A Teacher’s Mindfulness – Mindful Daydreaming

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You may be thinking, ‘How can daydreaming be mindful?’. It doesn’t necessarily fit what we know about daydreaming.

What is daydreaming anyway? It is the state of consciousness that happens when our brain triggers a thought process that is not anchored in the immediate surroundings. It is usually pleasurable and takes us to a place that allows us to relax and be happy. On average, a daydream lasts only 14 seconds!

As children in school, we were likely told to “stop daydreaming” and it was seen as a waste of valuable school time. Along with other natural reflexes like sighing, we have tended to suppress a natural mindful strategy that helps us to relax.

We can make Mindful Daydreaming a part of our mindfulness practise by making the daydreams the object of the mindful focus.

When we are mindful of our daydreams, we are able to:

– Receive feedback on our own conscious or unconscious well- being. Our spontaneous daydreams can help us to know whether we are more positive or negative in the moment, depending on the emotions evoked by the daydream.
– Manipulate our thoughts allowing us to engage with our emotions without physical risk.
– Take a mini- holiday allowing us to explore places that bring us peace and relaxation. This may be a particular landscape, activity or alternative reality.

If we mindfully daydream, we are bringing focus, formality and purpose. Treat these daydreams as a meditation.
– Find a quiet place and sit or lie in a comfortable position where you will not be disturbed.
– You may want to set a timer to give a definite time to this meditation or you can use this as a bedtime meditation to fall into a peaceful sleep.
– Play soft meditation music and take deep, mindful breaths.
– Allow your mind to roam without any specific purpose.
– As the thoughts come through, pay attention to them but do not judge. Just note them and allow them to flow.

So, why not try it right now! Take a deep, mindful breath, close your eyes and allow yourself to take part in a daydream. Relax and let yourself drift off for a few moments. It is good for your health!

Holiday Mindfulness To Do List

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Anyone who works in a school knows the full out relief of a long summer break. Day in and day out the strain of the overwhelming responsibility weighs on the shoulders of each person. Some loads are heavier than others but they all put a relentless stress during school time.

Most of us know all about this before we even enter the profession. We are warned and told the horror stories. However, over the years the stresses of continued curriculum changes, societal changes and ever increasing expectation and accountability puts our health and well-being at risk.

So, it is very important that we take the time during to summer break to look after ourselves and start developing habits that will support us through the rest of the year.

Summer Mindfulness To Do List

1- Gratitude– In the hustle and bustle of the school year, we can sometimes forget to bask in the success that have been achieved. Take some time to write out all the wonderful things you can think have happened this last year.

2- Meditations– Meditating is a habit. When forming a new habit you must:
* Set a Reminder– the trigger that initiates the behaviour. I suggest an alarm on your phone early in the day (after you know you will be awake but before you would go out for the day) that goes off daily.
* Make a Routine– when the alarm goes off stop whatever you are doing and begin your meditation. An overview of meditations can be found here.
* Reward– Once you have finished your meditation, smile and give yourself a mental pat on the back as you recognise how you are feeling in those first moments following the meditation.

A number of guided meditations can be found here:  https://tinyurl.com/EducationsVoiceMeditations

3- Mindful Walks– We all know that walks can clear the cobwebs and make use feel better. This holiday, when you take the walks, focus on one aspect of the walk. For example, decide on a colour you want to notice. As you walk, look for that colour. When you see it, use it as a reminder to take a deep mindful breath and focus on the object with the colour and the characteristics of that object. If other thoughts, like work, come to mind, allow them to float past you like a cloud and not allow yourself to wallow in the thought.

4- Learn Something New– Studies suggest that adult learning has a positive impact on self-esteem and self-efficacy when the learning provided meets the needs of the learner, and when the learner is at a stage in their life when they are ready and receptive to benefit from it. So, basically, if we learn something we want to learn and not because we have to learn it, the positive benefits support our well-being. What will you learn to do this holiday? Knitting, crocheting, making tissue flowers, baking?

5- #RAK – Pledge to do one Random Act of Kindness each day. It doesn’t need to be big. It could be to allow a car to go ahead of you in a traffic jam or it could be paying for the person behind you at the coffee shop. Maybe it is to give a lonely looking person a sincere smile or leaving little positive notes in high traffic areas a rays of sunshine for other people.

