Mindful Refocus

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There can sometimes be a misconception about mindfulness. Some people believe that mindfulness is a way of escaping from stress or a way of keeping stress away from you. This is untrue.

Mindfulness will not become some magical shield from stress in your life. No matter how little stress we may have in our lives, our brains will always perceive the most stressful event, no matter how small, as being extremely stressful. Mindfulness gives you the tools to deal with the stress of life.

The key to mindfulness is not getting rid of stress, it is learning how to react to stress.

Even with the best will in the world, our lives get taken over by life. We begin the morning with good intentions; we meditate, we take mindful moments while we brush our teeth and make our tea. But, as our day gets into full swing, our old habits set in and our reptilian brains take over. We react without thought or purpose. Our cortisol levels rise and rise until we are an exhausted heap of human mess.

So, what can you do about that?

Mindful Refocus

Mindful Refocus allows you to return your awareness to the present moment. In order to give myself a frequent reminder, I choose a mindful object.

Once you are dressed for the day, choose an object you are wearing to be your mindful object. It can be a ring, your id badge, necklace, tie, shoes, your watch, a button on your shirt, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is something you will see several times.

During the day, at any point you notice your mindful object, touch it, and complete a Mindful Refocus.

This simple meditation takes only seconds. But, it gives mindful focus for those few seconds and calms the mind so that you can be the best person possible.

Mindful Refocus Activities:

1- Deep Breathing– Take three, deep mindful breaths paying attention to the air flowing in and out your body.

2- Sound Meditation– Close your eyes for a moment, stop and listen to the sounds around you. Focus on the pitch, vibration through your body or distance of the sound.

3- Colour Meditation– Choose a colour that you will decide to notice. Take a deep breath and notice five things with that colour.

4- Shoulder Relaxation– Breath deeply and, on the exhale, allow your shoulders to drop towards the floor as if someone is pressing them downward. Repeat a few times, noticing how your body feels as your shoulders relax.

5- Count Backwards– Take a deep breath and count backwards from 60. Concentrate just on the counting, allowing your body to relax more with each number.

Always remember that mindfulness is not about getting rid stress but how we react to the stress.

Find more mindfulness strategies for children and adults here: www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com or for more ideas for teachers, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom published by Bloomsbury. More information can be found here.

 

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Mindfulness in the Classroom- Spring Mindfulness

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The different seasons allow us to explore mindfulness with children in different ways. Spring allows our senses to come alive and examine our senses in a way like no other season.

Celebrate that Spring has sprung with these mindfulness activities.

Flower Breathing

Each day we take about 20,000 breaths. This automatic bodily response keeps us alive and helps to regulate our emotions. When we bring attention to our breathing, we take control of our emotions and reactions through mindful purpose.

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First, get children decorate their own five petaled flower for meditation. For older children, have them add their own positive mantras that they want focus on.

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Once complete, have the children place it near where they work. They trace the flower and Inhale, hold at the point and focus on the positive mantra (if added), exhale and keep going until you’ve gone around the whole flower. Then touch the centre, breathe deeply and close their eyes for a moment.

Cloud Meditation

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Children have a natural mindfulness, particularly when it comes to nature. Now that Spring has begun to peak out from behind the greyness of Winter, the cloud meditation taps into this natural inquisitiveness.

How to do Cloud Meditation:

– Have children sit or lie down with a good view of the clouds.
– Begin by having them take five deep mindful breaths.
– Ask them to stare at the clouds while you ask them these questions to guide the meditation.
Are the clouds fluffy or thin?
Are they moving?
Are they making shapes of things you know?
Are they all the same colour?
What does the sky look like behind the clouds?
– Give them some silent time to just gaze and mindfully explore the clouds.
– Complete the meditation by discussing what they noticed and what emotions were felt.

Sensory Meditation

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Spring brings rebirth to our senses as flowers begin to make their way towards the warm rays of the sun, animals come out of hibernation and the world comes alive once again. Spring allows us to mindfully explore our five senses: sight, taste, Smell, touch and hearing.

Dedicate a week to the senses; appoint each day to a different sense.

