Why do kids need to be mindful?
Avinash Saurabh, founder of Aware, lists out the benefit of introducing
mindfulness practices in the school curriculum.
It’s not easy being a kid. Most often adults refer to childhood as simpler times in their lives. As the challenges of adult lives take precedence and become enormous mountains to scale on a day to day basis, sometimes threatening our very survival, the stresses and emotional conflicts of childhood seem trivial.
But when we faced them back then, they were very real and very daunting. Changing schools, moving to a new city or being isolated by our friends caused us significant stress as children. And how we dealt with them formed the framework through which we interpret the world today and base our set of life skills on.
Protecting the foundation of mankind
The experiences we have and the way we deal with them shape us every day of our lives to make us the individuals we are today. And that is why the importance of raising well adjusted mindful children cannot be overstated for they are the very nucleus that will shape the world of tomorrow.
The rapidly changing times are bringing complexities and stresses which are being felt by individuals, families, communities and countries alike and our children are reflecting and mimicking the nervous systems of the adults around them. The challenges of our children in this deeply connected world are also unique. Trolling, mean texts, bullying, racism, violent content and isolation are realities too stark for these young impressionable minds to deal with. It comes as no surprise then that many psychology studies are documenting even very young children as suffering from more anxiety than any generation before them.
A case for mindfulness
Mindfulness is an age old practice which originated in ancient India more than 4000 years ago. It is a meditation practice that begins with paying attention to your breathe in order to bring focus to the present moment—bringing pause and helping us feel centered. This creates a distance between the situation and us and keeps us from being impulsive or reactive.
Scholarly research proves that mindfulness practice help to bring down stress and anxiety levels, improves the ability to feel compassion and connect with others, develops patience and increases attention among many other benefits.
One simple mindfulness practice added to our day and done consistently can benefit children and adults alike immediately, taking the sting away from a chaotic challenge and helping children feel calm and connected to their inner peace.
Neuroscience and Mindfulness
Neural plasticity, which is the ability of the brain to form new neural connections and change throughout an individual’s life, is a phenomena children’s’ brains are more responsive to as compared to adults. The proportion of grey matter and synapses undergo a change more easily in developing brains which is why the long-term benefits of following mindful practices yield more lasting benefits to children than adults.
The Amygdala which is aroused in response to difficult emotions like fear has proven to show reduced stimulation after mindfulness training. Conversely the workings of the Hippocampus which is critical to learning and memory and the Prefrontal Cortex which regulates emotions and helps make wise decisions become more active exhibiting denser grey matter following mindfulness training.
The cognitive skills, social-emotional skills, and sense of well being – all exhibit long-term improvements and benefits in children who are exposed to mindfulness practices at an early age.
Mindfulness in schools
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), basis recent nationally representative surveys, reported that ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children and some of these conditions commonly occur together.
- 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.
- 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.
A recent study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry based on a survey of more than 700 randomly selected students found that almost half of them (53%) were suffering from either moderate or severe form of depression.
Why this is a cause for concern is because childhood anxiety can be a precursor to other problems in adolescent years and adulthood. Teaching children to pay attention to their breath and inviting them to rest in the space between the breaths makes them aware of the quiet stillness present in each one of us regardless of the outward circumstances. Teaching them this felt experience of awareness helps them become aware of their thoughts and feelings, empowering them to make a different choice in behavior and uplifting the mood.
Life skills more important than degree
The benefit of introducing mindfulness practices in the school curriculum expands the outreach and awareness of its application helping with early intervention to emotional unrest building happier, more fulfilled adults. It can help to:
- Calm the students making them less emotionally reactive and capable of choosing their behavior
- Help educators to build compassion and empathy to build emotionally supportive classrooms
- Reduce anxiety and stress in students and develop self-acceptance
- Develop attention control
- Assist children with ADHD, PTSD and those on the autism spectrum
- Build self-awareness and self-regulation
- Treat depression
The need of the hour
Systems falter as do humans in how we raise our children. And the world today is replete with opportunities to get off-balance.
Which is why arming our children with the right skill set to navigate the choppy waters of life more mindfully is the pressing need of the hour.
This must become the beginning of a movement to make mindfulness practices mainstream and common place to build the skill of achieving sustainable emotional health and happiness in our children.
Introducing kid friendly mindfulness practices in school curriculum will help the children identify with the always existing inner-peace to tap into at will and re-center themselves amid the chaos we have come to recognize as life.
(About the author: Avinash Saurabh is a passionate advocate of mindful living and has a strong experience in building and leading successful habit formation and mindfulness companies. He founded ‘Aware’ in 2017, with an aim to create awareness about the importance of mindfulness and how mindfulness can help one attain happiness in a sustainable way. Avinash understood early on in his life that while happiness maybe mankind’s ultimate purpose, it can’t be one more thing we need to achieve, instead it is more of a byproduct of the kind of life we design for ourselves. According to him, it all comes down to what you do repeatedly, not where you are headed that determines your state of mind. It is this discovery that promoted his mission then; that of measurably improving the happiness of the world. He did this by focusing on what people did with their lives to improve their life state, as opposed to focusing on the end goal of happiness itself. That was the cornerstone of his first venture – Zoojoo.be, a habit formation platform, that has been widely accepted by Corporates across India. It helps users to form healthy habits, using gamification and social collaborations. It is this belief that is the linchpin of his second venture too, Aware, a mindfulness meditation app that focuses on helping people improve their lives and make it happier by adding some measure of mindful awareness in every aspect of their life. According to him, it is about inculcating the right habits which will eventually help one to lead a more peaceful and happier life. Avinash was named as the ‘Game Changer – Under 30’ by Indian Express in the year 2015, was awarded the prestigious INK fellowship in 2016, and was among the ‘40 Under 40 Achievers’ of the year in 2017 by BusinessWorld. Avinash is a passionate advocate of mental wellness and with Aware, he is well on his way to fulfilling his mission of measurably improving happiness in the world.)