How to Teach Mindfulness: Your Ultimate Course and Guide

Teaching mindfulnessLet me guess – you love mindfulness, you have experienced many of its benefits, and now you want to teach others.

Mindfulness is a skill that can benefit anyone, but who are you hoping to teach?

Mindfulness can be taught to clients, as a practitioner, or to students, as a teacher. Your motivation for teaching mindfulness may be to help clients, students, or just folks in your community. Identifying your audience is crucial in helping craft your class.

But do you know how to create a class that will suit their needs?

This article will approach each of these scenarios and get you started crafting a class you can be proud of.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free. These science-based, comprehensive exercises will help you cultivate a sense of inner peace throughout your daily life and give you the tools to enhance the mindfulness of your clients, students, or employees.

How to Teach Mindfulness Skills: The Basics

The most important aspect of teaching mindfulness is to have a practice of your own. Many training courses will tell you it is vital to have a consistent personal practice before teaching others.

However, does this mean you have to have a daily meditation practice? No. Mindfulness is a skill that is separate from meditation. Although many think that they are the same, you can practice mindfulness at any time, in any context.

Mindfulness is a state of awareness. Think of an activity when you are completely present and focused on the task at hand. Although the task varies for each of us, most people can think of one thing that takes complete concentration. That state of focus is the beginning of mindfulness.

However, focus is only one part. Mindfulness also requires us to be present without judgment. We may be perfectly focused on a task, but often we are still in a judgmental mind. Our mind is often trying to determine if something is good or bad. Mindfulness requires us to notice this judgment and try to maintain a state of observation.

To practice this state, many people turn to meditation. But, it is possible to practice nonjudgmental awareness at any time. For example, walking mindfully is a practice of paying attention to the sensations of walking, staying present, without a destination, and allowing the mind to be in a state of observation.

To teach mindfulness, begin with a simple task. An excellent place to start is simply counting breaths. Count each inhale and exhale as one, and see if you can focus enough to get to 10. Then count backward from 10. Although it sounds simple, it can be quite challenging.

Another possibility for teaching mindfulness is through food. We eat several times a day, so we have many opportunities to practice. To teach this practice, offer a small piece of food. Have the participant notice all the aspects of the food using each of their senses.

Importantly, have them also notice judgments and thoughts that arise throughout the practice. Are they impatient? Hungry? After careful observation, they can then try a bite of the food. Invite them to notice all the flavors and sensations of eating while watching the mind and observing any judgments.

Mindfulness is only a practice of awareness. The purpose of these practices is not to rid the mind of judgment, but to just become aware of it. We cannot control our thoughts, but we can become more aware of them.

Teaching Mindfulness to Clients in Therapy

Teaching mindfulness during therapyMindfulness is an invaluable skill for all clinicians, whether you decide to teach it during sessions or not.

For clinicians, it can nurture your ability to stay present and feel compassion, two critical qualities of an effective therapist.

Therapists with a strong mindfulness practice may have an increased ability to maintain empathy toward their clients and not get carried away by their own judgment or distraction.

Psychoeducation for clients

Besides helping us be better therapists, mindfulness can also be taught to your clients to help them with their presenting issues. Because it has been used as an essential tool for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, some theories of therapy have been created specifically around mindfulness.

Mindfulness-based interventions expressly incorporate mindfulness as a therapeutic tool. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) all incorporate mindfulness as a crucial component of therapy.

MBCT directly teaches the client meditation and mindfulness practices and incorporates Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. DBT and ACT do not necessarily teach meditation but promote awareness and focused attention – foundations of mindfulness.

These mindfulness therapies have solid empirical evidence showing their efficacy (Baer, 2003). Mindfulness-based interventions represent a vibrant and growing field of treatment.

While these treatments require training and incorporate other valuable tools, mindfulness on its own is a skill that can be taught during any session. Learning to stay present without judgment can help clients learn to have more clarity, be less reactive, and develop a deeper understanding of their behaviors.

Below, you will find advice for teaching these simple yet powerful concepts in any setting.

Crafting a Mindfulness Class for Adults: A Guide

To create an effective mindfulness class, it is important to consider three things. First, what is the experience level of the students you will be teaching? If they are brand new to the concept of mindfulness, it is essential not to choose exercises that are too challenging.

