top of page
  • Writer's pictureHiro Saito

Inside & Outside the Classroom

The Problem


Stress and anxiety are usually part of most people’s lives. However, when anxiety interferes with our daily life: halting our ability to function and causing an immense amount of stress and fearful feelings constantly, an anxiety disorder occurs. Usually pervasive in schools, if these symptoms are not managed well, students could become victims to severe anxiety disorders.


There are several types of anxiety disorders. The most common ones faced by students are Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder. Often when a student is overwhelmed with 4 to 5 modules worth of assignments, tests, projects, receiving good grades, managing school and social life, they tend to overwork themselves. In such situations, the constant day to day fear and worry about not being able to deliver or cope, causes one to face anxiety symptoms.


Moreover, students are generally known for their “mugging” culture i.e. spending long hours daily, confined to the library or home and completing assignments and studying for tests without taking breaks. Hence, this post explores ways one can utilise mindfulness practices to cope in a classroom setting.


Mindfulness


Mindfulness concepts within the classroom expound on how teachers and students can carry out practices to reap cognitive benefits, acquire social-emotional skills as well as improve their well-being. It is quintessential that educators/students integrate simple acts of mindfulness to create short intervals to arrest attention and be in the present moment. Particularly for university students who frequently encounter high-pressure situations in school- such as deadlines or demands from professors, there is limited time and need to cultivate mindfulness.


More practical and compressed versions of these mindfulness practices offer an immediate sense of calm and greater awareness. Such exercises include (1) Body scan—Starting at the feet and working the way up the body, scan, and be aware of any tension in the body. Notice and move on. (2) Four square breathing—Breathe in through the nose for four counts, holding for four counts, exhale for four counts and hold for four counts. Notice the breathing. (3) Walking to another area of the school with body control and awareness. (4) Eating a raisin with concentration and awareness of each of the senses involved.


To fully immerse in the mindfulness exercises, it is necessary to:


● Pay close attention to your breathing and bring oneself back to the present

● Notice what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by one’s conscious awareness.

● Recognize that one’s thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define oneself


These techniques are suggested to be done at a slow pace as they internalise their thoughts and physical sensations surrounding them. The instant effect is observed in terms of a lowered heart rate, deep breathing, healthier levels of cortisol and adrenaline as well as a heightened sense of personal well-being.


Effectiveness


There is a growing number of empirical evidence that diaphragmatic breathing does trigger (1) body relaxation responses and facilitate the physical and mental health of students. Relating to the Bio-psycho-social model, when a student faces a stress event in the classroom such as a surprise quiz, or project presentation, their Cortisol (a steroid hormone) is released. This affects their mood, increasingly more negative emotion and lacking attention (Ellenbogen, Schwartzman, Stewart & Walker, 2002). Having breathing practices during stressful events in the classroom could reduce the negative outcome of stress.


With goal planning, any form of intention implementation does help with the school performances. A study done by Gollwitzer (1999) revealed that simple goal intentions (I will not let myself get distracted) were less effective in protecting participants from distractions than goal intention with intention implementation (whenever the distraction arise, I will increase effect to reject the distraction and focus on the task). Therefore, in a classroom setting when the students had to listen to professors or completing the task, having a specific goal will improve their cognitive output in their task at hand.


Moreover, active listening techniques such as listening without judgment and repeating/rewriting the concept in their own words had shown a positive outcome in learning. Studies have shown that students engaging in an active learning process helps with the retention of concepts (Hovelynck, 2003). Also, the Level of processing theory (Craik & Lockhart, 1972), which predicts that information processed using a deeper and thorough analysis is remembered better as compared to those processed superficially. Therefore, active learning tactics such as phrasing, asking questions, building your examples, does encourage students to process knowledge at a deeper level.


Similarly, to the effect of diaphragmatic breathing, body scan helps the students to identify any signs of emotion irregularity such as sadness or anxiety, which will affect their learning process. By regulating our physiological changes, the students also could regulate their emotions and thought processes.


Lastly, one limitation is the ideas of avoidance, which is a common obstacle that dampened the effectiveness of these mindfulness techniques (Dreeben, Mamberg & Salmon, 2013). With the lack of therapy-client relationship in a classroom setting, the students might face difficulty to express or the opportunity to gain awareness of these feelings. In other words, there’s a need for a guide to help students through these mindfulness techniques to be effective. Another limitation is the student’s aversion towards these mindfulness techniques might also affect the effectiveness because they might consciously reject or underperformance the steps of this mindfulness technique to prove their ineffectiveness.