During this break, make your well-being a priority. No one can do it for you. YOU have to do it!

Mindfulness for Children- Top Mindful Sleep Tips For Parents

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A common concern for parents is the lack of their child’s ability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. According to research by the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation  in children results in:

  • Poor concentration leading to a fall in academic performance.
  • Chronically sleep-deprived teenagers become more impulsive leading to risk-taking behaviours.
  • Sleeping problems increase the risk of disorders such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Children start getting negative feelings which may lead to depression.

How Much Sleep Does a Child Need?

National-Sleep-Foundation-recommendations

A study showed that an increase in sleep time by approximately 30 minutes every night for 5 nights had an immediate impact on emotional ability and restless-impulsive behaviors of children in school. (1)

With this in mind, how can you, as a parent, support your child in getting the right amount of sleep each night?

Top Sleep Tips 

  • Bed Time:  Have a set bed time or wind-down time to bed time. Set patterns trigger the habit of sleep.
  • Mindful Breathing:  The breathing changes energy from tension to relaxation. It does this by turning off our sympathetic nervous system that produces stress hormones. This then turns on our parasympathetic nervous system, which turns off the stress hormone pump. So, deep breathing relaxes the body, decreases the heart rates lowers the blood pressure and creates the feeling of calmness.
    • Belly Breathing– Sit or lay comfortably. Place your hands on your belly and take a deep breath in for four counts, blowing up your belly like a balloon. Hold the breath for one count and then slowly exhale for five counts, deflating the balloon in your belly. Continue to do this for a few minutes until you see or feel calm and relaxed. (With young children, have them place their soft cuddly animal on their tummies to do this exercise.)
  • Mindful Gratitude– Once the child has relaxed with the mindful breathing, have them think of one thing they are thankful for or made them happy during the day. Have them imagine what it felt like, encouraging them to close their eyes and see it in their mind and smile.
  • Meditation Music:  Sometimes silence is worse than noise and can keep children awake. Playing soft meditation music can help children relax as they listen and drift off to sleep. (You can find several free options on my YouTube channel that can be found here.)
  • BEDTIME – GUIDED MEDITATIONS for Children:  Turn off the lights and play one of the following guided meditations (or find your own in my library of sleep meditations found here.)

If, after a period of time, this does not help your child drift off into a peaceful sleep and get the recommended sleep time, I suggest visiting your family doctor for support and advice.

(1) Gruber R, Cassoff J, Frenette S, Wiebe S, Carrier J. Impact of sleep extension and restriction on children’s emotional lability and impulsivity. Pediatrics. 2012 Nov;130(5):e1155-61. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-0564. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Calm Down Box

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Some children find it more difficult than others when being able to control their emotions. Sometimes they need some additional support in focusing themselves in using mindfulness strategies to calm down.

Calm Down Boxes help to encourage children to a more peaceful state when they are the most anxious by occupying them with tangible, mindful inducing objects. The boxes seem most effective for children with autism (or autistic tendencies), ADHD or Attachment Disorder.

These boxes should contain objects that appeal to the senses; look, touch, smell and sound.

The best boxes are ones that are tailored to the individual child and should have input into what are they have.

You will need:
– A box with a lid that is the size of a shoe box or smaller.
– A variety of sensory objects that the child can choose from. I suggest that they choose 5 different objects to begin with and then, slowly over time, allow them to add to their box later on.

Examples of objects:
– glitter bottle
– soft, squeeze ball
– harder, spiky ball
– stress ball
– play dough
– soft pipe cleaners
– sparkly pipe cleaners
– small, soft cuddly toy (I like to add a few drops of lavender oil.)
– textured cloth
– sea shell
– bendy straw
– small bean bag (add a few drops of lavender oil)
– tangle toy
– chew toy
– smooth river stones (worry stone)
– worry dolls
– stretchy toys
– small pin wheel
– small bottle of bubbles
– tissue paper
– photos of a favourite person or animal

 

How to use:

Encourage its use when the child begins to become anxious. As they are using the objects, encourage Deep Breathing to enhance the effects of the sensory objects and refrain from talking to them until they are visibly more calm and ready to put the box away.

