Ten Steps to Help Students Be More Mindful

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Mindfulness is about putting down our “juggling balls” for a while and taking time to recover. Why not begin helping today's students practice mindfulness with these 10 actions?

Today, I want to offer some practical steps to become more mindful. As I've noted in other blogs, “mindfulness” has become a buzzword in many circles of our culture. Some believe it’s some strange, Eastern hyper-spiritual, meditative practice. I suppose it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as becoming fully present with the people in front of you or the task you must accomplish.

I believe the reason for its current popularity is—our noisy, busy, cluttered culture. Thanks to social media and the FOMO, our brains rarely get down time, as psychologists say they should. Neuroscientist Moshe Bar, at Harvard Medical School, tells us our brains need to switch back and forth from activity to recovery mode. We need periods of recovery—but often don’t get them. Mindfulness is about putting down our “juggling balls” for a while and recovering. It’s embracing mono-tasking not multi-tasking. The benefits are tangible. And let me remind you, as I said yesterday, The American Psychological Association cites it as a hopeful strategy for alleviating depression, anxiety, and pain.

Ten Steps We Can Help Students Take to Become More Mindful

So, why not begin by helping students practice mindfulness with these actions:

1. Balance screen time with face time and alone time.

Moderation in all things is wise advice. Talk to kids about balancing time with screens, face-to-face conversations, and alone time. Depending on their personality, it may not be equal, but several daily hours with each is healthy. Reject “binging” in favor of engaging.

2. Consume more magnesium.

This crucial mineral is depleted when we’re under duress. It’s a catch 22 because when it’s low we feel even more emotionally reactive, according to nutritionist Dana James. Magnesium is in foods like spinach, kale, bananas, cocoa and almond milk.

3. Pause and discuss two questions.

Host conversations in a safe place where you can ask them two important questions:

  • What are the advantages of our addiction to technology?
  • What are the disadvantages of our addiction?

4. Sit down and do deep breathing.

This often sounds weird to some, but intentional breathing, where you’re mindful of your inhaling and exhaling can do wonders to reduce stress and focus our minds. Have them get quiet, close their eyes and take long, slow breaths in and out.

5. Take a walk in nature.

Anytime we exercise, it can reduce stress and help us center ourselves, but strolling in nature is the best. A Japanese study discovered a link between chemicals released by trees, called phytoncides, and reduced levels of stress hormones.

6. Commit to a regular technology fast.

Everyone I know who’s turned off the technology says the same thing: “At first it was hard, and then it became liberating.” Why not choose a weekly period of time and get away from the pinging of the phone. Stress usually drops and peace rises.

7. Get eight hours of sleep at night.

It’s common knowledge that teens actually need more sleep than their younger or older counterparts—but often get less, thanks to 24/7 social media outlets. We need to encourage them to actually turn off their phones and sleep deeply.

8. Talk about “trade offs.”

Grab some coffee and converse about how successful people make “trade offs” in life. They know that while they can do anything, they can’t do everything. They learn to make wise decisions and say “no” to certain options. And they learn to mono-task.

9. Find challenging work that demands your focused attention.

The research by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi reveals that we get in a flow when we perform demanding work that forces us to focus our minds on achieving it. We are not distracted but devoted in this period. We are mindful.

10. Build an integrated personal brand.

Remind students that everything they say and do is building their personal brand. Social media posts all play into this—by default or design. Creating an integrated brand is a smart way to align themselves with one persona.

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