Practicing mindfulness instead of being sent to detention


Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, USA is changing things up when it comes to detention and as a result their young students are being taught significant life skills which will benefit them wherever they grow in life.

Instead of sending its students to detention as punishment, they have a “Mindful Moment Room.”

This area is warmly lit, with coloured floor pillows, purple yoga mats and delicately scented essential oils. When students come here due to being disruptive in class or acting delinquent, they’re encouraged to talk about their actions. Next they’re taught to do yoga and stretch with a key focus being on learning the practice of meditative deep breathing.

The time spent here not only calms the children down, but it teaches them how to stay in control of their emotions for any later high pressure situations they could find themselves in, similar to the ones which sent them to the mindfulness room in the first place. They are taught to breathe deeply, centre themselves in the now and tune the hard situations out, giving them confidence to do their best and continue on with their schoolwork. The Mindful Moment Room offers an immediate respite from the stress, anger and anxious feelings the students have been feeling.

When the students leave the room, they’ve changed from being loud and rowdy, to peaceful and quiet and are ready to focus and do some productive work. The Principal rarely sees children for disciplinary action anymore, showing what a significant impact the restorative room has been having on the children it serves. Gone are the days where children are left to stare at walls and told to think about their actions, only resulting in more anger and frustration.

With more than a quarter of Baltimore residents living below the poverty line, this idea, thought up by the nonprofit Holistic Life Foundation, is extremely important for the schoolkids. They come to school with hard backgrounds of struggles and stress; homelessness, a lack of food or power, witnessing crimes and with parents incarcerated. They come to school, alert and ready for fight or flight, making it difficult for them to sit calmly and learn. The Mindful Moment Room is a safe and secure oasis, where the young children can simply be themselves and find their peace.

And the mindfulness practice does not end there. At the start and end of school, The Coleman children begin and end their day with a 15 minute guided meditation. Yoga is also offered during and after school.

The movement is growing too. A nearby high school in East Baltimore has also created its own Mindful Moment Room where students can come to practice yoga and find some space to simply breathe and relax after a stressful day at school.

And it does not end there. Around the world, schools, universities and even workplaces are encouraging their communities to engage in mindfulness practices. The Mindfulness in Schools Project in the UK is providing mindfulness training programs for schools. Universities in New Zealand offer free yoga sessions during exam season. Co-working spaces have desk yoga each day.

There are clear beneficial effects of curating a daily meditation and yoga practice, as being discovered by researchers and scientists. It teaches you to sit with pain, fear, stress, worry and discomfort, rather than immediately act on it and with patience you see how your negative feelings come and go just like waves in an ocean. You can then thoughtfully choose how to respond to the situation you are in. The practice helps ease depression, anxiety and pain.

Do you incorporate a mindfulness practice into your everyday life? What are the benefits you see?