Mind FULL or MINDFUL?
At MPW Cambridge, we recognise that students should be given an opportunity to experience a wide range of extra-curricular activities. Mindfulness and yoga sessions became an obvious choice – after all, how many of us can say that they live fully and clearly in the moment, with great awareness, balance and peace of mind?
John Cooter is a Chartered Psychologist who teaches Psychology at MPW Cambridge. He is qualified to deliver the ‘Mindfulness In Schools’ and the ‘Yoga Factory’ school programmes.
Here are some comments from a current student, Kamilya Kelbuganova, who has been enjoying her MPW mindfulness classes:
Mindfulness is all about living in the moment. Rather than worrying about the past or the future, it teaches us to direct our attention to our experiences and accept these. Mindfulness improves our inner-resilience, refreshes our mind and teachers us to notice our surroundings.
We are always busy in school. I find mindfulness sessions to be a great way to escape everyday problems. It is very effective in relieving stress, as well as improving our mental and physical health.
Usually, sessions are divided in two parts. In the first part, we start with a little bit of yoga followed by meditation & relaxation. We do a number of exercises focusing on stretching, which improves your blood flow into the brain, and balancing, which improves coordination and makes us more focused. After that, we go into a resting position and close our eyes. We try not to let any negative thoughts in, but rather think about all the good things that have happened to us or think about a place we feel safe. This practice really helps to set aside all of our worries and continue the day more positively.
The second part of the session involves an activity called ‘b’. It is an engaging and useful activity, which makes us feel calmer and happier. It trains us to pay attention, tame our minds, and recognise our worries. It also help us engage with the "here and now", stepping back out of bad thoughts and taking in the good.
Personally, I enjoy mindfulness a lot. I feel like I am able to gather my thoughts and keep myself focused. I have become better at coping with stress and anxiety, which makes me feel more fulfilled.
What does research into mindfulness have to say?
A review of 20 studies of mindfulness training for young people by Katherine Weare, Professor of Education at Southampton University and visiting Professor of Psychology at Exeter University (2013), found that mindfulness is capable of improving mental health and wellbeing, mood, self-esteem, self-regulation, positive behaviour and academic learning. According to research from the University of Cambridge, mindfulness training helps build resilience in students and improve their mental health, particularly during stressful summer exams. The study, which involved just over 600 Cambridge students, concluded that the introduction of eight-week mindfulness courses in UK universities could help prevent mental illness and boost students’ wellbeing at a time of growing concern about mental health in the higher education sector. Even during the most stressful period of the year, summer exams, distress scores for the mindfulness group fell below their baseline levels, as measured at the start of the study. The students without mindfulness training became increasingly stressed as the academic year progressed.
Here are some Mindfulness Exercises you can try:
- Be aware of your breath
Try to notice your breath for one minute. Begin by breathing in and out, deep breaths and slowly. Try counting to 6 on each inhale and exhale, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Try to notice and appreciate things that are going on around you. Choose a natural object that is around you, and focus on watching it for a couple of minutes. Explore and observe every part of it, as if you have never seen something like it before. Connect with its purpose.
- Mindful eating
Appreciate your food more. Try sitting down with your food, whatever the time of day, and remove any technology. Simply be in the moment with your meal and connect to each mouthful, each taste, and chew.
- Appreciate little things
Simply think of five things in your daily life that usually gets unnoticed. The aim of this is so that you start to appreciate the little things because they are so much more important than the desire for bigger and better. When we are satisfied with those smaller things and we realise we have all we need, it contributes to our happiness.