For beginners, a 5- or 10-minute meditation is long. For many, it is easier to start with a walking meditation or a body scan. A good plan for a first class is to spend some time discussing the concept and answering questions, doing a short practice, such as the mindful eating exercise described above, and working your way up to a short meditation.

When teaching mindfulness, an initial discussion is vital. Many students assume they are “doing it wrong” and cannot stop their thoughts. It may be helpful for them to hear that everyone feels that their mind is busy and that stopping thoughts is not the goal.

A second element to consider is whether you want to teach meditation or only mindfulness practices. As noted above, mindfulness can apply to everyday activities. We can practice mindfulness without meditation, and for beginners, this can be a useful concept.

Buddhist monk and renowned author Thich Nhat Hanh offered some wonderful gathas for everyday activities. A gatha is a short poem, usually repeated with the breath, that serves as a reminder to stay present.

An example of a gatha to use while brushing your teeth is (Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation, n.d.):

Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth,
I vow to speak purely and lovingly.
When my mouth is fragrant with right speech,
a flower blooms in the garden of my heart.

Gathas are a handy way to introduce mindfulness to your students.

A third factor to consider is whether you would like to target a particular issue. For example, here are a few short mindfulness courses from the author, targeting specific problems such as anxiety, sleep, grief, and self-love.

Do you have a specialty in your work? Perhaps you would like to help folks reduce their time on social media. You can introduce mindfulness to your students, showing them how they can become more aware of the time spent online and how being on these platforms makes them feel.

Mindfulness can be applied in myriad different ways to our lives. Choosing a topic will help you narrow the focus, create relevant content, and help you market the course. There are so many mindfulness courses out there; creating one to help with a specific problem is one way to ensure that your class will fill.

How to teach mindfulness online

Thankfully, mindfulness is just as easy to teach online as in person. Meditation is an activity that can be comfortably done at home. Apart from a computer and perhaps some headphones, there is nothing needed in the way of props or special equipment. For this reason, a mindfulness course done online is a great idea.

Another reason to teach mindfulness online is the possibility of reaching more people. If you create an evergreen course that does not have to be completed at a particular date, your work can stay online and create passive income.

Online courses can be taught live, allowing you to interact with the students. Live courses can create a sense of community. Students get to ask questions of the teacher and each other. It can also be very beneficial for accountability, which is essential when creating a new habit, such as meditation.

After completing the live course, you may choose to package it and sell it as a self-paced course. This way, all the work you did to create content will not be lost. Most teachers choose to charge more for a live course, because it is much more labor intensive, and offer a self-paced course at a reduced cost.

Most Helpful Online Courses to Better Help Others

Teaching mindfulness kidsMindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is considered by many to be the gold standard mindfulness course and teacher training program.

Once completed, you are certified to teach your own eight-week MBSR courses. The Global Mindfulness Collaborative is an international network of 14 professional MBSR training programs.

Becoming certified as an MBSR teacher is a years-long process, beginning with attending an eight-week MBSR program and seven-day retreat, and maintaining a consistent meditation practice for at least a year.

Based on curriculum developed at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University, the training is rigorous and consistent across all facilities. This consistency has contributed to the high level of respect that MBSR programs maintain and its wealth of scientific evidence.

Our own Mindfulness X© training package is a fully online, self-paced course designed from the ground up to help you teach others about mindfulness. The material provided in the course can be branded with your own logo and used as part of your mindfulness class.

Learning to teach introductory mindfulness as a coach, practitioner, or teacher does not have to be a complicated or difficult process. There are many online training courses to become a certified mindfulness teacher. Udemy, a platform that houses thousands of online courses, has dozens of highly rated mindfulness teacher trainings.

Teaching Mindfulness in the Classroom 101

Bringing mindfulness into the classroom should be a top priority for educators, but let’s first start with the basic ‘why’ and ‘how.’

Why teach mindfulness in schools?

A concerning statistic emerging over the last 10 years is the dramatic rise in anxiety and depression among children and teens (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). In response, some schools have started introducing mindfulness-based interventions as part of their curriculum (Carsley, Khoury, Heath, 2018).

Mindfulness programs strive to help children reduce stress and anxiety, cultivate awareness and focus, and help foster compassion for themselves and each other. These programs benefit the students and can help educators as well.

Schools have started to implement these programs rapidly, but the research into their effectiveness has not entirely caught up (Carsley et al., 2018). There does seem to be some preliminary evidence that they are helping students with stress and anxiety. However, the effect greatly depends on the program and the training of the teachers (Carsley et al., 2018).

