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What Does Mindfulness
Look Like at Eastwood?

Students at Eastwood learn and engage in mindfulness practices in forty-minute sessions twice a week with a certified mindfulness educator.
Students in mindfulness sessions may be found seated in EIS’s garden or working on mats in the multipurpose room.

The Benefits of Teaching Mindfulness

Mindfulness programs target social, emotional, and cognitive skills—skills that a growing corpus of research links to learning and academic achievement. In prefacing their systematic review of studies on the effects of mindfulness programs in schools, Maynard, Solis, Miller, and Brendel of the Campbell Collaboration (2017) note that “numerous social and emotional factors, including emotion regulation, effortful control, social and self-awareness, self-management, relationships skills and decision-making [are] directly and indirectly related to academic performance, school engagement, and externalizing and internalizing behaviors” (p.13). Essentially, students with greater social and emotional skills tend to exercise greater control over their impulses, exhibit stronger concentration and attention, and have greater academic success. And promising research on mindfulness programs in schools is beginning to document how mindfulness practices aid in the development of these skills that are key to student success in school.

Research on mindfulness suggests that its practice and cultivation relies on the development of cognitive processes and functions critical to success in academic, social, and behavioral spheres, specifically attention, self-regulation, executive functioning, and metacognition (Maynard et al., 2017).
A key focus of mindfulness programs is on strengthening control over one’s attention—what to attend to and how long to sustain attention to it. And research shows they are effective. Mindfulness practices have been shown to have a positive impact on improving a variety of dimensions of attention, and some research suggests that mindfulness practices may positively affect the physical structures of the brain responsible for attention (Semple, Droutman, & Reid, 2011; Maynard et al., 2017). A greater ability to control and sustain attention is not only positively associated with successful academic performance, but also with behavior (Maynard et al., 2017).

Self-regulation and executive functioning are two sets of interrelated skills that allow us to focus our attention, recall directions or instructions, plan courses of action, and manage multiple tasks (“Executive Function and Self-Regulation,” 2019). Self-regulation—the awareness of and control over our emotions, thoughts, and actions—is of particular importance to student success. A student’s self-regulation competencies have been found to be a predictor of student achievement in multiple areas important to their overall success in school, including success in math and reading (Duckworth, 2013; Maynard et al., 2017).
Mindfulness practices require learners to exercise self-regulation in attending to their thoughts as they arise, adopting different perspectives on those thoughts and detaching from emotional reaction to them. Studies suggest that engaging in these practices improves self-regulation and alters the architecture of brain associated with self-regulation (Maynard et al., 2017).
Research suggests that mindfulness practices may improve and enhance learners’ executive functioning skills (Maynard et al., 2017; Teper & Inzlicht, 2013). Executive functioning is a term that refers to the set of skills we use to simultaneously focus on information from multiple sources and alter our planning accordingly. In a joint working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs published by Harvard University (2011), executive functioning is described as foundational to student success in both learning and social interactions. “These skills,” the authors write, “support the process (i.e., the how) of learning—focusing, remembering, planning—that enables children to effectively and efficiently master the content (i.e., the what) of learning—reading, writing, computation. They enable children to acquire knowledge and to participate in the school experience as actively engaged and competent learners” (Center on the Developing Child, 2011, p.4-5).

Psychological, Social, and Emotional Benefits of Mindfulness

Research also suggests that mindfulness programs can provide a host of psychological, social, and emotional benefits. This is critical for students, as pressure and stress are barriers to learning and success. In their review of empirical studies on the effects of mindfulness, Keng, Smoski, and Robins (2011) found mindfulness to be positively associated with mental health and improved control over behavior. A review of studies of multiple mindfulness programs implemented in schools found that students who practice mindfulness developed greater social and emotional resiliency, were better able to manage stress related to school, and experienced reduced levels of stress overall (Semple, Droutman, & Reid, 2017).

Further, students who engage in mindfulness consistently report themselves to have an improved sense of overall well-being (Keng, Smoksi, & Robins, 2011; Semple, Droutman, & Reid, 2017). Essentially, mindfulness practices result in learners developing the skills to slow down, step back, and better navigate and manage the complexities of life and learning in school.
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