Why We Need to Build Time for Intentional Stillness in Our School Day by Shilpi Mahajan
Updated: Feb 15
Let’s start with some self-reflection:
How many of you are shuttling between multiple social media networks every single day?
How many of you reflexively reach for your phone - like all the time?
How many of your party time discussions are around watching useless videos on your phone?
How many of you are jumping from one thought to another, no different from how you constantly check your phone for that instant gratification?
Now for a minute: I want you to step away from your computer, your phone, stop reading this article, close your eyes and just stay there in stillness and silence.
Wait, is it a minute yet? Did you just come back in like 30 seconds?
Welcome to this new world of distraction culture and instant gratification where our ability to focus and tame and train our wayward mind is becoming increasingly difficult. Welcome to this world, where you live, in your own echo chambers of social media content that caters to the filters you have created all your life.
In this culture, staying still and meditating can seem to be a waste of time. The ever evolving and ever moving ecosystem around you wants you to move with it. It instills the fear of "missing out" in your mind making you stick around in that chamber.
Now for a moment, if you are a parent or an educator: step back and see that fidgety teenager frantically checking his phone in the backseat of the minivan. See that little boy wanting to be on his gaming device. See that girl wanting to take a selfie. See that bunch of friends watching their famous YouTuber.
If its so hard for you to bring stillness to your own mind, you should be able to see that fidgety quality in the children you see everyday. Children are your own reflections in many way.
Traditionally, families would build the stillness in their routine through praying together or sitting together. Time would slow down and the safe space of family would be the space for rest. However, as busy-ness becomes a new social currency, parents are busier than ever and children timetabled more than ever before. Stillness has become nothing but a distant dream or time wasted.
We are not just getting impacted individually, the whole society is getting impacted. One can see it in the declining mental health statisitcs, the increasing suicide amidst teenagers, the lack of socialization, the increasing anxiety and depression? Stress is becoming this generation's epidemic. Is there something you can do as a school? Is there an immediate bottoms up solution?
Now at the cost of oversimplifying this issue, we at DisruptStress are championing an immediate solution: bring moments of stillness to your classrooms through Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the simple act of regulating our attention through observing our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in stillness.
Recent research on meditation in schools is bringing together the three fields of psychology, education and neuroscience. A team of researchers at the University of Melbourne recently conducted a meta-review of meditation education that included 15 studies combining almost 1800 students from Australia, Canada, India, United Kingdom, United States, and Taiwan.The results showed that meditation led to higher optimism, positive emotions, self-concept, self-care and self-acceptance as well as reduced anxiety, stress, and depression in students.
Mindfulness research shows that any form of stillness induces plasticity in our brains that can assist learning. Now isn't learning the goal of schools? The 21st century school views holistic learning as a process to educate students both academically and emotionally.
It’s a no brainer to include some form of Mindfulness and intentional stillness in your classrooms.
But often the question is, are schools a place to practicing Mindfulness? With overcrowded curriculum, should not the onus be on parents? Schools have a large number of children that they contact on an everyday basis. It’s the place where formative development and habits are formed. Besides the Mindfulness programs that are most effective are the ones that are based on regular practice. Schools can scalably introduce Mindfulness by choosing a time of the day to include stillness. It will not only help students but also teachers who are undergoing extreme stress.
Mindfulness moments will bring care for both the minds and hearts of our students and will provide some much needed down-time in a young person’s and an educator's day.