Improving Focus and Productivity with Self-Awareness
Mindfulness is an effective way to increase health and well-being, It’s also now commonly heard in households and classrooms all over the world, and is being explored and used in health care, education and public policy. Academically, mindfulness demonstrates a positive impact on cognitive thinking and processing skills (attention, stress management, self-regulation and social skills), which are all skills that are essential for overall school success.
Schools in the US and UK are using mindfulness-based programs and incorporating strategies into the curriculum. John Kabat-Zinn, widely known as the father of contemporary medically-based mindfulness, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.”
The power of mindfulness helps us to better:
- Pay attention to our breath in order to focus on the here and now
- Observe and become aware of disturbing thoughts and emotions without immediately reacting to them
- Find our own still, quiet place
- Manage anxiety by teaching ways to quiet the mind
- Control our attention
- Engage with the world (to notice what we notice without judging)
Mindfulness is especially helpful for students with ADHD and Anxiety because it supports stronger stress-reduction and self-acceptance.
While we depend on our electronic devices, they are built to distract us with a wide variety of information and activity. As a result, those very devices have a negative impact on our social interactions. We focus on the device, rather than the other person. These devices regularly pull us away from our tasks. Mindful.org explains that practicing mindfulness strategies helps us manage the barrage of distractions we encounter by:
- Retraining our habits of attention
- Prioritizing and valuing our actions
- Helping students be calm and alert so they are available to learn
- Learning about the basics of attention help attention skills improve
- Noticing when our mind wanders and bringing it back to the task at hand
- Choosing this new habit, we “flex the muscle of attention” and strengthen those skills
Completing homework in a timely manner can be almost impossible for many students. There is an extra challenge because students often use their phones as resources either to take pictures of assignments on the board, use a digital calendar or organizer, notepad, internet or other online sources. In the process countless alerts cause regular distractions. Disabling these alerts at least during work time is a first step to being present in the moment.
Working in a present and mindful manner supports cognitive control and enables our ability to manage our impulses, which is a very high predictor of success. Simply taking the time to think about our attention will help us train our brain to be more efficient in our attention and productivity. Mindfulness matters!