Mindfulness: a useful tool for many life situations
Integration in education has profitable effects far beyond scholar achievements
In my last blog I announced at the end that I want to focus on mindfulness and music in my next blog, not considering that the last blog is supposed to be a synthesis of the former blogs. Therefore, I don´t want to disappoint you and will first briefly look at music and mindfulness, before giving an overview about my blogs of the last months.
Like the “glass bead game” of Hesse´s last novel in which the combination of music and meditation is crucial to become an expert at this game, I propose that music can profit substantially from meditation in various ways.
Music mindfulness practice has been shown to be effective in the therapy of depressive disorder (Eckhardt, K. J., & Dinsmore, J. A., 2012). Mindfulness applied while listening to music has also been proven to enhance the management of emotions. Gladding (2010) suggests that music promotes self-healing, self-awareness and people who struggle to communicate their problems may find it easier to express themselves with music. Music is thus a way to put emotions into words (Bodner et al., 2007) and listening mindfully to music can restore creativity.
A great example demonstrating the effectiveness of combining mindfulness with music in the arts education are the Magee choirs in Canada which are very successful winning a lot of competitions. They use mindfulness activities like giving a positive affirmation of each other to get a positive mindset before starting off with their singing practice. The activities also help them to be aware of the physical alignment and breathing which is very important when singing (Bochun, P., 2011).
Not only music and mindfulness should be applied together in schools. When you have read my former blogs you already know that it can also be applied in art classes, P.E., and in all other subjects, like mathematics or literature.
But first let us remember what mindfulness is all about: it is to be aware of the feelings and the current state. We usually hold on to things, but letting go of the things that we don´t need any more makes living a lot easier. The next time when making a journey let us just be aware of the journey itself and savour the moment instead of thinking about our destination (TED Talk Ben Bryant).
Like I have pointed out mindfulness is very successfully applied in mental health systems. Mindfulness Meditation leads to changes in the brain and improves the immune system (Davidson et al., 2003). After an 8-week clinical training program participants showed significant increases in left-sided anterior activation which is associated with positive affect. At the end of the training period control and intervention group were injected an influenza virus. After four months significant increases in antibody titer to influenza vaccine were found in the meditation group. Left-side activation of the brain thus predicted a bigger magnitude of antibodies.
Brown and Ryan (2003) reviewed that mindfulness is positively associated with well-being. A study with cancer patients demonstrated that mood disturbance and stress decrease over time when practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy shows also its effectiveness in the recovery for recurrently depressed patients after 3 or more previous episodes (Teasdale, 2000). Even with such a difficult treatment mindfulness seems to be successful.
In my second blog I addressed that arts in education enhances creativity and academic achievement. Rabkin and Redmond point out that arts education can enhance student achievement and that especially students of low socioeconomic background profit from it (2006). Creativity which is substantial in arts also has been found to have positive effects on health and thus complementing it with mindfulness is a powerful tool to keep healthy (Cohen, 2006).
Diana Coholic (2011) demonstrates how mindfulness can be combined with arts-based methods and thus indicates the effectiveness of both in conjunction. Young people in need showed improvements in emotional regulation, social and coping skills, self-awareness, self-esteem and resilience. This underlines how a creative approach to mindfulness or integrating it into arts education can be especially beneficial.
I also addressed that only the left hemisphere is trained in schools because of its focus on purely cognitive tasks. Therefore I proposed “brain training for both hemispheres”, which can be achieved with creative teaching, improvisation and letting art take over more space in the school curriculum. Regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), a measure in an fMRI, of high and low creative persons while performing a divergent thinking task was conducted. Highly creative persons showed brain activity increases, whereas persons with low creativity scores had mainly decreases (Carlsson et al., 2000).
Many studies have shown that mindfulness implementation in schools has positive effects (Wall, 2005, Domitrovich et al., 2008, Mendelson et al., 2010, Schonert-Reichl, 2010). A 24-week training program in an elementary school showed significant increases in focus and attention of those children participating in the program. They employed breathing techniques, bodyscan, which is being aware of sensations in the body, movement, and sensorimotor awareness (Napoli et al., 2005). These activities can easily be adapted to the school curriculum.
