Therme Art Program

Bringing Mindfulness Into Classrooms

As mindfulness education becomes a growing part of many schools’ curriculums, artistic interventions can serve as an important resource for students and teachers aiming to practice emotional regulation and body awareness.

Today I Feel Like... workshop commissioned by Therme Art from Jeppe Hein. Manchester, 2021.

In recent years, mindfulness education has become an increasingly important facet of school curriculums. With growing rates of mental illness among adolescents, adding mindfulness into general education becomes a necessary step to potentially lessen the effects of stress on students.

Mindfulness draws heavily on (and secularises) Buddhist and Hindu practices such as meditation, breathing techniques and body-awareness. The aim of mindfulness programmes is to teach each person non-judgmental acceptance of themselves and their experiences, including their bodies, thoughts and emotions. By bringing this practice to schools, the aim is to help students regulate their own emotions, which would help improve their mental health and behaviour in and out of the classroom. This practice is also essential for teachers, as it has been shown that including them into the mindfulness education improves their individual wellbeing and makes them more present for their students. 

A 2019 study from the Boston Charter Research Collaborative observed that students who received mindfulness education showed “a reduction in perceived stress and modest but significant improvements in sustained attention.” This aligns with previous research that has shown mindfulness instruction to reduce the effects of stress and trauma on disadvantaged youths, when provided as a sustained intervention.

Today I Feel Like... workshop commissioned by Therme Art from Jeppe Hein. Sibiu, December, 2023

Additionally, it has been suggested that mindfulness practices for students should consider both the use of meditative anchors to help young people overcome concentration difficulties and employ tools that make mindfulness practice enjoyable and stimulating for young people. Both of these conditions can be fulfilled through mindfulness workshops that employ art as a tool for channelling the techniques of mindfulness, such as self reflection, breathing and body awareness.

With the Today I feel like… workshop from the artist Jeppe Hein, first commissioned by Therme Art for Manchester International Festival in 2021, school children are invited to participate in a breathing exercise and watercolour painting session, connecting with their breath and reflecting on how they feel. By encouraging children to be mindful of their breath and their emotional state, while simultaneously providing a clear outlet for depicting their observations, students may become more rooted in their mindfulness practice. These artworks they produce serve as a clear grounding point, similar to guided meditation or counting breath, which also makes the instruction fun and engaging for children. 

This Entry workshop commissioned by Therme Art from Tino Sehgal. Manchester, 2023.

Therme Art has continued to commission similar workshops that employ art as a channel for mindfulness. For the 2023 Manchester International Festival, Therme Art commissioned a workshop based on Tino Sehgal’s newest artwork, This entry. The workshop engaged one of the dancers from This entry and an artistic footballer to highlight creative and athletic practices for the body, while offering new insights to teachers for creative education. This workshop highlights the importance of movement and body awareness as a component of mindfulness. 

By using artistic expression as a means for fostering introspection, Today I feel like… workshops become an important tool for cultivating mindfulness in students. Paired with the body awareness cultivated through the This entry workshop, students are exposed to a range of mindfulness practices, which can help them emotionally regulate and alleviate stress. By continuing to pair art with mindfulness education, students and teachers can benefit from new ways to reflect and centre themselves, improving the wellbeing of individuals and communities.