– At the beginning of the day, identify the sense to focus on and discuss what they are already noticing. Then, decide to notice that on a given signal. (This could be the ringing of a bell, code word, etc.)
– Have children take a minute to notice.
– Guide them by asking them questions:
-Have you noticed something or someone you have never noticed before?
-How many different things are you noticing? (I always surprise myself when I   buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice that car EVERYWHERE!)
– Have the children make a mental note about this #mindfulmoment and congratulate themselves for being in the present and proceed with their learning/work.

Mindful Healthy Eating

Spring brings a burst of fresh fruits and vegetables. Explore mindful healthy eating by trying a variety of new foods. Find the instructions to facilitating mindful eating here: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/mindfulness-in-the-classroom-mindful-eating/

Easter Yoga

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Spark the imagination through the use of these amazing Easter Yoga Poses and Easter Egg Hunt: https://www.kidsyogastories.com/easter-yoga-poses-game/

Happy Spring Everyone!

Book Review by Kerry Macfarlane – 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom

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Note: This is a book review written by  Kerry Macfarlane who is a Primary
Teacher, Specialist Leader and PSHE/Mental Wellbeing Lead at Corpus Christi Primary School, Bournemouth. You can follow Kerry on Twitter ‪@KAB21MAC‬.

If you’re looking for ways to develop mindfulness in the primary classroom, this book has it all! Loaded with a wealth of inspired ideas, activities and tips, ‘Mindfulness in the Classroom’ is a superb toolkit, full of mindful practices designed to support children’s mental health in a simple, manageable way within the classroom.

The impact of mindfulness is a growing area of interest in supporting children’s well-being. In my experience, equipping children with a repertoire of skills and strategies to use mindful practice enables them to manage their feelings, especially their ability to cope with stress and anxiety to achieve a state of calm. This book offers practical ways to support children’s skills of emotional self-management through a variety of engaging and accessible mindful practices.

Tammie’s activity ideas are easy to implement, effective take-aways for any primary classroom practitioner. Among my favourites are Mind Jar Meditation, Body Scan, Yoga practice, Random Acts of Kindness and the Gratitude Jar.

Congratulations to Tammie on producing such a fabulous gem of a book to inspire mindfulness within and beyond the primary classroom for both children and teachers.

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom is written by Tammie Prince and published by Bloomsbury. You can find more information on the book and where you can order the book here.

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Empowering Question Meditation

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Questions are at the centre of most of the achievements and progress of human beings. The “What ifs…” and “I wonder whys…” help to give direction to our lives. The right questions can help to ground and focus our minds. The mindful reflection of empowering questions supports the development of our emotional Intelligence.

Empowering Questions allow us to explore our ability to be grateful, develop resilience and focus on the most important things in life. It allows us to immerse ourselves in mindfulness.

Mindful Empowering Questions for Children

1. What do you do really, really well?
2. What one thing do you really like about yourself the most? Why do you like that?
3. What 3 words describe you best? Why?
4. What would you like to learn to do really, really well? What can you do today to begin?
5. What do you love doing the most? Why?
6. Who are your friends? Why are they your friends?
7. What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?
8. How do you feel today? Why do you feel that way?
9. What is one thing you are thankful for in your life? Why?
10. What is one thing that you could do to make the school a better place? Why?
11. What do you imagine yourself doing 10 years from now?
12. What motivates you to do your very best?
13. Who do you need to forgive?
14. Right now, at this very moment, what do you want most? What are you going to do about it?
15. What do you love most about yourself?

Additional Mindful Empowering Questions for Adults

1. How do you define your purpose in life?
2. If you could go back in time by 5 years, what would you tell yourself?
3. When was the last time you did something for the very first time?
4. What are your top 5 values? Are you living those values every day?
5. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
6. What has the fear of failure stopped you from doing? What one step could you take today to begin overcoming that fear?
7. Do you have healthy boundaries or do you let people take advantage of you?
8. What are you the most grateful for in your life? Why?
9. What are you most proud about your life? Why?
10. What is one thing you can do today that can make someone else’s life better? How can you accomplish this?
11. What is the most courageous thing I have done?
12. How have I become me? What am I like?
13. What are the things that make me happy?
14. In what kin of things am I brilliant?
15. Who am I?

