Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Essentially it's about taking some time before exams to chill out while lying down (though maybe you'll agree that the term "beditation" add a soupcon of scientific legitimacy). Thanks to Stephanie West Allen for the link to the story from The Guardian (UK).
'Mindfulness' is the latest big thing in schools. What is it and why is it so popular?
Many year 11 students have recently been sitting GCSE mock exams. It is a stressful time. One teenager, Jess, describes her state of mind. "I was so nervous before the English language exam," she says. "I did, like, twenty 7/11s."
A "7/11" is not the latest in teenage kicks, but a breathing exercise characteristic of a movement that is undergoing a surge in popularity in schools, known as "mindfulness". The 7/11 is a relaxation breathing exercise. Matching the counting to the breath, you breathe in for a count of seven, and out for a count of 11. It works for teachers, too.
Another technique much in evidence under mindfulness is called "beditation" – again, not something to panic a teenager's parents, but simply the practice of meditation while lying down.
About 3,000 students in Britain have been taught mindfulness techniques, and numbers are growing. This month there will be the first international conference on mindfulness in schools, in London, where teachers and experts will gather and Prof Willem Kuyken, who heads a mindfulness research unit at Exeter University, will present some new results.
The "7/11" and "beditation" techniques are being taught in schools through a programme called ".b" (Stop, Breathe and Be) designed by two teachers, Richard Burnett and Chris Cullen, who together formed the Mindfulness in Schools Project in 2007. "We were both finding great benefits from mindfulness ourselves," says Cullen, "and had started introducing simple mindfulness practices to classes in the schools where we taught. The response from students was striking and inspired us to create a programme that they would find fun, accessible and of genuine use in their lives." The course is now being taught in 12 countries.
Mindfulness in a nutshell is the practice of becoming aware of what is happening in the present moment and of learning to relate more skilfully to thoughts, emotions, body sensations and impulses as they arise.
The methods have developed over 2,500 years, from roots in eastern philosophy. One of the reasons for the interest is the fact that no religion or spirituality is involved. In the west, it was American molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn who began to develop an eight-week meditation programme for patients at the hospital he worked in. This course became the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course.
The recent surge in popularity is also buoyed by backing from the scientific community. The evidence that mindfulness training reduced the rate of depressive relapse by about half led to its recommendation by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in 2004 as a treatment for depression, and there is a growing body of research suggesting that it can help to treat a range of mental-health problems, improve performance in sport and the performing arts, and bolster happiness and wellbeing.
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Continue reading here.