4 Benefits of Integrating Mindfulness in STEM Education

Among 100 STEM occupations, 93-percent pay nearly $40 an hour, according to a recent report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To launch a career in this prosperous field, STEM students pursue complex and rigorous learning tracks. Mindfulness complements the learning and thinking process for these students. According to experts the practice helps learners decrease stress and increase their attention spans, while improving their performance in the classroom. In a few minutes a day, educators can help ambitious STEM students practice mindfulness. The activity, which originates from the teachings of Buddhism, gives practitioners time to focus on themselves.

Mindfulness advocates recommend that all teachers introduce the concept to their students to help them learn. Students who pursue challenging STEM learning paths must take time to care for their mental well-being. Mindfulness teaches students to live in the moment without condemning themselves for their perceived shortcomings. Eventually, the practice helps STEM students separate the ups and downs of a challenging learning curriculum from how they view their self-worth. This is especially important for ambitious, career-oriented students working hard to maintain a high GPA.

Four benefits of practicing mindfulness in the classroom:

Benefit 1: Improved Overall Well-Being

STEM learners and educators benefit greatly from resources that help to improve their mental well-being. Emerging healthcare practices, such as mindfulness and lifestyle programs that are forms of integrative care, that help students maintain their overall physical and mental wellness. This might include nontraditional practices such as yoga, meditation, and self-care, as well as a healthy work-life balance and time spent enjoying the outdoors. Good mental and emotional health leads to a clear mind and success in the classroom. Ultimately, mindfulness makes it easier to learn.

Benefit 2: Heightened Emotional Intelligence

Teachers and professors are increasingly recognizing that social and emotional well-being contributes to positive academic outcomes. So much so that educators from kindergarten to university classrooms are advocating for the incorporation of routine mindfulness practices in the classroom. By developing emotional intelligence, STEM students can improve their character and how they work with others, making it easier for them to communicate with peers and professors.

Years of research have shown that ongoing well-being programs reduce the occurrence of student problems while improving their mental health, classroom behavior, and academic achievement. Emotional intelligence also benefits learners throughout their career.

Benefit 3: Reduced Stress

A report representative of the United States student population, called the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), reveals that nearly half of all students are diagnosed with at least one mental health condition, and nearly 40-percent of the same group or diagnosed with multiple conditions.

1 in 6 people are diagnosed with some form of mental illness. Mismanaged or ignored feelings can impair thinking. Anxiety, depression, and stress are commonly experienced by students with intense curriculums and high ambition. The same group also reported a less than positive career outlook, despite high demand for professionals trained with their skills. However, the students valued their relationship with mentors and advisors in the academic setting. For these and all other students, physical and emotional well-being are vital for improving their academic outcomes.

Benefit 4: Enhanced Happiness

Research has shown that mindfulness creates happiness and helps students improve their overall well-being. The practice increases learners’ engagement and makes it easier for students to manage their daily responsibilities. When hosting mindfulness classes, it's important that educators understand that students at varying academic levels have different needs. This makes it important for educators to understand the unique circumstances of their students.

Mindfulness improves STEM learners’ ability to comprehend, learn and solve problems. The practice is essential for the long-term health of STEM students. While there's minimal research showing a direct relation between mindfulness practices and improved learning outcomes, scientists have revealed that it reduces anxiety and improves attention. Students report that mindfulness programs are a pleasant part of the academic experience. During mindfulness exercises, students focus on their bodies and the instructors’ directions and let stressful thoughts and the world's responsibilities shrink away, if only for a short time.

While mindfulness isn’t a magic cure, teachers and students who practice the discipline report feeling more focused, refreshed, attentive and engaged. Educators who wish to incorporate mindfulness into the classroom must first experience the program for themselves. After gaining familiarity with the practice, teachers can introduce mindfulness to the classroom with brief, regular 1- to 3-minute sessions. By instructing students to focus on their breath and thoughts, educators can help ambitious students give their minds time to rest. With just a few short minutes once or twice a week, educators can help students reduce stress and improve their ability to excel in the classroom and the job market.

Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. When she's not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

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