#MindfulFocusChallenge – Day 1: Leaf Meditation

(You will need a leaf. It can be any kind of leaf; a fallen leaf, one still on the tree or from a plant.)

Find a space where you can have five uninterrupted minutes. Maybe it is in your back garden, in a local park, or a walk through some woodlands. It may even be that you collect a leaf while out and about and complete the meditation within the comfort of your home. It really doesn’t matter as long as you have your leaf.

– Pick up the leaf and lay it in your hands.

– Notice the colours, the different in shades of colours and fading of one colour to another colour.

– Notice the veins in the leaf, the main stem, the edges of the leaf.

– Feel the leaf. Run your fingers over the top and bottom; along the edges. Notice the differences. Rub it against your face or over the top of your hand. Use nerve endings that normally are not used to feel objects. Notice the difference.

– Smell the leaf. Note the scent. Inhale deeply and notice the memories it may bring up.

Close your eyes and take a minute to breathe deeply and allow yourself to be in awe and wonder of the moment you have had with the leaf.

Proceed with a new found calmness and appreciation.

Respond in the comments below, 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.

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Mindful Focus Challenge

Life can be an ever ending cycle of chaos; a plague of distractions that pull on our time and demand moments of our lives. emails, news, messages, work, family and more cry out for our attention and we feel we must always give that attention to be successful.

As the holiday season gets closer, it seems that this pull on our time and attention becomes even greater.

It is during these times that we need to step back, take a deep breath and find our mindful focus. It will:

You would like to:

• Give us a greater sense of focus in your life.

• Support us in being more effective in your work and life.

• Help us to achieve a sense of peace and calm.

For 14 days, we will spend some time stopping the chaos, breathing and using a variety of mindfulness strategies to bring mindful focus to our day.

The #MindfulFocusChallenge begins on Sunday 18th November.

Don’t worry if you don’t start on that day because all 14 days will be posted each day below on this blog for you to do on your own timescale.

Share with others and let’s do this together! Don’t forget the hashtag #MindfulFocusChallenge.

Book Review- Positive Pete and Mindful Molly- Jake’s Silence

Positive Pete and Mindful Molly
Jake’s Silence
By Sukaina Mukhtar

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Thinking differently can be a struggle for humans; for both the child that may have a particular diagnosis or for the other children and adults.

We all know children who can’t sit still, never seem to listen, who don’t follow instructions or shout out inappropriate comments at inappropriate times. Some data shows that nearly 15% of the population is likely to be diagnosed with ADHD by the time they are adults.

Jake’s Silence is  the first of three books. The focus is for children to work on emotional intelligence. Thus,  the second book in this series goes further into using tools like visualisation and meditation.  The aim of the books is to help children become independent of their circumstance by cultivating these tools in order to overcome or manage their challenges.

This story is about a boy called Jake that has his own struggles dealing with ADHD. When dealing with some situations he becomes anxious and this leads to behaviours that others consider “naughty”. The books gives a little inside peek into what Jake is thinking and feeling. It also gives a peek to how others around him are reacting to his behaviours. Then their is Positive Pete and Mindful Molly that help Jake as he struggles through his day.

The book is based on a true story and is a good book for children with or without ADHD and adults. The story itself helps all people to understand what they can do to help themselves and each other. It challenges our attitudes on how we should support one another and not just jump to conclusions.

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Following the story are lots of thought provoking activities that allow us to explore the many themes that come out and can be easily used with one individual, a family or a whole class.

This self-published book can be purchased on Amazon here: https://tinyurl.com/PositivePeteMindfulMolly

You can find more mindfulness strategies for children and adults on my own blog 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.

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Blue Sky & Ocean Mindfulness

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The feel of sand beneath your feet, the sound of waves crashing on the beach, the smell of sea water in the air and the sight of the sun rising and setting in the blue sky. What more could you want from a place to relax and recharge?

In research published by Health & Place , subjects living along the coastal regions reported better health and well-being.

Richard Shuster, PsyD, clinical psychologist says, “The color blue has been found by an overwhelming amount of people to be associated with feelings of calm and peace. Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.”

He goes on to say that the rhythmic sound of the crashing waves kind of de-stimulates our brains. The noises combined with the visuals, activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is, as Shuster says in his podcast on The Daily Helping , “responsible for slowing us down and allowing us to relax and feel more engaged.”

In addition, the simple act of touching the sand makes you feel happy and relaxed. “The physical sensation of putting your feet in warm sand causes people to relax,” says Shuster.

