Mindfulness should be practiced in a repeated, consistent, and ongoing way to be effective in helping rewire the trauma-affected brain. In order to incorporate it in a sustainable way, teachers should set aside a time to do mindfulness everyday, stick to it, and develop a running list of varied activities so you don’t have to think too hard when it comes time to implementing your plan.
For mindfulness to truly work in helping trauma-affected students, it needs to be repeated consistently in an ongoing manner. That is, students should do it at the same time (or as close to that as possible) each day. Frequency, according to the mindfulness app Headspace (2020), is more important than duration, so one short meditation every day is better than one long one once a week. But, how do you incorporate mindfulness every single day? Keep reading to learn how!
Why Does It Need To Be Consistent?
For significant change to happen in the minds of trauma-affected youth, mindfulness should be done in an ongoing, predictable, and repeated way. That is, students should expect to do a mindfulness activity everyday, ideally at the same time. Doing meditation every day at the same time serves two purposes. First, the repetitive nature of a daily mindfulness practice gives the brain a chance to change its neural pathways. In other words, if it’s consistent and ongoing, mindfulness can rewire the brain, but it’s not likely to happen if it’s unpredictable and inconsistent. The neural pathways that mindfulness supports will only grow stronger if they are consistently used. Think of it as practicing for a sport or playing an instrument. If you don’t do it often and ongoing, you aren’t likely to get very good (unless you’re a prodigy buuut, I don't know if there's a such thing as a mindfulness prodigy).
Step One: Make Time
So, how do you make mindfulness a consistent, repeated, predictable, and ongoing part of your classroom routine? Start by simply setting aside a 3-5 minute period of class (I prefer the beginning of class and yes, this is long enough to have an impact) to implement a mindfulness activity each day. 3-5 minutes is long enough because it’s just about sparking those neural connections consistently at least once a day. Obviously if you can do it for longer, that’s better. But, at the beginning, your students won’t have that much stamina anyway. So, a 3-5 minute practice is a great start.
Step Two: Stick With It
Next, STICK WITH IT! This will only become a habit if you are consistent with your implementation. This should be a non-negotiable. In other words, just short of a fire drill or some standardized testing requirement, you should never have an excuse to not do a short mindfulness activity to start one of your classes. In fact, mindfulness might be a great activity to reenter the classroom after a fire drill or get your students' brains ready for a standardized test!
Step Three: Make a List
Finally, (or maybe this is the first step?) develop a running list, a living document, of short mindfulness activities. See my blog post titled “Practical Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness in your Class” for ideas of what to do each day. I like to mix it up and scaffold students’ mindfulness skills over time.
Conclusion: Getting mindfulness into your classroom won’t happen overnight and it’s not a one and done. You have to commit and make it a daily practice. Otherwise it’s not worth your time (and it won’t help rewire trauma-affected brains). So, set aside a time each day for mindfulness, stick to your time, and have a convenient living document to pick an activity each day. It's okay to do the same thing more than once, too.
Headspace. (2020). How to meditate. https://www.headspace.com/meditation/how-to-meditate
My name is Erin E. Silcox. I'm working on my Ph.D. in Literacy Education, focusing on the intersection of trauma and literacy. I want to deepen our base of knowledge about trauma-informed practices in schools and help teachers apply findings right now.