Daniel Goleman: Breathing Buddies

>>Daniel Goleman: One of the
ways that children can learn to focus better and strengthen
their attention skills, particularly for concentration in school is something
I saw demonstrated in a second grade classroom
in a public school in Manhattan Spanish Harlem,
which is a very impoverished area of New York City. Kids there live in
the housing projects and they have very tough lives. I was astonished because the
classroom atmosphere was very calm, very focused. Kids were very alert, very
attentive to the teacher. What’s the secret here, I wondered. Then I realized why it was. The teacher said every day we do an
exercise called “Breathing Buddies.” One by one the children
go to their cubby and get their favorite
little stuffed animal. Then they find a place on the floor
to lie down, they put that animal on their tummy and watch their breath
go up, counting one, two, three, and watch it go down, one,
two, three, up one, two, three, down, one, two, three. That is training of the
attentional circuitry. This is the kind of training which
helps children not just focus on what the teacher is saying, but it turns out that same
circuitry helps them manage their distressing emotions. So they’re getting a “two-for”
they’re getting attention training and self management training,
inner self management training. Something as simple as
just watching your breath and bringing your mind back when
it wanders is that basic repetition of the muscle for focusing.