“Just Breathe” Children Talking About Regulating Their Anger Through Mindfulness

By Julie Bayer Salzman & Josh Salzman (Wavecrest Films)

The inspiration for “Just Breathe” first came about a little over a year ago when I overheard my then 5-year-old son talking with his friend about how emotions affect different regions of the brain, and how to calm down by taking deep breaths — all things they were beginning to learn in Kindergarten at their new school, Citizens of the World Charter School, in Mar Vista, CA. I was surprised and overjoyed to witness first-hand just how significant social-emotional learning in an elementary school curriculum was on these young minds. The following year, I decided to take a 6-week online course on Mindfulness through Mindful Schools (http://www.mindfulschools.org/), figuring that if my son was learning about this, it only made sense that I should learn too. Within the first week, I felt the positive effects of this practice take root not only on my own being but in my relationships with others.

As a filmmaker, I am always interested in finding a subject worthy of filming, and I felt strongly that Mindfulness was a necessary concept to communicate visually. Thankfully my husband, who happens to be my filmmaking partner, agreed. We made “Just Breathe” with our son, his classmates and their family members one Saturday afternoon. The film is entirely unscripted – what the kids say is based purely on their own neuro-scientific understanding of difficult emotions, and how they cope through breathing and meditation. They, in turn, are teaching us all …

Research on Mindfulness

Studies of mindfulness programs in schools have demonstrated a range of cognitive, social, and psychological benefits to both elementary and high school students.[3]

The organization Mindful Schools, based in Oakland, California, and highlighted in Room To Breathe, has broughtmindfulness to over 18,000 students and 750 teachers since its inception in 2007. Their programs include teaching mindfulness directly in classrooms or to the school staff who teach mindfulness to their students. Mindful Schools’ data teacher evaluation data indicate that 92% of teachers personally benefited from the program, 84% believe that their students calmed more easily, and 81% believe that their students benefited. In addition, 84% of students reported that they would use mindfulness in the future, 61% claim they can focus better in class, and 53% said mindfulness helped them make decisions.[4]

For more information about learning mindfulness or bringing it to your school please visit our Resources page.

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