New School Year Mindfulness “To Do List”

My school year started this week. For many in education, this week brings back a whole host of stress and anxiety. Some of it is self inflicted as we understand our awesome duty of care for the children in our schools. Some is inflicted by government demands, the sudden and rapid changes we face, extreme accountability and funding crisis.

How we tackle the year is important for both our own emotional well-being and the emotional well-being of our children. We can minimise some of our stresses. However, we need to accept that their will always be stress and, for a successful school year, we need to take control.

Learning to take several mindful moments during every day gives our minds periods of time during the day to recuperate. It allows us to be more considerate of our actions rather than those actions becoming unmindful reactions.

Stress, good and bad, is a part of life. It is part of the human condition. The key to a calmer, more peaceful life is how we react to these stresses.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to be mindful, it just takes practice and, sometimes, a few reminders. That is why I have come up with a Mindfulness To Do List that encompasses many different aspects of mindfulness.

–  Take one minute , close your eyes and breathe deeply. Do this several times a day.

– Observe your thoughts & feelings without judgement.

– Focus on the present moment and note one specific detail.

– Think of five things that you are thankful for in your life.

Make several copies of the photo reminder at the top of this post and place them in prominent places as your reminder to be mindful. Then ensure that you tick off ALL the things on the list EVERY day.

Remember, the most important step in educating children in developing their own mindfulness skills, is to be a model of mindfulness.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn

Find more mindfulness strategies can be found in 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom, 50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness or on www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com

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Book Review – What’s Going On Inside My Head? By: Molly Potter

The importance of children’s Mental Health has been hitting the mainstream of societal concerns. The importance in developing positive mental health strategies is now being seen by parents, carers, educators and health care practitioners as a basic life skill. But, sometimes we can find it hard to explain to children what positive mental health is all about.

Molly Potter has created an amazing book that breaks down positive mental health into its different aspects in a child friendly way. Each chapter focuses on a different area of positive mental health in terms that are not over simplified but in a way that helps children grasp mental health concepts that can support them for life. Each two paged chapter is beautifully illustrated by Sarah Jennings and opens up discussions between parent/carer/educator that allows children to learn more about what is happening inside their head in 12 individualised areas. Everything from, “How should I think about myself? to “What do I do with emotions?” to How can I improve my thinking habits?” are a part of this book. Finally, there is a three page section on “Guidance for parents and carers” that provides tips for supporting positive mental health and help develop resilience.

This is definitely a book every home and school should have and use to support the development of positive mental health in children.

This book can be bought at Bloomsbury: https://www.bloomsbury.com/au/whats-going-on-inside-my-head-9781472959232/

or Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whats-Going-Inside-Head-conversations/dp/147295923X/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=Molly+Potter&qid=1559470260&s=gateway&sr=8-5

…. and Breathe! A Mindful School Community

It may seem that I have been a bit quiet over the last few months.

As a full time Headteacher (Principal) in a school filled with challenges and in need of lots of TLC, I can easily become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job.

I tend to throw my whole self into the needs of my school. My passion is deep and I fight tooth and nail for what is right for the children of my school.

I am lucky. I am not alone in my passion. I am surrounded by a group of people (staff and governors) that are equally passionate about what we are doing to change life chances for children. But, we need to take care of one another.

Top Tips for Being a Mindful Member Of a School Community

1- SMILE!

Smiling can change our brain, through this powerful feedback loop. Every day your brain keeps track of your smiles. It knows how often you’ve smiled and which overall emotional state you are in.

On average, children smile over 400 times a day. Whilst happy adults still smile 40-50 times a day, the average, however, is only about 20 times.

So, be mindful of your smiles. They are good for you and good for others.

2- CRY!

I know that for some, crying is seen as a weakness. I don’t see it as a weakness. To me it is a sign of release. I admit, I am an emotional person; always have been. I cry when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am scared, when I am mad, when I am frustrated… I think you get the idea! Crying is a release. Crying allows you to be in this moment in time and release the built up anxiety stored in your body.

A good mindfully driven team understands that and allows each other to have those moments without judgement and with understanding.

3– Show Gratitude and Spread Kindness

Take opportunities to show gratitude and spread kindness. How this looks in each school community will be different depending on the dynamics. Basically, follow the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you..” This can be as basic as a hug to as elaborate as a Basket Of Kindness (sharing basket).

4- Breathe!

Breathing is one of the most natural things a person can do and an automatic reflex that is hard wired in our brains. However, we sometimes actually forget to breathe! We hold our breathes as if this will freeze time or stop the inevitable from happening. But, the minute it takes to support a colleague in mindful breathing and a friendly reminder to BREATHE can change a situation and support more than anything else.

