“There is no health without mental health.” –World Health Organization
It’s another Monday in Plano ISD at Davis Elementary School. Students enter classes and listen to the announcements for the day over the school intercom system. The student announcer closes by saying, “now it’s time for the Mindfulness Monday Moment with Mrs. Aldridge.” Suddenly, the students sit up straight in their desks, place their feet flat on the floor, and close their eyes or look towards the floor. Special Education teacher, Mrs. Aldridge, appears on the LCD projector screen of every classroom, extends an invitation to participate, and models mindful breathing exercises for all the students of Davis Elementary.
“Take three deep breaths. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Again..Breathe in, Breathe out.”
You may wonder… “What exactly is mindfulness?” Melissa Berg-Baker, Plano ISD parent volunteer and mindfulness specialist defines mindfulness as “noticing what’s happening in the body/mind in the present moment, without labeling it “good” or “bad” or wishing it were different.” It involves intentional focus on breath and thoughtful physical movements that teach the brain to focus in a non-judgmental manner. Mindfulness is a simple, effective way to optimize overall well-being and health of students and adults. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 5 youth struggle with anxiety or a mood disorder during their school years. Research demonstrates that slowing our breath dials down stress hormones, blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety. while increasing relaxation, awareness and mental clarity. It calms the nervous system and gives us the ability to make clear decisions. Other benefits include:
· Increases self-awareness and self-esteem
· Reduces stress and depression
· Improves attention span
· Increases performance on tests and exams
Mindful breathing is a strategy that regulates complex emotions and helps students handle the daily stresses of life. The ability to notice thoughts and habits is a critical step in changing them. Mindfulness allows time to reflect between an emotion and a response in hopes of adjusting their behavior rather than reacting negatively to stress. When kids feel anxious, it is a tool that they can pull out of their social emotional learning toolbox to help them take control of their immediate circumstances on their own and to help them be less impulsive. This skill demonstrated by our students positively affects the school culture.
This growing approach is being used in schools all over Plano ISD in an effort to create safer, peaceful learning environments in which children strive. The skill of being present with ones emotions and thoughts may be the critical key for success in the classroom. For more information on Social Emotional Learning in Plano ISD, please visit www.pisd.edu/sel.