Recommendations


Mindfulness can help students with anxiety issues; however, students need to keep an open mind when adopting such practices. These are the recommendations for Mindfulness practices in a classroom context with an actionable plan:


Before Class


● Set the Tone before the lesson.

● Arrive earlier and perform a short sitting meditation.


During Class


● Practice diaphragmatic breathing to better collect thoughts to answer the question for calmness.

● Practice a sitting meditation to increase focus and alleviate nervousness.


Transitioning Between Classes


● Diaphragmatic Breathing to relax and regulate emotions, be better prepared for the next class.

● Walking with awareness (walking meditation).


The following recommendations was carried out by the group for two weeks and below are their thoughts on it.


Huda - “Throughout the 2-week mindfulness training plan, I noticed my performance at school or work had improved slightly. I had integrated mindful breathing through my belly during class- especially during presentations, and discovered that my mind had greater clarity and absorbed the knowledge easily.”


Viash – “I took an effort to practice the mindfulness practices like the body scan and mindful eating since week 8. I have realised that by mindfully eating, I make an effort to chew my food more before swallowing, allowing better digestion and also being aware of what I eat. This has also helped me eat healthier and thus feel better. The body scans have also helped me build my focus, especially during lessons and assessment time.”


Hee Seng – “I have been practicing active listening and body scan during test and classroom lecture. For example, during test, I will practice a body scan when I encounter a difficult question, it’s easy to do. Just follow and give yourself a time of maybe 5 mins. Being in the present and noticing those tingling sensation on my tips of my fingers, I used the breathing techniques to calm myself down and regulate my emotion as nervousness to anticipation for challenges. Changing even my mindset! During lesson, I could actively pay attention to the prof, and engage in conversation with the class. I am able to take down more information and even uncover my own flaws in my logic to understand my readings better.”


Jolyn – “In the past few weeks, I tried to perform some mindfulness exercises. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I failed. The first few days were tough, it was not only hard to follow through, it was also hard to perform. Before class, I did breathing exercises, which were easy to do but, I forgot sometimes. During the break in class, I performed a short sitting meditation, using the podcast and the earpiece. After all, I do feel better with sitting meditation, it helps me be calmer, definitely worth a try.”


Andy – “Constantly, remembering to do the meditation was difficult at first but it slowly became easier as after the first week. The sitting meditation before classes helped me mentally prepare myself for class and allow me to acknowledge the fact, I was tired and that I needed to put in more effort to listen. I did my eating meditation with a sweet during the class break and it did help me focus better in the second half of the lesson.”


Overall, this paper and experiences shared hopes to create a collective conscience (Durkheim & Simpson, 1933) that mindfulness is easy to practice and is useful. By ultimately integrating mindfulness as part of the classroom with simple practices, we hope that this can kick start a mindful revolution within you.


“Yesterday is already gone. Tomorrow is not yet here. Today is the only day available to us; it is the most important day of our lives.”- Thich Nhat Hanh


By Andy Tan Wei Feng, Jolyn Yio, Ong Hee Seng, Siti Mahmudah Binte Hamdan, and Vaishnavi D/o Tharmaseelan


References


Broderick, P. C., & Jennings, P. A. (2012). Mindfulness for adolescents: A promising approach to supporting emotion regulation and preventing risky behavior. New Directions for Youth Development, 2012(136), 111–126. doi: 10.1002/yd.20042


Craik, F., & Lockhart, R. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal Of Verbal Learning And Verbal Behavior, 11(6), 671-684. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5371(72)80001-x


Dreeben, S., Mamberg, M., & Salmon, P. (2013). The MBSR Body Scan in Clinical Practice. Mindfulness, 4(4), 394-401. doi: 10.1007/s12671-013-0212-z


Durkheim, E., & In Simpson, G. (1933). Émile Durkheim on The division of labor in society. New York: Macmillan.


Ellenbogen, M., Schwartzman, A., Stewart, J., & Walker, C. (2002). Stress and selective attention: The interplay of mood, cortisol levels, and emotional information processing. Psychophysiology, 39(6), 723-732. doi: 10.1111/1469-8986.3960723


Gollwitzer, P. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54(7), 493-503. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.54.7.493


Hovelynck, J. (2003). Moving Active Learning Forward. Journal Of Experiential Education, 26(1), 1-7. doi: 10.1177/105382590302600103


Kane, M. (2017). Creating a culture of calm. Gifted Education International, 34(2), 162–172. doi: 10.1177/0261429417716350


The Top Mental Health Challenges Facing Students. (2019). Retrieved from Best Colleges: https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/top-5-mental-health-problems-facing-college-students/

75 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page