Note: The objects should stay in the box when not being used to calm down.

A Mindful Ofsted -Top 5 Tips

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Just the word OFSTED, uttered in a whisper, can set the heart rate rising across an English school. ( Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. They inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. However, it is also synonymous with the inspection regime that grades schools from outstanding to inadequate.) Even the mentioning of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI), sends some of us into a cold sweat. The fight or flight impulse is strong and causes countless amount of stress for educators up and down the country.

I applied to become the Headteacher of my new school knowing that Ofsted was imminent. It was discussed when I viewed the school for the first time. It was discussed when I interviewed for the job. It was discussed when we decided I would start earlier than expected in order to get a head start on getting a grip on what the school needed and putting plans into place sooner rather than later. It was the journey I had chosen to take.

None the less, when we received that 11 am call informing me that the inspectors were going to be visiting the next day, I had to say that I had a few moments of shock. You see, it was day 11 of my new headship. Not only was it day 11 but it was also SATs Week (UK national standardised testing for primary schools) and we had an EYFS (Early Years and Foundation Stage) moderation of final assessments scheduled for the Friday.

What followed was typical for spending the next 21 hours preparing for the visit with gathering documents, discussing details with governors and prepping staff. But, the most important thing was preparing myself.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for a Mindful Ofsted.

#1
Prepare before you have to prepare.- Developing your own understanding of mindfulness and use of mindfulness practice allows you to automatically shift into Mindful gear when you get the call. A good way to begin Mindfulness Development is to try a number of mindfulness strategies over a period of time. Why not try #MonthOfMindfulness which is 30 days of 30 simple mindfulness strategies? They can be found HERE.

#2
Learn to Breathe!– Learn how to use breathing techniques to trick yourself into a state of calm. You can learn more HERE. After, you receive the call, allow yourself a few minutes to just clear your mind and breathe, focusing on the breath as the cool air enters your lungs and the feel of the warm air as you exhale. Allow yourself relax. This is important for you and your team. Continue to have those moments of solitude before, during and after the inspection.

#3
Meditate – Ensure you have a favourite guided meditation ready to use when the time comes. My favourite for these kind of occasions is a nice walk on the beach which can be found HERE. Allow yourself to have this time to yourself before the day begins and again at the end of the day as go to bed.

#4
Keep Hydrated– We all know that we function best when we are hydrated. Ensure that you have a jug of fresh water is on your desk with your favourite glass. Then, make sure you drink it! Use this Water Meditation to enhance your Calmness.
Water Meditation
– Pour yourself a glass of plain water. (It can have ice.)
– Sit down with your water and allow yourself to be aware of drinking the water.
– Take a sip. Allow the sip to linger in the mouth. Notice the temperature of the liquid against your tongue, cheeks, gums and palate. What can you taste? Is there a sweetness, bitterness, acidic or even slightly salty taste?
– Notice the sensations of the water being swallowed and flowing down your throat and into your stomach.
– Continue to be mindful of each sip; allowing yourself to be in the very present moment of drinking your water.

#5
STOP!- 10 Second Mindfulness
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.
Do this as often as you need during the day. Those few mindful moments can change your reaction to what is happening around you leading to a better positive response that changes the course of events.

Conclusion:

The key to surviving an inspection is to stay in control of your emotions rather than letting them control you. Your team will feed off of your reactions and follow your lead. If you stay calm, they will be calmer.  Also, by being mindful, we can be more clear about what we want inspectors to see and know about your school.

The end result for me was a positive one, mainly because I felt in control of a situation that was out of my control. I realise that not all inspections can or will be positive. However, by using mindfulness strategies before, during and after will put you in control of your own health and well being during a stressful time.

So now, BREATHE and carry mindfully on.

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Every Little Bit Counts

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This past week has been a busy one for many Primary schools across England. It is collectively known as SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) Week for Year 6 children. The instructions for giving the tests are strict and must be given at specific times on specific days. Over a period of four days they take six different tests. Anyone who works in a primary school or is a parent of a Year 6 child, will know about the overwhelming stress that this puts on the children; particularly as they have become much harder over the last few years.

