#MonthOfMindfulness Challenge Day 1 – Developing Mindfulness One Day at a Time

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Developing mindfulness has a lot to do with shifting of perspectives. We have some deeply laid neuropathways that allow us to fall into a habit of reactions. We don’t even realise we are reacting; we just do it. Those automatic responses more deeply ingrain responses; many which are negative or destructive to our own health and well-being.

This month, we will be focusing on changing our perspective and challenging our responses.

So, here we go!

Let’s start with a quick mindfulness strategy.

10 Second Mindfulness- STOP

This is a simple but effective strategy to refocus our attention.

S– Stop what you are doing.
T– Take a deep breathe. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold for a count of one and exhale for a count of 8.
O– Observe what is happening around you at this moment.
P– Proceed with what you were doing.

Make a mental note about this #mindfulmoment and congratulate yourself for being in the present.

Repeat at least five times today. (You may want to print the picture and put it somewhere to help remind you to STOP.)

Share your experiences here on the blog or on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince #MonthOfMindfulness .

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#MonthOfMindfulness Challenge -Developing Mindfulness One Day At a Time

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The key to mindfulness is acceptance. Letting go of things we can’t control and not whining, whinging, moaning, complaining or dwelling on upsets in our lives. Choosing not to waste energy getting stressed and upset with the reality of life. Not allowing those things to take up the mental space and, not getting rid of the thoughts, but allowing the thoughts not to control you.

We need to remember that mindfulness is a way of life and not a one time, fix all activity. Thus, the development of mindfulness takes time. By taking a few moments to complete easy mindful tasks each day, you are supporting your own mindful practice and help yourself to reduce stress and anxiety.

Join me for a #MonthOfMindfulness. Each day , there is a new blog entry with an easy mindful task to complete for the day. Most will only take a few minutes.

Each day you can share your experiences with the task through comments this blog,    on Facebook via  https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ or via Twitter @Ed_Tmprince using #MonthOfMindfulness .

Why don’t you start today by pledging to taking up the challenge by commenting on this blog or tweeting your commitment with #MonthOfMindfulness .

It is all for a good cause… YOUR HEALTH and WELL-BEING!

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mini Meditations

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Clinical psychologists from the University of Sheffield have discovered young children’s concentration in class can be significantly improved by introducing mindfulness sessions into their school timetable.

When we think of mindfulness, many times our thoughts go directly to formal meditations. Guided meditations can be an integral part of developing a mindfulness practice; but you can also cultivate mindfulness informally by focusing their attention on the moment to moment sensations of individual activities. Doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention allows a person to slow down the process and be fully present in the moment as it unfolds and allowing recognition of all senses.

Two Informal Mindfulness Activities

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Building Stone Towers

Stone Tower Building is like a mini-meditation. It gives children the opportunity to be quiet, think and focus just on what they are doing. Their silent fixed attention is fully in the moment of balancing the stones.

Materials required:
– A collection of stones of different sizes, ensure that a large amount have some flatness on each side. But also include a variety of colours and roundness.
– A few pictures of stone towers so that children get the idea of the task and a challenge, “How many stones can you use to make a tower?”
– A place to do the building
– Optional: a camera so the child can take a picture of their tower or paper and pencils so they can make a sketch of their finished tower.

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Chopstick Challenge

This activity is a bit more advance require greater concentration and skill as they have to focus not on the balancing of objects to build a tower but to also manipulate chopsticks to move and stack the objects.

Materials required:

– I bought a ready made kit from The Works (http://www.theworks.co.uk/p/games-puzzles/wooden-chopstick-challenge/5052089164628).

-However, it would be easy to make your own kit which includes a set of chopsticks and small building blocks.
-A few pictures so that children get the idea of the task and a challenge, “How many blocks can you use to make a tower?”
– A place to do the building.

Top Tip for Both Activities

– Remind children to practice active, slow, deep breathing when they are stacking.
– To keep calm, remind the children that if the tower falls, to close their eyes, take three mindful breaths and start again.

Both of these activities require complete focus in the moment and supports the on-going development of mindfulness.

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Body Scan

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Dealing with the aftermaths of uncontrolled emotions takes up a large percentage of time in schools. Children are learning, developing and dealing with a number of social situations. Most of the time, the situations are positive in nature and everything moves along smoothly. However, there are times that the situations are not positive to everyone and children become annoyed or upset with what is happening. It is during these times they are starting to lay the neuropaths in the brain on how they will react to those situations. They are beginning to develop the default habits.

Teaching children how to do a body scan will help them to identify the warning signs of annoyance and upset allowing them to then use other mindful strategies that allows them to deal with the situation in a better way. What needs to be pointed out is that it is ok to be annoyed or upset. These are valid emotions. But, we need to be in control of how we react to these emotions.

Body scans allow us to develop the skills to pay attention to how our body feels, allowing us to pick up the warning signs of subtle moods. Body scanning also teaches us how to notice, enjoy and nurture our positive feelings.

The key to teaching body scanning in the beginning is to practice it before the children are annoyed and angry in order for them to fully understand the process.

Basic Steps for a Body Scan:

1- Have children sit or lie comfortably with their hand relaxed in their lap or to the side and close their eyes.
2- Children are to take three deep breaths allowing their body to fully relax and sink into the floor on the exhale.
3- Then with each deep breath, they imagine the air going to a different part of the body, noticing the sensations in that part of the body and then exhaling any tension they may be feeling in that part of the body. Are they noticing tingling, warmth, coolness or pressure? Continue to move to each different part of the body as you scan either from the top of your head to the tips of your toes or vice versa.
a. Scalp
b. Face
c. Neck and shoulders
d. Torso
e. Arms
f. hands
g. Hips and bottom
h. Legs
i. feet
4- Once the whole body is scanned, have them take a deep breath, wiggle their fingers and toes and slowly open their eyes; bringing awareness to the whole body.
5- Questions to ask the children:
a. Does your body feel different or the same from before you started the body scan?
b. Where there any parts of your body that felt tense and you needed to relax?
6- Explain/remind children that when they become annoyed or upset, they can speed up this meditation to identify what is happening with their body in order to use their favourite mindful strategy to calm down.

When developing this practice with children, explore how they might be able to use this as a strategy when they are feeling annoyed or upset; identifying scenarios and even role playing situations that Body Scanning can change the outcome of difficult situations.

The idea is that children start to recognise the sensations they have in their body normally and when they are upset or angry. When the sensations of upset or anger start to appear, they choose to react in a positive manner in order to develop positive mindful reactions.

Body scans can also be used as a regular part of a class’s meditation practice as it is a very relaxing practice and builds on positive control of self.

Theses are some useful resources:

Children’s Body Scan Meditation Script: http://2bpresent.com/2012/11/childrens-body-scan-meditation/

Children’s Body Scan Guided Meditation: https://youtu.be/jJlozFWohz0

4 Minute Body Scan Guided Meditation: https://youtu.be/ZM3eYRODNbc

Body scan is another useful strategy for children and adults alike to develop mindfulness.