 7 months. The last observation occurred in lead weeks; a period where the pre-service teacher takes full responsibility from the previous teacher. The results from the 97 participants showed an increased result in all of the studied areas. Results showed an increased ability to conduct the class, introduce mindfulness techniques, and an overall increase in emotional wellness, which is usually low on pre-service teachers.

One particularly important but less study benefit of mindfulness is the apparent promotion of connectedness with nature. In a study done in China 134 participants were divided into a mindlessness group (n=69) and a mindfulness group (n=65). They were later tested on three scales to determine their level of connectivity and level of mindfulness. The tests were the Connectedness to Nature Scale (NCN), Langer Mindfulness Scale (LMS), and the Inclusion of Nature in the Self Scale (NSS). The results support that mindful learning promotes intrinsic and extrinsic connectedness to nature.

We are faced with several challenges every day. Mental diseases like stress, anxiety, and depression could be present at any time in our life. Mindfulness not only addresses these challenges but promotes an overall healthy cognitive and emotional intelligence in the practitioner inside and outside school. In these days of uncertainty, mindfulness can be key to be in harmony with the world, with others, and with yourself.  

 

References:

C.Hassed, (2014). Mindful Learning: Reduce stress and improve brain performance for effective learning. Nurse Education Today. 

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2016.12.017

 J.P Miller (2014). Teaching from the Thinking Heart. Information Age. 

D.Siegel (2013)The Power and Purpose of the teenage brain. Penguin Group, NY

C.Gunther Brown (2019)Debating Mindfulness in Public Schools.  Reforming Secular Education or reestablishing religion?, 180-200.

http://www.jstor.com/stable/10.5149/9781469648507_brown.14

K. Jasna (2016) Mindfulness practice as a teaching-learning strategy in higher education. Nurse Education Today. 50, 92-96.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2016.12.017

Hirshberg, J (2019) Integrating Mindfulness and Connection practices into preservice teacher education. Learning and Instruction. 66, 101298.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2019.101298

Wang (2016) Minful learning can promote connectedness to nature: Implicit and Explicit evidence. Counciousness and Cognition. 44, 1-7.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2016.06.006

 

6 thoughts on “Is Mindful Learning the Cure?

  1. I was really happy to find something about mindfulness as this is something that I am really interested in myself. I try to practice mindfulness in my everyday life, especially during university, while I’m taking in so much information all at once. Unfortunately, I find myself losing the motivation to pay attention, which then snowballs me into procrastination.

    It takes a lot of patience to be mindful in what I’m doing, but when I practice mindfulness, it positively affects my learning processes. The motivation drive that comes along with mindfulness is the very reason that I strive to practice it. I can understand why this would be a very important part of a student’s academic career. It gives significant effect towards learning achievement. It showed that not only the mindful learning is effective for the learning but also productive in improving the students’ creativity and critical thinking. (Kadek S. Piscatayanti, 2017). As I said, I often find myself waning in and out of finding that motivation to continue to use mindfulness in my everyday life. I often just find something or hear something that inspires me again, and your blog post did just that.

    References:

    Kadek Sonia Piscayanti (2017), The power of mindful learning in professional development course- (https://www.shs-conferences.org/articles/shsconf/pdf/2018/03/shsconf_gctale2018_00100.pdf)

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  2. Hi Arturo,

    I enjoyed reading your post this week, as I feel this is something that obviously every student deals with during their academic journey and just in life overall. Learning to deal with the stresses of learning and education is essential, and having the ability to deal with stress is a career-long requirement (Rosenzweig et al., 2003). Thus your point on the importance of mindfulness is great, as things (life, education) will inevitably get harder, so it is good to know how to cope and handle the stress, so it doesn’t take over. Thus we bring up the concept of mindfulness practice as it develops “concentration, insight, and physiologic relaxation” (Rosenzweig et al., 2003).

    You presented some significant factual claims and information to back up those claims. I looked into a study done on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and its effect on lowering Psychological Distress in medical students. The purpose of the study was to “implement an MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) intervention for 2nd-year medical students and measure its impact on the psychological well being of participants compared with a control group” (Rosenzweig et al., 2003). Ultimately they came to conclude that mindfulness practice has “the potential to mitigate the full range of academic, social, and existential stressors experienced by medical students” (Rosenzweig et al., 2003), which correlates with the claims you provided. The difference is the study used weekly seminars where the students were taught how to cope with the added stress. You brought up the point of mediation as a useful source; however, do you think this would work better as an individual practise or does working with a group or “support group” work better?

    Rosenzweig, S., Reibel, D. K., Greeson, J. M., Brainard, G. C., & Hojat, M. (2003). Mindfulness-based stress reduction lowers psychological distress in medical students. Teaching and learning in medicine, 15(2), 88-92.

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  3. I found your blog very informative and very enjoyable to read! Many people don’t know about mindfulness and so I really enjoyed how you described it. Mindfulness is brought up in a book I have read by Melanie Greenberg titled “The Stress-Proof Brain” in which it teaches you how to regulate your emotional responses to stress using both mindfulness and neuroplasticity. The book defines mindfulness as an “open, compassionate attitude toward your inner experience that creates a healthy distance between you and your stressful thoughts and feelings, giving you the space to choose between how you respond to them” (Greenberg, 57). The book also goes on to explain how neuroscientific studies have demonstrated actual changes to neurons in the amygdala. Mindfulness is a very important type of practice that should be … because with mindfulness, you learn “how to sit peacefully with your thoughts and feelings in the present moment, thus creating an inner calm to help contain the stress” (Greenberg 57).

