When the word “mindfulness” is dropped, people sometimes picture a hypothetical human lightly pressing their middle finger and thumb against each other as beaming lights surround them. This person’s eyes are closed, and their legs are likely folded like a pretzel, too. While meditation exists as one practice of mindfulness, the concept of being mindful actually encapsulates a larger idea. Being mindful means being aware of your body and its surroundings. Frankly, mindfulness should be a practice that every professor and student attempts in the classroom.
Being mindful in a classroom can be as simple as being present. While computers and phones are easily at our disposal, learning and communication would improve by putting these away for three hours of our day. Perhaps it may not feel like course material is always the most pressing or intriguing, but allowing ourselves to focus on the situation at hand, even if it is not thrilling, is beneficial to our minds. It can allow us to be fully present in a moment, as opposed to attempting to multitask.
Furthermore, most professors will give students time for a break in the middle of class. Students may take this break to get snacks, go to the restroom, or finish incomplete homework. It is even more common, though, for students to use this time to engross themselves in their devices. It often feels like we have been without our technology for a long time, after a mere hour and a half. What about simply taking that break time to speak with classmates? I have found that blocks are much more beneficial when I feel comfortable with the students in my class. As such, being mindful of those around us and speaking with peers is an incredibly easy way to practice mindfulness throughout the day.
Classes are often fast-paced. As students, it is hard to take a moment to catch our breath. However, paying attention to the pace of our breathing, the length of our breaths, or the consistencies of our inhales and exhales can aid in regulating moods. Sometimes I do not even realize when I am acting frantic until I take a moment to examine my breathing.
One last way students can practice mindfulness during a class is by checking in with our thoughts. Try to pay attention to where your mind is. Are you thinking about the course material in front of you? Are you thinking about plans later in the evening? Are you thinking about the amount of work you have yet to complete? As I said, mindfulness is the practice of being present. The educational experience we are attempting to have in class may be completely lost if we cannot be present with our thoughts.
Meditation, being present, and being aware are often ideas we associate with spiritual activities and people. Yet that does not mean it is not beneficial for the greater population. Practicing mindfulness is a way to relieve stress and anger, as well as to improve general emotional health. It is simply an acquired habit of being aware of your body and its surroundings throughout each day.
I hope you all take a moment today to practice mindfulness.