Ten fifth graders are sitting on a bright-blue rug. They are in a classroom at P.S. 54, an elementary school in Brooklyn, New York. Their teacher, Adrienne Heim, strikes a bell. The students take a deep breath.
The kids are practicing mindfulness. They are learning to focus on the present moment. Why? Being mindful can help people stay calm, says Heim. She is the founder of Green Generations. The nonprofit brings mindfulness classes to eight schools in New York City.
Isafye Lewis, 10, has been taking the class at P.S. 54 for two years. “Mindfulness teaches me to relax,” he told TIME for Kids. “It really helps me feel better when I’m sad or angry.”
At P.S. 54, students learn mindfulness through deep breathing and relaxation exercises. But Heim says mindfulness isn’t only about staying calm. “It helps children build healthy self-esteem,” she says, “so they can make healthy decisions.”
What’s more, a 2015 study found that learning mindfulness helps kids succeed in school. That’s because it trains the brain to pay attention. “It doesn’t solve [math equations] for kids,” Mariam Gates told TFK. She is the author of This Moment Is Your Life. But mindfulness does “help us focus on the moment we’re in, which is the only place we can learn [or] grow.”
But you don’t have to be in a classroom to be mindful. Gates says, “You can [always] bring your attention to this moment and change how you experience it.”