By: Erin Swanson, M.Ed.
Take a Mindcation
Summertime. That blissful time of year when teachers pause. Teachers offer limitless attention to the needs of others; summer provides a welcome change, a chance to practice self-care and self-reflection. Yet, what happens when a global pandemic disrupts our blissful summer vibe? The stress seeps into our summer state of mind. We need a mindcation. A mindcation is a mental pause, a vacation for the mind. It creates a quiet space within ourselves. It provides a chance to reset. What’s our favorite way to take a mindcation? Practicing mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are, describes it this way,
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
You can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere. It doesn’t require seated meditation (although that is one way to practice it). To be mindful is to focus on the present moment and notice whatever comes up for you. Put simply, mindfulness is the act of intentional awareness.
When we practice mindfulness, we nourish ourselves and show up more positively for those around us. Jill Manly, co-founder of the JabuMind app for teachers, explains,
“Mindfulness teaches you to be with what is happening inside of you, so you can respond to your internal world first. This is self-care. When we have self-compassion and self-understanding, we can have compassion for others and respond in a way that feels true, authentic, and genuine.”
The benefits of mindfulness are so vast that many major companies (Google, Goldman Sachs, and the NFL, to name a few) have adopted mindfulness training for their employees. Google’s highly popular “Search Inside Yourself” mindfulness training has a 6-month waiting list. Feedback from over 1,500 participants showed that 66% felt better able to reduce stress, 60% reported stronger emotional resiliency, and 65% experienced an increased ability to focus.
Companies aren’t the only ones jumping aboard the mindfulness train. Schools recognize its benefits, too.
Mindfulness in Schools
Many schools have adopted programs to support students in harnessing mindfulness skills. Yet, we don’t see the same support offered to teachers for their own emotional regulation, focus, and productivity. That’s where JabuMind comes in. The JabuMind app focuses solely on mindfulness training for teachers. It’s full of guided meditations, mood and sleep check ins, and professional development.
Research shows that teachers who participated in a mindfulness course had reductions in burnout and increases in self-compassion. Additional research proved that teachers who followed a mindfulness program developed resilience to stress and nonreactivity by practicing mindful awareness. Download the JabuMind app for free to gain these benefits for yourself.
Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness
1) 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.
The good news? Research shows that the iRest® approach to meditation (used by JabuMind) is particularly effective in inducing sleep. Enjoy the JabuMind app’s soothing “Bedtime” meditations and its sleep tracking feature to measure how well you’ve slept throughout the week.
2) 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.
Meditation, in particular, activates the part of the brain associated with more adaptive responses to stressful and negative events. The iRest® method of meditation is effective in improving the stress response of workers, college students, and school counselors.
Check out the JabuMind app’s guided meditations on stress and anxiety to build those mindfulness muscles.
3) 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.
Download the JabuMind app for free to refocus with “Breathe Now” meditations. Be sure to check out the “Clear Your Mind” meditation for a quick 3-minute reset.
4) 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.
Mindfulness can also help you release the emotions of your teaching day so you don’t bring them into your personal life. Listen to JabuMind’s “Release Your Day” meditations to let go of the day’s stressors and enjoy your time off with clarity and calm.
5) 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.
6) 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.”
Check out JabuMind’s “Break Time” meditations to bring quick moments of mindfulness into your teaching day.
7) 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.”
Mindfulness can help you recover from this pain and find moments of joy. Research looking at the effects of iRest® meditation on college students found that it “may reduce symptoms of perceived stress, worry, and depression.”
The iRest® approach, used by the JabuMind app, explains how “joy exists independently from any stress you may be experiencing or any other state of mind or body. Joy exists without a reason. Joy is your birthright.” JabuMind will help you find an inner resource of joy that you can tap into anytime.
Lift your spirits with JabuMind’s guided meditations on joy, daily mood check ins and tracking, and silly quotes.
8) 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.
9) 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!
10) 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.
Start a Mindfulness Practice
From increasing productivity and strengthening communication to boosting immunity and enhancing memory, it seems there’s nothing a mindfulness practice can’t do. Who wouldn’t want to harness this superpower? The positive effects will radiate throughout your professional and personal life. You, more than anyone, deserve self-care. In a career that asks you to be selfless, you can prove that self-care leads to better care for everyone.
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