In 2011, as I became increasingly aware of students' distractions in my classrooms, I started searching for answers. I watched as many bright and capable students were flailing, but not because of cognitive issues. I started searching for ways to help these young collegians. In looking for the causes, what I found was a mess, a variety of culprits from sketchy home and personal lives, to inadequate food, shelter, and textbook funds, to new devices and technology vying for the attention of all. In searching for solutions, I found many. But perhaps the best and most readily available is a regular mindfulness practice. To quote Jon Kabat-Zinn, "Wherever you go, there you are." No escaping. None! Of the many things I have shared with students over the years, the most valuable tool that they can practice anytime, anywhere, is mindfulness and the power of being "right here, right now." Acknowledge feelings, maybe even putting them into words, and then letting them go. Deep inhale 2, 3, 4...hold 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.....Exhale 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Whoosh! Blow it all out.
Check out Dr. Andrew Weil's breathing technique: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324417#how-to-do-it
This 4-7-8 breathing exercise is used by The University of Texas Mind Body Lab and many other people and organizations around the world. I have demonstrated the 4-7-8 to my students for years, but last year, during the spring and fall semesters of 2020 and Covid-19, my students seemed to appreciate (more than usual) me taking just a few minutes at the beginning of each class so that all of us could leave the outside behind the door of our classroom, and gather our focus. And then we began with the teaching and learning.