How to use Mindful Empowering Question Meditation

1- Choose an Empowering Question to be used in the meditation.
2- Put on some soft meditation music and dim the lights.
3- Find a comfortable position either sitting or standing.
4- Take 3 deep mindful breaths, allowing the shoulders to relax and their eyes to slowly close.
5- Ask the Empowering Question and Have participants softly repeat it.
6- Encourage the participants to reflect silently on their answer while continuing to breathe deeply for 2-15 minutes depending on the age of the participants and their experience level.
–          Encourage the reflection to include visualising themselves in the situation of the question.
7- Complete the Meditation with 3 mindful breaths and have everyone open their eyes.

Mindful Empowering Questioning will help to support increased happiness, Stress Management, build self-esteem, overcome fears and achieve greater mindfulness.

Mindful Reflection – A 2018 Mindful New Year’s Resolution

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I will admit, I am not a fan of New Year Resolutions. Honestly, I don’t think most people are fans. However, year in and year out we make resolutions, break resolutions and then make them again.

What is a resolution? It is something which a person resolves to change- an undesired trait or behaviour-to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.

Last year I decided to look at resolutions differently and make some that allowed me to develop more deeply my mindful practice, thus improving my life. You can read last year’s resolutions here. If you read yesterday’s 2017 reflection here, than you know those simple resolutions have now become my new Mindful Precepts, rules to live by.

I have another confession, my 2018 resolution was decided over a month ago by a kind and thoughtful person whom gave me an amazingly appropriate gift. She gave me a little book called A Sentence a Day Journal. The blurb for the book says, “Put pen to paper everyday to capture unique insights into your life.”

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Wow! Amazing right? This is a gift of Mindful Reflection. To take a moment each day to mindfully reflect on one single aspect of your day and allow yourself to be in that moment and allow yourself to solidify it in a few words allows you to take ownership of that moment,the epitome of Mindfulness. When you are reflective, you create a space for yourself that allows you to begin to notice your own internal experiences. It allows you to stay connected to your own passions in life.

My book has 366 different questions which I will use daily for 3 years allowing myself to Mindfully Reflect on my day. But, you don’t need a book or questions to make your own 2018 Mindful Reflection Book.

How to Create Your Mindful Reflection Book:

You will need:
– A small notebook that can hold at least 365/6 sentences!
– A pen
– 2- 5 minutes of time daily

At the end of each day, take a few minutes to mindfully reflect on one or two GOOD things that have happened to you that day. Some days will be easier than others. But, the key is pressing yourself to reflect on the good in each day and OWNING it by writing it down.

Allow yourself to waddle in the gratitude of that moment that has occurred, that it has enhanced your life that day. The more you identify the positives in life, the more positives occur. An attitude of positivity grows positivity (in the same way an attitude of negativity grows negativity).

Write down at least one sentence to celebrate that GOOD moment of your day (date it as well). Then, at least once a month, go back and read all the good things that have happened in your life. Allow yourself to appreciate those times.

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By allowing ourselves to Mindfully Reflect daily on positive aspects in our lives, we can begin to improve the quality of our thoughts, reactions and intentions.

#MindfulReflection

Note: You can begin Mindful Reflection at any time of the year. The key is to do it over a long period of time to develop a habit of positivity and gratitude that can improve your quality of life.

Mindfulness In The Classroom – Five Things (Mindful Diversion)

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We know that breathing (read about different techniques here) is a top strategy to mindfully taking control of those emotions. However, some children (and adults) still find it difficult to just dive into calm, controlled breathing. If their anxiety is at its highest point, just breathing just doesn’t cut it.

Five Things is a Mindful Diversion strategy to get the child to the point of controlled Mindful Breathing.

How to use Five Things:

If the usual breathing strategies are not working or you know the child well enough to realise the child has reach the point that Mindful Breathing will not be as effective as it can, then:

  • Ask the child to name five things that they can see. If they still are not engaging in actively looking for five things they can see, then you begin…
  • “I see a blue book.” “Do you see the blue book?” “Where is the blue book?
  •  Continue to name things, encouraging them each time to name an object              before you name an object.
  • Repeat with what they can hear.
  • Repeat with what they can smell.

By the end, the person’s mind should divert from the negative spiral and be back to the present moment where breathing strategies can have maximum impact.

NOTE: This is an equally effective strategy for children and adults.

Find more mindfulness strategies on www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com and in the Bloomsbury book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom by Tammie Prince ( Bloomsbury Link, Amazon Link )

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Christmas Mindfulness

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Christmas is a stressful time for children and adults. The build up towards the BIG day is exciting and chaotic; so many colours, twinkling lights and sounds fill our environment! Our routines are disrupted and we can all get overwhelmed.