How to teach mindfulness to children & teens

In order to maintain a high level of quality and consistency, schools interested in introducing mindfulness should do so through a program that either trains teachers or brings in trained individuals. Teaching mindfulness to children is different from adults and requires both skill as a mindfulness expert and an understanding of child development.

Children may benefit from mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing, relaxation, and present-focused awareness. They can learn to quiet their minds somewhat and focus their attention for short periods of time. But expectations should be realistic. Children have shorter attention spans than adults and less ability to regulate their emotions (Cowan et al., 2021; Rawana, Flett, McPhie, Nguyen, & Norwood, 2014).

A fun activity for young children to practice mindfulness is to create a glitter jar. This jar of water, liquid soap or clear glue, and glitter helps teach focused attention. After it’s assembled, children are asked to shake up the jar and watch the glitter flying around. They are invited to imagine the glitter being like their thoughts, and as they slow down and pay attention, the glitter settles, just like their own thoughts.

Another simple mindfulness exercise for children is to invite them to listen to a bell. Ring the bell once and ask them to raise their hands when they can no longer hear the ring. Mindfulness bells can have a sound that lasts 30 seconds or longer, encouraging the children to get quiet and present.

Teenagers can also benefit from mindfulness and have the attentional capacity for greater challenges. Many teenagers enjoy meditation and appreciate the chance to rest their minds.

A meta-analysis even indicated that young teens show the most significant benefit from mindfulness programs of any age group (Carsley et al., 2018).

Resources for educators

  • Mindful Schools is a large organization that trains teachers and provides a curriculum for teaching mindfulness in various educational settings. They offer courses for teachers to learn mindfulness and teach it to their students. They also offer training in mindful communication and self-compassion for educators.
  • How to Train a Wild Elephant is a great book full of simple mindfulness exercises that can be taught to children and teens. Some examples include looking for the color blue or using your non-dominant hand.

Must-Have Resources From PositivePsychology.com

For three excellent mindfulness tools that you could use in your class or with clients, be sure to download our free Mindfulness Exercises Pack. This free set of three exercises includes The Wheel of Awareness, Leaves on a Stream, and the Eye of the Hurricane Meditation.

The Wheel of Awareness is an exercise created by Dan Siegel to explore four quadrants of awareness: the senses, body, mind, and connection to others. The exercise contains a recording of a guided meditation, a diagram of the wheel, and a mindfulness worksheet.

Leaves on a Stream is a guided meditation that uses imagery to aid the listener in learning cognitive defusion. Defusion is the practice of allowing thoughts to come and go without engaging with them, a crucial component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This imagery of leaves floating on water is used to help the listener learn to imagine their thoughts as leaves and let them float by.

The Eye of the Hurricane Meditation is a 10-minute guided meditation and script that helps the listener imagine they can remain peaceful and calm, even while the world around them is turbulent. It is a practice of finding your center and grounding into the present, even amidst chaos.

If you’re looking for even more science-based ways to help others enjoy the benefits of mindfulness, check out this collection of 17 validated mindfulness tools for practitioners. Use them to help others reduce stress and create positive shifts in their mental, physical, and emotional health.

A Take-Home Message

Learning to teach mindfulness takes a dedicated practitioner, so always begin with maintaining your practice first. Sharing that peace with others creates its own joy.

Teaching mindfulness, whether it’s one-on-one with a client, to a group, online, or in a classroom, is a fun and rewarding experience. Given our busy lives and constant endless information streams, mindfulness can be a welcome respite and antidote.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free.

References

  • Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 125–143.
  • Carsley, D., Khoury, B., & Heath, N. L. (2018). Effectiveness of mindfulness interventions for mental health in schools: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 9(3), 693–707.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 22). Data and statistics on children’s mental health. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html
  • Cowan, N., AuBuchon, A. M., Gilchrist, A. L., Blume, C. L., Boone, A. P., & Saults, J. S. (2021). Developmental change in the nature of attention allocation in a dual task. Developmental Psychology, 57(1), 33–46.
  • Rawana, J. S., Flett, G. L., McPhie, M. L., Nguyen, H. T., & Norwood, S. J. (2014). Developmental trends in emotion regulation: A systematic review with implications for community mental health. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 33(1), 31–44.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation. (n.d.). Practice right now. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://thichnhathanhfoundation.org/practice-right-now

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