Improving Learning and Memory in Grade 2 Through Mindful Awareness and Self-Regulation Exercises: A Brain-Based Approach
In society today, distraction has become the new normal. Daniel Goleman, Author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence explains more on this idea. Attention and self-regulation are the cornerstones of learning. These skills can be taught and learned in a conscious and methodical way.
In grade 2, the students are learning the skills of Mindfulness. A growing body of research on Awareness and Self-Regulation Exercises (ASRE) in school-based contexts reveals the following list of core benefits:
- Better Focus and Concentration
- Increased Sense of Calm
- Decreased Stress and Anxiety
- Improved Impulse Control
- Increased Self Awareness
- Skilful Responses to Difficult Emotions
- Increased Empathy and Understanding of Others
- Development of Natural Conflict Resolution Skills
In 2011, Harvard neuropsychologist Britta Holzel and her colleagues found that a standard 8-week course in awareness and self-regulation techniques resulted in:
- Significant increases in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in
- Learning and memory processes
- Emotions regulation
- Self-referential processing and perspective taking
Some Brain Facts
- The brain contains billions of nerve cells that send and receive information around the body. The brain is the center of the human nervous system, controlling our thoughts, movements, memories and decisions.
- The nervous system is the control system and network of communication for our body. It is made up of nerves that control everything we do. They carry messages that allow us to breathe, move, feel, think, and feel pain. The autonomic nervous system has 2 branches. The sympathetic response, “fight or flight,” and the parasympathetic response, “rest and digest.” You can’t absorb information in fight, flight or freeze states.
- Learning is dependent on our neurobiology.
- In order to be able to absorb information at a deep level, our nervous system needs to be in a focus and receptive state.
- When people are in a state of chronic stress, the sympathetic nervous system is always “on.”
If a young person is in a deep fight or flight response, he/she does not have access to higher level, conceptual decision-making. ASRE and other somatic exercises allow prefrontal cortex to come back online.
So research says that we should go parasympathetic! Now we have solid scientific evidence that awareness exercises succeed in the following:
- Better memory
- Strengthened immune response
- Increased concentration and attention
- Improved self-control, attention and
- Emotional resilience
Young people need a “nervous system toolkit.” The ground of self-regulation is the ability to notice the condition of our nervous system and “shift gears” if needed.
How does it work?
There are a variety of techniques for doing this:
- Orienting and “anchoring” to sound, sight, and the external environment
- Working with the breathing sense in various ways to promote grounding and centering
- Labeling strong emotional states, “Name it to tame it.”
There are 2 “wings” of mindful awareness:
“In a landmark study of more than 100 children…. Cognitive Control is a better predictor of a child’s financial success and health in their 30’s than was either their I.Q. or the wealth of the family they grew up in” (Daniel Goleman).