MindShift: Research-based Strategies to Help Children Develop Self-Control

Mindfulness in Education links:

From the Association for Mindfulness in Education:

Research over the past few decades has found that mindfulness training develops:

  • Increased attention
  • Increased executive function (working memory, planning, organization, and impulse control)
  • Decreased ADHD behaviors—specifically hyperactivity and impulsivity
  • Fewer conduct and anger management problems
  • Increased emotional regulation
  • Increased self-calming
  • Increased social skills and social compliance
  • Increased care for others
  • Decreased negative affect, or emotions
  • Decreased anxiety in general and text anxiety in particular
  • Decreased depression
  • Increased sense of calmness, relaxation, and self-acceptance
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Increased quality of sleep

As such, mindfulness is a foundation for education; mindfulness provides the optimal conditions for learning and teaching and also supports all pedagogical approaches.

Below are notes from BATDC’s “The Science of a Meaningful Life” Workshop

10/9/13, Greater Good Science Center, greatergood.berkeley.edu


  • Start day by talking about something that brought up positive emotions (over your weekend)

  • Quick compassion / empathy game: Play telephone, but passing a facial expression / emotion instead

Meaningful life:

  • Close eyes for 1 minute. Think about what makes you feel like your life has meaning.

Energy mover:

  • Breathe in for 3 counts, out for 6 counts (or any other combination, 1:2 breathe in:breathe out ratio [Activates Vagus Nerve helps coordinate interaction between breathing and heart rate]

Life purpose:

  • Close eyes for 1 minute. Think about : does your life have an overall purpose? Are you engaged in something that is meaningful but also serves the greater good?

Kids high in purpose benefit from gratitude, higher sense of fulfillment…

Think about awe:

  • Stand back-to-back, breathing, thinking / feeling about something awe-some or joyous (re: “What generates awe?”)

Awe, as teacher:

  • Sticky notes: “What can you do to generate awe in your classroom?”

Developing hope:

  1. What’s most important to you? Why? Looking back on your life, what do you want to be remembered for? Why?
  2. List broad categories of what’s most important to you.
  3. Pick one category you can improve. Create 2-3 goals that are specific, measurable and take a solutions-oriented approach.
  4. Rank those goals in order of importance.
  5. Break down the top ranked goal into steps.
  6. In case you encounter obstacles to any of these steps, visualize another pathway to reach that goal. (Vicki thinks this is most important)

Practice self-compassion:

  • Write a letter to yourself, as if you were writing to your best friend, about something you feel bad / guilty about.
  • To physiologically bring up self-compassion when in a heavy conversation / situation:
    • cross arms over stomach, pat / squeeze your own arm
    • breathe in compassion, breathe out compassion for the other
  • Do an angry parent / kind parent role play w/ script, practice self-compassion

Play: Giants, Wizards and Elves

  • Rock, paper, scissors, but with kid-generated movement/sound [have one kid act out “giant,” then “wizard,” then “elf”]

  • Emotional intelligence quiz on (greatergood.berkeley.edu?), for universal facial expressions of emotion

Start Empathy (from Ashoka)

Compassion Spectrum

  • One end of room is full compassion, other is no compassion. Give scenarios and have people move themselves around on the spectrum. They explain why they are where they are.

Walking Meditation

  • Be present and notice the movement of your feet, every bit of movement
  • Walk very slowly 10-20 feet

Loving-Kindness Meditation

  • scripted thing: “send your love and kindness to someone close to you…someone neutral…someone negative; say particular things…”

Gratitude Journals

  • Kids write things they’re grateful for, once a week

Gratitude letters:

  • kids write a thank-you letter, and actually send it / read it to the recipient

Stream of gratitude:

  • 1-2 minutes timed; write down everything you’re grateful for. Don’t stop writing. If you run out of things, just keep writing the same thing over and over again.

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