This is great if you live by the sea and if you have time to get to the seaside. But, most of us have very busy lives that don’t allow for this and, if you are a teacher, you know that seaside visits are few and far between for your children with some never actually getting to a beach unless it is a school trip.

So, how can we use mindfulness to virtually get us to the seaside?

Top Tips for a Virtual Seaside Visit

1- Visual Meditations: play videos of beaches and waves crashing on the shore.
Focus children on the rhythm of the waves, the sound of the sea and the sky around it. Reminding them to take long Mindful breaths and allowing all worries to drift along like a cloud.

For a few moments, instruct them to close their eyes and imagine they are on that beach, with their toes in the sand and a warm breeze on their face.

Here are some ocean Meditations that would be good for children and adults:
Morning Meditation Ocean Sunrise – https://youtu.be/UpXMeZuWWR0
Misty Beach Ocean Waves – https://youtu.be/E7qRkUYu580
Nice Ocean Waves – https://youtu.be/V-_O7nl0Ii0
One Moment Ocean Meditation – https://youtu.be/RlOZ02HgAnE
Meditation on the Beach – https://youtu.be/jJkEiw6Gh0U
2- Blue Sky Meditation– display pictures of the blue sky like these:

Play quiet meditation music or nature sounds as you guide the children to focus on the photo and take deep mindful breaths.
Photo examples:

Or use these lovely Blue Sky Meditations:
Blue Sky & Cloud Meditation – https://youtu.be/tOf2VRZA-Rc
Blue Sky Meditation (Children’s visualisation) – https://youtu.be/5qoU_XBkm3g
White Clouds on Blue Sky Meditation – https://youtu.be/TWaQwDqERqE
Floating on a Cloud – https://youtu.be/kyQAKcWYtsk

Or, take the children outside on a nice day have them sit or lay back and focus on the clouds as you guide them through deep breathing. (Remind them not to look directly at the sun.)

3- Sand Play– Many Early Years classrooms and units have sand trays for children to play in and that is good. But, in addition, they need trays and larger areas with sand where you encourage children to take off their shoes and wiggle their toes in the soft, shifting sand. Allow children to use various body parts to explore the feeling of sand and get them to focus on the feel, warmth or coldness of the sand against their skin.

I have been compiling useful videos for the Blue Sky & Ocean Mindfulness on YouTube HERE.

By mindfully understanding and enjoy the gifts of nature, we can allow ourselves to relax and be in the present moment.

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.

Mindfulness- Finding Positivity at the End of the Day

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For humans, language is a powerful tool. It can evoke positive, neutral and negative emotions. We also can direct these emotions in others by the words we say and the syntax of those few words.

As a Headteacher/Principal for more than 10 years, there is a similar conversation I have with parents and teachers repeatedly.

Usually, the scenario of the child moaning and complaining about something that has happened as soon as the child walks out the school doors that leads to upset in the family for the evening. This conversation repeats day after day, upsetting the parent and feeding a negative loop of emotions to the point of a child telling their parents nothing good about the school day. When the parents tell the teacher, he/she is baffled as the child has not complained and, in fact, has had an extremely positive days filled with lots of success and praise.

So, what is going on here?

According to Professor Nass, co-authored, “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships” (Penguin 2010),
“The brain handles positive and negative information in different hemispheres,” Generally, negative emotions involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones, he said. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones.

Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University, highlights in an article he co-authored in 2001, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good,” which appeared in The Review of General Psychology, “Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.”

Basically, at a very young age, we realise that when we tell our parents the more negative experiences that have happened in our day, no matter how small, our parents give us more emotional feedback than when we tell them our positive experiences.

So, how can we as both teachers and parents use mindfulness to change how we see the day that will lead to mentally healthier experiences and reactions and to a more peaceful school and home environment?

Teachers

End each day with a positive thought– Have each child tell the class what is one thing they have learned that day or what was the best part of their day in school before they leave for the day. As a class, celebrate the successes; clap, cheer, smile and congratulate the positives. These positive thoughts and emotions follow the children out the door and home.

This gives you, as a teacher, a sense of accomplishment and positive mindful reflection on the day. It allows you to enjoy the success of the day instead of only considering the things that didn’t go well. It gives the day balance.

For children, it begins to refocus the day and allows children to bask in the glow of positivity. It helps them to give the day balance.

Parents

When you see your child at the end of the school day be specific in your questions:
– What was the BEST thing about today?
– What is the BEST thing you saw today?
– What is the KINDEST thing you did or said today?