    The article “Mindfulness Training in Childhood” by Phillip David Zelazo and Kristen E. Lyons talks about experimental evidence from research with adults and these findings indicate that “mindfulness training produces a variety of salubrious effects, including reduced stress, better immune function, and improved performance on measures of executive function and emotion regulation” (62). The findings in this article demonstrate the positive effects of mindfulness training and these results are all factors that would positively affect students’ mental health and academic performance. Mindfulness should thus be implemented in the education system to help students achieve higher success in both their school and personal lives.

    Zelazo, P., & Lyons, K. (2011). Mindfulness Training in Childhood. Human Development, 54(2), 61-65. doi:10.2307/26764991 (www.jstor.org/stable/26764991 )

    Greenberg, Melanie. (2017). The Stress-Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional Response to Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity. New Harbinger Publications.

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  4. I am so glad to hear a post about this! I’m hoping to focus on it for my blog this week.
    In grade 12 at my high-school they let one of the teachers teach yoga as an elective, she was Vinyasa trained but also had meditation and chanting and the proper yoga philosophy to go with it. I know that from a physical perspective as a rugby player it was life saving and on a spiritual and emotional perspective it was also incredible for me! I was more present in my everyday life, and especially in school. The mindfulness it cultivated was very beneficial in helping me regulate my emotions and feel more purpose, it really helped mitigate my symptoms of depression and ADD so I could feel better in every area of my life and survive the high stress high school experience! If you think about it, the benefits mindful movement or any mindfulness practice brings address a majority of issues in learning, especially by addressing things that have nothing to do with the classroom.
    I found a study that supports my experience with yoga, from a meta-analysis on interventions under mindfulness they stated “several studies demonstrated decreased aspects of psychopathology after the intervention, such as reductions in behavioral problems, as well as decreases in anxiety, depression, affective disturbances, problems in executive function and attention, and suicidal ideation. Several studies also reported increases in a variety of prosocial psychosocial attributes, such as classroom engagement, emotion regulation, social-emotional competence, coping, and positive affect,” (Šouláková et al., 2019).

    This teacher also did a 5-10 minute meditation before she taught her high school English class, the kids loved it and a student with autism benefitted from it immensely and brought it into his own life, and we saw WAY less behavioural issues and outbursts from him. I looked for some research and found some studies that analyzed the effects and got similar results of significant behaviour improvement, they used the get ready to learn classroom program (Koeng et al., 2012).

    That class also motivated me to take my yoga teacher training, and after I had the opportunity to this past summer and I have achieved my highest GPA’s and don’t get overwhelmed and crash from finals/ other stress nearly as often. I definitely notice a difference when I am practicing regularly and not! You are so right. Thanks for offering this solution, it is immensely beneficial and we need more people to know how effective it is!!

    Works consulted:

    Koenig, K. P., Buckley-Reen, A., & Garg, S. (2012). Efficacy of the get ready to learn yoga program among children with autism spectrum disorders: A pretest-posttest control group design. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy : Official Publication of the American Occupational Therapy Association, 66(5), 538-546. doi:10.5014/ajot.2012.004390

    Šouláková, B., Kasal, A., Butzer, B., & Winkler, P. (2019). Meta-review on the effectiveness of classroom-based psychological interventions aimed at improving student mental health and well-being, and preventing mental illness. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 40(3), 255-278. doi:10.1007/s10935-019-00552-5

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  5. I see the beneficial claims that are being made regarding mindfulness. I myself think that practicing mindfulness is great for keep ones self grounded and in the moment. In looking for research regarding mindfulness I came across an article from the Scientific American, what I had read was interesting in that fact that their really isn’t much of scientific research of that actual benefits it may have on the brain or body. The article stated “In an article released in Perspectives on Psychological Science, 15 prominent psychologists and cognitive scientists caution that despite its popularity and supposed benefits, scientific data on mindfulness are woefully lacking.” (Stetka, 2017) I understand that mindfulness at the time of the article publishing may have been a fairly new concepts at the time but, what it stated was “The new paper cites a 2015 review published in American Psychologist reporting…Lead author of the report Nicholas Van Dam, a clinical psychologist and research fellow in psychological sciences at the University of Melbourne, contends potential benefits of mindfulness are being overshadowed by hyperbole and oversold for financial gain. Mindfulness meditation and training is now a $1.1-billion industry in the U.S. alone.” (Stetka, 2017) So it makes me wonder did someone just decide one day they were going to exploit a technique known for practicing buddha’s or did they just want to be able to share a technique that they felt had been so beneficial for themselves they felt they needed others to benefit from it also? Like mentioned I myself have only seen it as being beneficial. I know now since Mindfulness has been used more and more and their is more research done. I just thought that was a interesting article and it made me think. I enjoyed your post.

    Research

    Stetka, B. (2017, October 11). Where’s the Proof That Mindfulness Meditation Works?
    The ubiquitous technique for relieving stress and pain has remarkably little scientific evidence backing it, a group of scientists contend retrived May 19, 2020 from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/wheres-the-proof-that-mindfulness-meditation-works1/.

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