Here are some ideas that can help you to continue to develop Mindfulness that can lead to a quieter, calmer December!

Mindful Positivity

Mindful Christmas Chain
Put a twist on the Advent Calendar! Each day, give each child a link for a Christmas Chain and write one positive thing that had happened that day, decorate it and add it to the ever expanding Christmas Chain. Encourage the children to tell their parents about their Chain link each day (or have them make two chain links and send one home to make a chain at home) and watch positivity about school spiral up in the run-up to Christmas.

Mindful Meditation

Christmas Star Meditation

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Breathing is one of the most natural things a person can do and an automatic reflex that is hard wired in our brains. How many times have you heard someone say, “Breathe!”, when someone is upset? What about a deep sigh when one is frustrated. It is purely natural reflex which helps us relax.
This Christmas Star Breathing adds a Christmas focus to a simple Mindfulness strategy.

First, get children decorate their own Christmas star for meditation.

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Once complete, have the children place it near where they work. They trace the star and Inhale, hold at the point, exhale and keep going until you’ve gone around the whole star.

Christmas Meditation Music
Playing low music in the background as the children transition to a new activity or as they work diligently on their maths problems and writing, is a way to support behaviour management in the classroom while also supporting children’s learning. Here are some nice Christmas meditation music that allows for a calm, mindful Christmas atmosphere.

https://youtu.be/r-K1t8AZVyI
https://youtu.be/5_2OT7n_V0I
https://youtu.be/fl_XBFfeyh4
https://youtu.be/Uwx3puPyMdA

Christmas Mind Bottle

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Create and use Christmas themed Mind Jars. Instructions for making and using the bottles can be found here: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/mindfulness-in-the-classroom-mind-jar-meditation/ use Christmas themed glitter, sequins and colours to go with the season.

Mindful Gratitude
Gratitude is a fundamental feature of Mindfulness. We are able to change synapsis in the hypothalamus which controls emotion by waddling in our thankfulness.

Gratitude Christmas Tree
Decorate a tree or your class with the things you are grateful for. Your class can draw people, experiences, or things they are grateful for on small Christmas shapes. Then add them to your class decorations. The tree and decorations can act as a daily reminder of things that they are thankful for.
https://mothersniche.com/gratitude-lights-for-christmas-free-printables/ (Christmas lights decorations)

Thank you Cards

Create a selection of Thank You cards to take home over the holidays. Their homework is to complete with a message of thankfulness for gifts and time spent together with family and friends and given to them.
https://www.thebalance.com/free-printable-christmas-thank-you-cards-1356274 (free printable thank you cards/notes)
https://teachingmama.org/christmas-thank-you-cards-kids-can-make/ (Hand-made thank you card ideas)

Christmas Yoga

Christmas Yoga
 helps us to recent research, relax and refocus. These yoga poses can be done in class with no extra space. Use it at the start or end of lessons as a transition in lessons or times of the day.

Christmas Tree pose
Children are to:
* Stand up straight and tall. Breathe in and out and feel your feet rooting into the floor. Keeping their eyes focused on one spot.
* They then need to lift up one leg by bending at the knee and placing that foot on the ankle or calf of the other leg.
* Have them Inhale and exhale while in tree pose and imagining they are being covered in decorations or snow.
* Then they lift their arms in the air. Try to hold for 3 slow deep breaths.
* Slowly place your foot back on the ground and repeat on the other side.

Christmas Gift pose
This is a variation on child’s pose.
Have children:
* Curl into a ball , keeping legs and feet underneath the body and feet on the floor.
* Are to focus on breathing in and out slowly, feeling the breath move into the ribs and the back of the body.
* After a few quiet breaths, get the children to slowly rise up on their knees as if the gift is being unwrapped and revealed.

Star pose
Have children:
Get in a full body stretch and feel energized.
* Stand with legs wide apart and stretch your arms out wide, making a star shape. Relax the neck and shoulders and breathe slowly and deeply. Hold for 5 slow deep breaths.

Education’s Voice wish you, your class and your family a mindful Christmas!

Find more mindfulness strategies on www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com and in the Bloomsbury book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom by Tammie Prince ( Bloomsbury Link,  Amazon Link )