This year has been no different, except that I felt helpless with supporting the Year 6 children at my new school. The tests were scheduled for my third week of school! The school had not been teaching any of the strategies for mindfulness and it made me sad that I may not be able to help this group of children properly prepare themselves mentally to face the challenges the tests would present.

After some discussion with the class teacher, I decided to teach the children a few basic mindfulness strategies.

First, we discussed how they were feeling about the tests, considering the emotions that were attached to these feelings and how our body responds. Of course, what they told me was of no surprise; nervous, scared and anxious. We discussed how this was normal and then I explained what was happening in their body with the brain triggering stress hormones to set off the primitive “fight or flight” response. I then asked them if they would like to trick their mind and body into believing it was clam. They whole heartedly agreed.

We discussed three basic strategies:
(Click on each strategy to take you to details of the strategy.)

1- Basic Deep Mindful Breathing– Including the One Minute Meditation
2- Starfish Meditation– To support those more active and sensory based children
3- Guided Meditation, particularly Visualisation- We used The Magic Shell Meditation in full and used their “magic shells” each day of testing to hold on to their worries and concerns during the testing so the wouldn’t bother them.

During the testing week, in the morning before the tests began, I spent time on the first two days of the tests with the class, supporting them through some breathing and visualisation exercises they had learned. On day three and four, I was unable to do this because Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) decided it was time to inspect the school (In my third week at the school! This is were my own mindfulness was significantly used and is featured HERE.). However, the staff had paid close attention to my modelling and continued to use the strategies with the children the last two mornings.

The result?
I will let the children explain. (I received these letters and cards.)

Will this positively impact on their final results? I am not sure. It was only a few weeks. But, I do know that they have quickly learned a life long skill that has supported their mental health and well-being this past week and, with that success, many will continue to use the strategies as they move into secondary school.

Mindfulness, every little bit counts!

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Mindful Facial Massages

 

DesignThe development of mindfulness has, at its heart, the reduction of stress hormone levels. Teaching children a number of Mindfulness strategies allows children to find the ones that best meets their needs and successfully reduces their stress and anxiety.

Massage and the power of touch is naturally relaxing and is a way to reduce these stress hormones. Maria Hernandez-Reid is a researcher at the Touch Research Institute. She says that the lowering of stress hormones not only reduces the feelings of anxiety but also supports a healthier immune system.

Here are some simple personal facial massages that children and adults can do to support their own mindfulness.

Before you begin:

– Ensure that hands have been washed well.
– Play gentle meditation music in the background.
– Sit or lay down comfortably.
– Take some deep mindful breaths to kick start the relaxation

Chin Massage
– Use your index and middle finger of each hand.
– Begin at the top of your jaw near your ears on both sides at the same time and move in a small circular motion five times.
– Move your fingers down the jaw line and move then in a circular motion five times.
– Repeat the motions as you move down the jaw bone towards the chin.
– At the point of the chin, use one set of fingers and repeat the circular motion five times.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

Eyebrow Massage
– Use your thumb and index finger on each hand.
– Begin at the area between your eyebrows and softly pinch for a count of five.
– Move your fingers outwards over your eyebrows and, again, softly pinch for a count of fives.
– Repeat the motions as you move towards the temples.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

Ear Massage
– Use your entire hand and cup the top of each of your ears and gently squeeze for a count of five.
– Move down the ears, continuing to gently squeeze for a count of five.
– Finish by placing your thumbs in the dent behind the bottom of your ear lobe (where it joins your face) and apply gentle pressure for a count of five.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

Cat’s Whiskers Massage
– Use your three middle fingers of each hand and make a W.
– Place the fingers on either side of your mouth, applying gentle pressure.
– Gently sweep your fingers across the face with gentle pressure as if you were drawing cat’s whiskers.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

You can use one massage or a combination of massages. Try out a variety of ways to find what best fits you and your class.
Top tip: Encourage deep, even mindful breathing during all of the massages and have them focus on the feel of their fingers against their skin.

If you like this, try Mindful Head Massage.