This post is sponsored by Greater Good in Education. Opinions are my own.

Did you know that people who purposefully practice loving-kindness for just a few weeks can experience an increase in self-compassion and positive emotions, and relief from depression, anxiety, and chronic pain?

According to Greater Good in Education, you can send good wishes, warmth, and kindness to others by silently repeating key phrases. This particular mindfulness practice is one of the most effective ways of increasing empathy and compassion for others.

In fact, one study’s findings suggest that it may even play a role in decreasing bias towards stigmatized groups.

How To Practice Loving-Kindness For Adults

If you are ready to develop more positive relationships with your students and colleagues, potentially leading to a more positive school climate, you can easily incorporate some mindfulness activities into your routine every day.

It takes no more than a few minutes to practice sending loving wishes to both people you do know and people you don’t know very well.

How-To: Loving-Kindness for Adults full instructions via Greater Good in Education

Why Does It Matter?

Unlike other mindfulness practices that focus more on developing the self (e.g., increasing awareness and releasing tension), this practice is also deeply relational, so it can help you to develop more positive relationships with your students and colleagues, potentially leading to a more positive school climate.

What Does Mindfulness Have To Do With School Climate?

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Every semester I have at least one challenging student in my class. Whether they struggle with some type of learning disability, have issues at home, or are struggling to make ends meet while also going back to school to try to better their lives.

You see, I teach at a local community college that serves many different types of students. Older adults looking to go back to school for the first time, students fresh out of high school, single mothers looking to provide a better life for their kids, high school students who are taking an alternative path, and even students who are experiencing extreme poverty and want to work toward a brighter future.

It can be really easy to overlook the life circumstances these students are facing and become frustrated. Frustrated because they may miss a class due to lack of childcare, may turn an assignment in late because they were working their 3rd shift job all night and didn’t have a chance to sleep let alone get homework done. Or even more simply, frustrated because they don’t have the educational background that allows them to work at a level consistent with “college readiness”.

A former colleague of mine, Chad Dull (Vice President of Academics at Minnesota State College Southeast), had begun instilling some mindfulness practices in our department long ago. He called them “Poverty Informed Fridays” and would send out an email every Friday to give tips on how we could be more inclusive to those who may be struggling.

One thing Chad helped us recognize is that while it may have been a long time since many of us may have struggled financially (if ever), our students may currently be living with that burden. A burden that includes fear of not finding their next meal, or not being able to keep a roof over their heads.

I would argue one of the consequences of pursuing college from the crisis of poverty is a feeling of not quite fitting in anywhere. On a personal level, this makes sense to me. It’s been a long time since my family or I struggled financially (and our struggles were far less than many), but if I’m honest, the residue of feelings from those days persist until now. Every time I share these feelings with students or colleagues who are or have been in the crisis of poverty, they can identify. This happens almost without exception. Think about that. It means students come to us with a belief the people around them don’t really want them there. Our students are pretty sure they are impostors, and all too often we inadvertently confirm those feelings. So how do we help them know they do belong?

Chad Dull on Poverty Informed Practice in Higher Education. Read more on LinkedIn

By practicing mindfulness, we can begin to relate to our students and make them feel more welcome. Ultimately, you may reap the benefits of greater self-awareness and self-compassion, but you may also feel more energy to meet students and colleagues where they are—and to extend care to them with a more open heart.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

How Mindfulness Has Helped Me

After being introduced to the Greater Good in Education mindfulness techniques, I have been putting them into practice for a short while now. The technique for practicing Loving-Kindness for Adults involves sitting comfortably on the floor and doing purposeful breathing exercises.

After practicing the exercises, I have definitely found it to be much easier to relate to my students’ struggles and give a little more compassion toward any struggles they may be dealing with.

As mentioned earlier, many of my students struggle with different life burdens that may make going to school especially difficult for them. One of my students recently was missing lots of class due to difficulty finding childcare in the evening when our classes were held.

In the past, I may have simply said that attendance is required and perhaps given some suggestions for childcare. But after using the techniques and taking an empathetic approach, not only did I take the time to reach out to campus counselors on her behalf (who may have more tools to assist her with the struggles she is facing), but I also offered the missed lessons in a recorded format so she could view them from home. While attendance is still a requirement for the course, doing this one small thing may mean that this particular student doesn’t fall behind in class and is able to come in and pick up where she left off.

Give it a try for yourself and let us know on my Facebook page, Crafts and More by The Mommy Bunch, how it went for you. How did you feel after completing the techniques? Did it change the way you approach teaching and/or any struggles your students may be dealing with?

“With mindfulness, loving-kindness, and self-compassion, we can begin to let go of our expectations about how life and those we love should be.”
–Sharon Salzberg