It becomes something like a secret code word.

5- STOP! 

What people want sometimes is to be listened to with full interest and intention. Take a deep breath, look them in the eye and LISTEN to what they are saying. Don’t allow your mind to wonder and don’t start formulating a response before they finish talking. To them, what they have to say is extremely important and, many times, they don’t expect an answer or response straight away and will usually appreciate the pause that will be required to formulate your response when they are finished talking or the ability to get their troubles off their chest.

Finally, REMEMBER…

Remember that there are no PERFECT people in the world and because there are no perfect people, we can all get caught up in our own passion and despair.; we all have our own battles. A good Mindful team is one that allows for imperfections and raises up those who that need that extra care.

OUR CHILDREN ARE LOOKING AT US AS THEIR MODELS. Be a GOOD one!

Children’s Mental Health Week

The week of 4th February 2019 is Children’s Mental Health Week.

This is championed in the UK by Place2Be https://www.place2be.org.uk supported by HRH Dutches of Cambridge.

We teach children how to write, read, add and subtract along with a whole host of other subjects. Those things are important towards helping them to be successful members of society.

However, if children don’t have the skills and strategies to cope with the stresses that come with the access and use of that knowledge and becoming members of society, they will not be as successful as they can be.

Together, whether we are parents, teachers, club/team leaders or the general public, we need to be actively engaged in giving our children the tools needed for a positive mental health now and in the future.

The development of mindfulness in children can support this positive mental health development.

A number of strategies can be found here for free: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/mindfulness-in-the-classroom-series/

Share your ideas and activities in the comments.

If you have missed the official week, that is ok. The development of positive mental health in children is for all year long and not just for one week.

Find more mindfulness strategies for teachers, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

#MindfulFocusChallenge- Day 14: Colour Meditation

The key to mindfulness is not being in the present every moment of the day. That is not possible and not appropriate for a successful life; you do need some time to reflect in order to improve and prepare for the future. The key is being able to refocus yourself in the present at your will and not at the will of your meandering thoughts.

Refocusing without judgement is a positive mindful activity.

Today, we will focus using a reminder, Colour Meditation.

Colour Meditation

– Choose a colour and decide to notice that colour during the day. Take the time to notice the objects and people wearing that colour.

– Have your 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!)

This ends our #MindfulFocusChallenge. We hope you have been able to see how mindfulness can help you in your day to day life.

Respond in the comments, tweet us @Ed_Tmprince or respond on our Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ with #MindfulFocusChallege and let us know how you found this strategy.

#MindfulFocusChallenge- Day 13: Hand Washing Exercise

Many psychologists believe that our emotions begin with a physical sensation, positive or negative. When we focus on positive sensations that are calming, we can emotionally become calm.

Today, our mindfulness practice will focus on positive physical sensations to mindfully be in the moment and anchor us in the present.

Washing Hands Meditation

When we wash our hands in warm water, it opens the blood vessels and tricks your brain out of a stressful state.

– When you go to wash your hands, be mindful of the sensation of the water and soap as your rub your palms, between your fingers and on top of your hands. Breath deeply allowing your breathing enhance the feel of water and soap.

– How does this moment feel?

– How is it making the rest of your body feel?

Repeat every time you wash your hands today.

Respond in the comments, tweet us @Ed_Tmprince or respond on our Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ with #MindfulFocusChallege and let us know how you found this strategy.

#MindfulFocusChallenge- Day 12: Shoulder Relaxation Exercise

Many of us hold stress in our shoulders. As the day becomes more stressful, our shoulders become more tense and creep up towards our ears. It is like a primitive form of contracting our muscles to spring into the fight or flight mode. The #mindfulmoment for today is to to take a moment, without judgement, to relax our shoulders and accept the feeling of restfulness that accompanies the moment.

Shoulder Relaxation

– Breath deeply and, on the exhale, allow your shoulders to drop towards the floor as if someone is pressing them downward.

– Continue to breathe deeply for five breaths, allowing your shoulders to slightly rise on the inhale and then completely drop on the exhale.

– Recognise how the muscles feel in the shoulder and neck. Remember, do not judge the tension. Just recognise it is there and release the tension.

Do this at least five times during the day.

This is particularly useful technique to use when having to deal with situations that are escalating into an argument or emotional situation. I also encourage shoulder relaxation in basic deep breathing as part of the everyday practice.

Respond in the comments, tweet us @Ed_Tmprince or respond on our Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ with #MindfulFocusChallege and let us know how you found this strategy.