Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers
An excerpt from Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers by Jill Manly
Improve Your Sleep
If I had a poor night’s sleep before a teaching day, I knew I was headed for trouble. I’d slap a smile on my face, chug a coffee, and try my best to lead the class. Yet, my patience was always thinner, my smile strained. Worst of all, my students would see right through me.
Teaching requires peak energy levels and patience. Yet, it’s easy for teachers to lose sleep. They often lie awake, ruminating over a child who has been bullied or reviewing how to lead a lesson more effectively.
Reduce Your Stress
Teaching is one of the most stressful professions, no question. An analysis by the National Foundation for Educational Research revealed that “one in five teachers (20 percent) feel tense about their job most or all of the time, compared to 13 percent of similar professionals.” Even more, The American Federation of Teachers found that “78% of teachers reported feeling physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.”
The antidote? Mindfulness. A Harvard study compared the stress levels of people who went on vacation with those who began a meditation practice. While both groups initially showed improvements in stress, the meditators still showed improvements 10 months later while the vacationers’ stress levels had returned to baseline. Remember that mindcation idea? Well, it turns out that using mindfulness to take a mindcation has longer lasting effects on stress than an actual vacation.
Increase Your Focus
Teaching demands a high level of focus while multitasking. You might find yourself simultaneously teaching a math lesson, soothing an overwhelmed student, and redirecting off-task students. Data from busyteacher.org estimates that “teachers make about 1,500 educational decisions a day or about four decisions per minute based on 6 hours of instruction.”
Unfortunately, multitasking diminishes one’s ability to focus. Research shows that “productivity can be reduced by as much as 40% by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks.”
Teachers, all is not lost. Multitasking comes with the job, but you can practice mindfulness to increase your focus. Mindfulness meditation training improves executive attention and cognitive flexibility.
Maintain Healthier Relationships
While teachers love supporting their students, it’s easy to feel drained. Imagine you’re comforting the fifth child who has come to you in tears that day. Before you know it, you feel overwhelmed and impatient. The well of compassion you started your day with dwindles with each new upset.
Lucky for you, mindfulness increases one’s emotional-regulation skills. When you can regulate your own emotions, you can better support the emotions of others. Even more, mindfulness promotes forgiveness during conflicts due to a decrease in rumination and an increase in perspective-taking.
Gain Strong Communication Skills
Effective teacher communication plays a critical role in the wellness of teachers, students, and parents.
Teachers, here’s how you can bring mindfulness into your conversations:
- Be fully present
- Listen actively
- Slow down to process what’s said
- Reflect – what feelings exist behind the person’s words? What emotions come up for you as the listener?
- Ponder how to thoughtfully respond, rather than impulsively react
Practice the mindfulness skill of nonjudgmental acceptance to be responsive to students instead of reactive. This helps you focus on how someone is, instead of how you want or expect them to be.
You might expect your students to be perfectly respectful and focused on your lesson. The reality? Not so much. Often, negative emotions arise when something or someone does not meet our expectations. We judge the situation and therefore make it worse for ourselves.
By practicing nonjudgmental acceptance, we take the emotional reaction out of the situation. We simply notice what is and thoughtfully choose our response.
Increase Your Productivity
Does this sound familiar? You spend your recess breaks scarfing down a snack, fleeing to the bathroom, or talking with a student. You spend lunch prepping materials for the upcoming science lesson. You cram the overflow of work into breaks, evenings, and weekends. I felt this way, too. Let me tell you, it wasn’t sustainable. When I discovered mindfulness, I learned how to increase my productivity by working smarter, not harder.
A study on mindfulness intervention and workplace productivity showed that mindfulness produced “greater reductions in burnout and perceived stress, improvements in well-being, and increases in team and organizational climate and personal performance.”
Achieve Greater Happiness
Teachers support their students through all of life’s challenges; they are often the first-responders to students’ pain. While being there for children is a true privilege, it can take a toll on teachers’ happiness. Research shows that “educators and other school-based staff can experience the stress of compassion fatigue and/or vicarious traumatization.”
Enhance Your Memory
Teachers, you are experts in the subjects you teach. You want your memory to be in tip-top shape, right?
Mindfulness meditation can boost one’s memory. It also enhances episodic memory, or memory of a previous experience. Mindfulness training increases attention on a moment-to-moment basis, so people practicing mindfulness experience greater task engagement which makes experiences more memorable. Mindfulness training can even decrease mind-wandering and improve GRE test scores.
Boost Your Immunity
Every teacher knows the threat of germs well. Now, add on to that a global pandemic. Yikes.
Fortunately, a study proved that “a short program in mindfulness meditation produces significant effects on immune function.”
Wear a mask? Check. Meditate? Check!
Optimize Your Brain
A teacher’s brain not only houses in-depth knowledge, but it responds to frequent emotional stressors. How do you keep your brain in peak condition to master these demands? Mindfulness, of course.
One study had individuals facing high levels of stress participate in 8 weeks of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. MRI scans showed a decrease in gray matter density within the right amygdala of participants (the part of the brain associated with fear).
Another study found that meditators had thicker prefrontal cortexes, the part of the brain associated with decision-making, situational awareness, and focus.
Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers
BY JILL MANLY
Manly, Jill. “Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers.” JabuMind, 24 Mar. 2021, jabumind.com/top-10-benefits-of-mindfulness-for-teachers/.
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With this week being Teacher Appreciation Week, we have been reminded of all of the hard work that teachers do. With an occupation that requires you to give up so much of yourself to help others, it is important to take time for self care and self reflection.