What Is Mindfulness?

By Jane E. Dalton, posted on Aug 3, 2023

Mindfulness is the state of being fully aware, receptive, and focused on the senses within the present moment. It is also a form of meditation that can be practiced anywhere, anytime. Students who integrate mindfulness into their lives can increase their focus and become rooted in the present moment where the mind is settled and they feel calm. Mindfulness can also cultivate well-being. Students can combine expressive activities with mindfulness in the art room, which helps them better comprehend the advantages it brings to their daily lives.

Visual journaling from the article, What Is Mindfulness?
Left: Emily S., Mindfulness. Right: Alycia P., Tree.
Visual journaling from the article, What Is Mindfulness?
Left: Vanessa V., Meandering Path. Right: Alexa, Mindfulness.

Mindfulness-Based Art

Mindfulness practices in the art room can include sensory awareness, embodied kinesthetics, exploring silence and stillness, and listening to sounds or music. These various practices help anchor students in the present moment and focus their attention and awareness, enabling them to observe instead of reacting and become aware of both internal and external experiences.

A Regular Mindfulness Routine?

Starting class with a few minutes of mindful breathing can harmonize and synchronize the class and prepare students to be present with themselves, each other, and the course content.

Offering a mindful pause, whether a formal seated meditation or a longer guided visualization, can nurture the seeds of creativity. A short pause, even for two minutes, can increase self-awareness and emotional regulation, and silence the inner critic. I invite students to explore their experience of mindfulness through a creative reminder in their visual journals.

Visual Journaling

Students return to visual journals throughout the school year as a place to explore ideas and experiences both cognitively and expressively. A visual journal gives students a space to reflect, exercise their creative muscles, and explore sensory awareness. At the start of the school year, I introduce mindfulness to my students and invite them to explore the benefits in an expressive format for deepening their awareness of the ways that it can benefit their lives in and out of the classroom. Students are asked to reflect on the following questions and respond in their visual journal using mixed-media processes:

  1. What is your personal definition of mindfulness?
  2. How does mindfulness personally benefit you?
  3. What was your experience of mindfulness practice today?

Directed Practice

  1. Invite students to sit in a relaxed, comfortable position and ask them to focus on their breath, noticing the natural flow of their breathing.
  2. Ask students to notice where they feel their breath in their body: in their abdomen, in their chest or throat, or in their nostrils. Ask them to follow the sensation of the breath as it moves through their body.
  3. Remind students that it is okay if their mind starts to wander. Be kind to the wandering mind. Ask them to redirect their attention right back to their breathing.
  4. Keep students in mindful meditation for two to five minutes depending on their comfort level.
  5. After a few minutes, guide students to return their attention to their body seated in place.
  6. Ask them to slowly open their eyes and notice how they feel in the present moment.
  7. Make materials available for students and invite them to create a visual journal page that personally represents their experience of being mindful.
  8. Encourage students to use visual images, colors, and words to integrate and deepen the expression of their experience.

Jane E. Dalton is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.;

National Standard

Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.


The Mindful Studio

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