At the DREAM Charter School in New York, students have been partaking in belly breathing, meditating, and other calming exercises to develop mindfulness. This seems difficult to understand: though meditating has been proven to be helpful and calming, how does it relate to getting a better education? Shouldn’t these students be focusing on math, reading, and writing? Wrong. These students are working on increasing their mindfulness, or their focused, nonjudgmental awareness of the creative world around them.
Students are still learning their basic subjects, but taking time out for meditation is built into their schedules for the day. Since most schools, at any level, are considered to be a stressful environment, the meditation times give children the chance to calm themselves and clear their minds so that they can better focus on their studies for the day.
This method is also beginning to be applied to work settings as well, especially for big companies like Google, Safeway, General Mills, and Aetna. The reason that mindfulness workshops are becoming so popular is because high stress levels cost American companies around $200 billion to $300 billion a year, simply from less motivation to be productive when one is stressed. Having mindfulness sessions decreases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and only after 3 consistent days of meditating, you can change your psychological stress. Mindfulness also boosts creativity and focus, which is great for work settings.
The CEO of Aetna commented on the great effects that mindfulness training was having on his employees. They reported having better sleep, less stress, and more productivity in their week. They gained about 62 minutes of extra productivity per week, and Aetna has made $3,000 more per year from the employees.
Though mindfulness gives students or workers a window into their thoughts and stressors, it is producing lasting effects in the way that people are retaining information, applying themselves, focusing, and being more creative and innovative in their workplace. Taking time throughout our days to self-reflect and relax for 20 minutes may have seemed like slacking off, but now, those breaks might become more encouraged because of mindfulness.