Practicing mindfulness isn't just for students
- Lisa Gonzales, president of the Association of California School Administrators, writes for District Administration that mindfulness can benefit school leaders by improving concentration, inspiring creativity, and energizing interactions with others.
- Mindfulness — the practice of being present and attentive — helps focus interactions and strengthen awareness, and it can create an attitude of relaxation, positivity, alertness and open-mindedness that has both physical and mental benefits.
- From a leadership position, mindfulness can improve productivity and employee relationships, in addition to helping leaders cope, focus and thrive, Gonzales writes.
Mindfulness is a topic that often comes up in discussions regarding students, with some studies suggesting that mindfulness benefits learning, while other experts feel that — while it benefits cognitive and social-emotional processes — it has little effect on academic achievement. A report from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child stated the benefits in terms of basic brain functioning by saying that “emotions support executive functions when they are well regulated, but interfere with attention and decision making when they are poorly controlled.”
The same is true for adults. School leaders need ways to improve the decision-making process, particularly under the emotional stresses they face, and mindfulness is one way to support that. Business leaders have recognized the benefit for years. In a 2015 Forbes magazine article entitled “Future Of Work: Mindfulness As A Leadership Practice," the author states: “In the last decade, mindfulness has been used inside companies to lower health costs, improve increase employee productivity, help employees stay ‘on task’ and reduce employee stress through a combination of breathing techniques and mental relaxation.”
And a UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School study reported that the benefits of mindfulness can lead to “improvements in innovative thinking, communication skills and more appropriate reactions to stress.”
Mindfulness can have physical benefits, as well. Aetna, the nation’s third largest health insurer, partnered with Duke University to study the effects of meditation and yoga, finding these practices decreased stress levels by 28%, improved sleep quality by 20%, reduced pain by 19%, and improved productivity 62 minutes per employee per week. And in an article in the Harvard Business Review, Bill George, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School wrote about the benefits of mindful leadership: “Mindfulness will help you clear away the trivia and needless worries about unimportant things, nurture passion for your work and compassion for others, and develop the ability to empower the people in your organization.”
- District Administration Becoming a more mindful school leader