Mindfulness for Creative Teachers
Term: 4 Year: 2017
With all of the attention on mindfulness these days, it’s a good time to ask “What’s in it for teachers”, especially for teachers involved in creative subjects such as Art, Media, or Visual Communication Design.
We begin with a firm, passionate belief that the greatest asset within any school is its teaching staff. Teachers who are feeling calm, relaxed, compassionate, focused and creative are best placed to create the kinds of classrooms and student-teacher relationships most conducive to learning.
Perhaps the most commonly documented benefit from mindfulness is stress relief. Mindfulness practices such as breathing exercises, gentle yoga, body scans, longer form relaxation exercises, mindful eating and more have been shown by strong empirical evidence to provide relief from the stress, anxiety and pressure that are such hallmarks of modern schooling.
One of the many ways in which mindfulness helps us to reduce stress is by encouraging us to open up a little bit of extra space between stimulus and reaction. There are so many things that can ‘set us off’ during a busy day. By allowing us to create space to choose our response to any given occurrence – rather than simply reacting to it in a knee-jerk manner – mindfulness helps us to stay in control of ourselves and our emotions, and avoid setting off on an ongoing spiral of negativity, stress or conflict.
An exciting and developing field of mindfulness is the way it can help us to be more creative, innovative and imaginative. Mindfulness practices have been shown to switch off the parts of the brain, such as the amygdala, which can block creativity and flow, and allow us to switch on the parts of the brain, such as the frontal and parietal regions, often associated with creative thinking and imagination.
The ways in which creativity and innovation can be enhanced by mindfulness are now being studied in much greater depth – but perhaps the best thing is to simply try it for yourself, or with your students.
Before engaging in your next creative task, simply close your eyes and rest your attention on your breathing. Let other thoughts simply float away, constantly returning your attention to your breath. After doing this for a few minutes, open your eyes and return to your creative task. If you wish, you can extend the exercise. Once other thoughts have been allowed to pass, focus your attention on the creative task at hand, analyse it from different perspectives, then allow your mind to go wherever it chooses – who knows what you may find?
Brad is the founder and director of Felstead Education, one of Australia’s leading specialist in mindfulness in education. To find out more about their range of mindfulness programs for students and teachers visit www.felstead.com.au