Mindfulness keeping students focused

Ms. Heather Stinson and the Mindfulness Club in early April – courtesy of Communications

The end of the school year is finally in sight. With summer seemingly moments away, students are finding it more difficult than ever to remain focused. Thankfully, one thing remains consistent at helping both students and faculty stay in the present: Mindfulness Club. 

     At first glance, mindfulness may seem complex. Associate Director of College Counseling Ms. Heather Stinson, who helps lead the club, explains that mindfulness is not as complicated as one might think. 

     “Mindfulness—very simply—is the ability to pay attention to the present moment,” said Ms. Stinson. “It is being aware of what is happening in your mind, body, and surroundings at any given moment.” 

     Mindfulness Club meets every Monday virtually during lunch from 12:40-12:50. While their sessions seem short, simply practicing mindfulness for a few minutes can make a big difference in one’s life. 

     “The time period is short, but it still gives the opportunity to invite a few moments of stillness into someone’s very busy day,” Ms. Stinson said. “Having the chance to pay attention to your thoughts, sensations in the body, and your breath is very important.” 

     Ms. Stinson typically leads the practices, but anyone is welcomed to lead. Throughout the sessions, importance is mainly placed on one’s breath.

     “A lot of what we do is pay attention to the breath, and then just practice turning our attention again and again to the present moment,” Ms. Stinson said. 

     Fifth Former John Zhang, the student club leader of Mindfulness Club, highlights benefits through reflection.

     “By focusing on your breath, you’re able to separate yourself from everything that surrounds you,” Zhang said. “It helps you reflect on your own feelings and emotions.”  

“Taking a brief five minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness really relieves the tension that’s built up in your body, especially when you don’t even realize it’s there.” 

John Zhang ’22

     In addition to reflection, Zhang also uses mindfulness to mitigate stress. 

     “One of the reasons I personally started mindfulness was to relieve stress—specifically, academic stress,” Zhang said. “Taking a brief five minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness really relieves the tension that’s built up in your body, especially when you don’t even realize it’s there.” 

     Fourth Former Arnav Sardesai, a regular Mindfulness Club attendee, agrees. 

     “It gives me an opportunity to use time during lunch that I wouldn’t be doing anything else to focus on myself,” Sardesai said. 

     While Mindfulness Club is aimed towards students, faculty and staff are both welcomed and recommended to join. In fact, Ms. Stinson emphasizes the advantages of teachers practicing mindfulness as much as she does for students. 

     “I don’t think practicing mindfulness differs much between students and teachers,” Ms. Stinson said. “Mindfulness helps [teachers] with patience, it helps them with stress reduction, and it helps them maintain a calm classroom.”

     Mindfulness amongst teachers was more popular in the past. Before COVID-19, faculty were more involved in weekly practices. 

     “When we were in person in school, we had a regular faculty mindfulness practice every Tuesday morning at 8 o’clock in Ms. Kenna’s room,” Ms. Stinson said. “There really was a big push for faculty to have a mindfulness practice.”

     But because of the changes of this school year, faculty participation has dwindled. Overall, teachers having other obligations during the time slot seems to be the main cause. 

     “We did a lot better with it last year, both when we were in-person and when we were virtual than this year,” Ms. Stinson said, “and I think a lot of it is because teachers are in their advisories watching over students.” 

     Still, the advantages of mindfulness—calm, focus, relaxation—are clear. Ms. Stinson hopes more community members will participate in the future.  

     Ms. Stinson said, “My sincerest hope is that we can get more faculty and staff involved in an in-person practice with students a couple of times a week starting in the fall.”