Mindfulness by its nature as living the present moment and engaging oneself in life as it is actually happening keeps up the concentration and attention, avoiding boredom, an emotional state that is omnipresent in schools nowadays. A study with 164 Utah college students showed reduced boredom by using mindfulness practices. Instead it stimulated engagement and optimized the experience (Trunnell, 1996). Boredom as a result from a deficit in attention (Harris, 2000) can thus be directly addressed with mindfulness practice (LePera, 2011).
Not only in school or in medical treatment applying mindfulness leads to better results. High Reliability Organisations (HRO) make also use of mindfulness techniques to perform on a higher level (Werner, 2012).
To conclude, mindfulness, apart from its roots of the Buddhist tradition, is a new concept that has been investigated widely in recent years. Typing in the word “mindfulness” in google leads to 17,500,000 results. Mindfulness in research is also flourishing with 500 scientific articles published in 2012, which is more than the total number of articles between 1980 and 2000 (Shonin et al., 2013). There is even more to it. A recent survey yielded that 75% of general practitioners in the UK believe it to be beneficial for patients with mental health issues. Isn´t it perplexing then considering its effectiveness in clinical and educational settings, that only a couple of schools have implemented mindfulness so far? I hope that in the future more people will practice mindfulness, experiencing the beneficial effects of it and will spread the word. Hopefully then it becomes more accepted in society and this opens the door for implementing and practicing it in many life situations.
Bochun, P (2011). MINDFULNESS AND CREATIVITY.
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(4), 822.
Carlsson, I., Wendt, P. E., & Risberg, J. (2000). On the neurobiology of creativity. Differences in frontal activity between high and low creative subjects. Neuropsychologia, 38(6), 873-885.
Cohen, G. D. (2006). Research on creativity and aging: The positive impact of the arts on health and illness. Generations, 30(1), 7-15.
Coholic, D. A. (2011, August). Exploring the feasibility and benefits of arts-based mindfulness-based practices with young people in need: Aiming to improve aspects of self-awareness and resilience. In Child & Youth Care Forum (Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 303-317). Springer US.
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., … & Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic medicine, 65(4), 564-570.
Domitrovich, C. E., Bradshaw, C. P., Poduska, J. M., Hoagwood, K., Buckley, J. A., Olin, S., … & Ialongo, N. S. (2008). Maximizing the implementation quality of evidence-based preventive interventions in schools: A conceptual framework. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 1(3), 6-28.
Eckhardt, K. J., & Dinsmore, J. A. (2012). Mindful Music Listening as a Potential Treatment for Depression. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 7(2), 175-186.
LePera, N. (2011). The relationships between boredom proneness, mindfulness, anxiety, depression, and substance use. The New School Psychology Bulletin, 8(2).
Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M. T., Dariotis, J. K., Gould, L. F., Rhoades, B. L., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 38(7), 985-994.
Napoli, M., Krech, P. R., & Holley, L. C. (2005). Mindfulness training for elementary school students: The attention academy. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 21(1), 99-125.
Rabkin, N., & Redmond, R. (2006). The arts make a difference. The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, 36(1), 25-32.
Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lawlor, M. S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre-and early adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness, 1(3), 137-151.
Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., & Griffiths, M. Mindfulness-based interventions: Towards mindful clinical integration. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 194.
Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., Mark, J., Williams, G., Ridgeway, V. A., Soulsby, J. M., & Lau, M. A. (2000). Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 68(4), 615-623.
Trunnell, E. P. (1996). Optimizing an Outdoor Experience for Experiential Learning by Decreasing Boredom through Mindfulness Training. Journal of Experiential Education, 19(1), 43-49.
Wall, R. B. (2005). Tai chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction in a Boston public middle school. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19(4), 230-237.
Werner, J. (2012). High Reliability Organization Theory As An Input To Manage Operational Risk In Project Management.
- Art and letting go (psu210.wordpress.com)
- Be Here Now (sbkandassociates.com)
- Mindfulness (barbarascovillelcsw.com)
- The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better (io9.com)
- 5 Practices for Mindful Communication (intentionalworkplace.com)
- 3 Tips for Being Mindful at Work (psychcentral.com)
- The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better (hazimsos.wordpress.com)