The key is to focus on the positive and explore and discuss this positive. Allow the conversation to grow about this positive experience. Ask for details (Who was with you when this happened?) , explore the emotions (How did you feel? Did you smile?) and encourage gratitude (Did you say thank you? How do you think they felt?).

If your child tries to divert to a negative, let them know you will listen to them about it but first you are going to enjoy the positives and discuss the positives.

Before bedtime, bring up these positives again. Allow the child to repeat and allow the positive emotions to be the last emotions they have as they go to sleep. One falls asleep and has a better sleep when they have positive thoughts to drift off to.

This gives both of you time to enjoy each other’s company and reinforce a mindful sense of gratitude that can lead to a more harmonious family life.

Does this mean a child should never tell a parent what did not go well? Not at all! What we are wanting to do is to help children to find a mindful balance in life and find happiness in being happy.

Please note:
Just asking your child, “How was your day?” Is a neutral statement and doesn’t drive a positive mindset. Emphasis needs to be positive language.

Eventually, as the habit of positivity develops, even a neutral question will have a child first reflecting on the positive. However, this does take time.

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.

#MindfulMayChallenge – Week 5 Mindful Taste

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Week 5: 28th- 3rd June 2018
Mindful Taste–
Take time each day to notice the taste of foods and drinks.

This is the last week for #MindfulMayChallenge and we are focusing on Mindful Taste. In order to mindfully taste, you must eat mindfully.

The key to mindfulness is focusing on the present moment calmly and accepting the feelings and thoughts and bodily sensations. It is our way to taking control of ourselves even when things around us are happening without our control.

In a child’s life, there is little that they have control over. When they get up, what they wear, what they eat, what they watch, etc. controlled or semi-controlled. Then, add the actions and reactions of other children to situations and there is a perfect storm. Our job is to help them realise there are things they can control and giving them strategies be aware and mindful of their minds and bodies; learning how to live in a chaotic world.

Even as adults, we sometimes do not feel like we are in control. Few of us are not accountable to someone. Our jobs, our families, our lives in general demand our attention and demands are put upon us wether we want to or not. So, we even need to develop mindfulness strategies as well.

Mindful eating is one way that allows a child and an adult to become aware of the positive and nurturing foods we eat by using our senses. By using all of our senses in choosing to eat food that supports our bodies growth and development, we are acknowledging the foods we like or dislike without making a fuss about the taste. Additionally, they become aware of signals the body gives us to lets us know we are hungry or we are full. So, in addition to the mindfulness with the eating of foods, we also start to see food in a different way; as nourishment.

As an adult, you may choose to eat an entire meal in a mindful way. However, for children, the process could be very tedious, particularly in the beginning.

Mindful Eating Exercise for the classroom:
(The teacher needs to verbally guide the children through the exercise.)
You can use a raisin, a slice of apple or orange, pomegranate seed, dried fruit or any food you wish. (Be sure your children have no allergies or the food is a chocking hazard.)
1- Have the children LOOK at the food they will be eating. Silent,they are to observe what it looks like? What do you notice?
What colour is it?
Is it small or large?
2- Have the children smell the food.
Does it have a smell?
What does it smell like?
3- Have the children direct their attention to how it feels.
Can You squeeze it?
Is it firm or soft?
Is it smooth, sticky or rough?
Warm or cold?
Does it make any sounds?
4- Have the children, very slowly, put the piece of food in their mouth but not chew it! Leave it on the tongue.
How does it feel on the tongue?
Can you taste anything?
Does it smell differently in your mouth?
5- Have the children begin to chew slowly; one mindful chew at a time.
Does the taste change?
How does it feel in the mouth?
6- Try to get them notice when they swallow, and see how far you can feel the food into your body.
7- Finally, orally discuss what they felt during the activity or turn on some meditation music and allow them to write about their experience.
Try this with a number of different foods either in one sitting or over a period of time.
In addition, encourage them to mindfully eat their first bite of lunch each day. It is lovely to see the children mindfully eating their food.

Additional Suggested Activities
1- Keep a photo record of mindful moments each day.
– create a weekly collage
– Share daily photos or collage with others (don’t forget to add #MindfulMayChallenge)
2- Create a display (classroom, staffroom, workroom) and add your Mindful Moments using pictures, post-it notes, drawings, etc and watch mindfulness literally grow.
3- Use the #MindfulMayChallenge flower sheets to journal each day with a few words or drawings to document the month. (found below)
4- Get families involved by encouraging them to take part at home either before or after school to support greater development of mindfulness for all that are a part of our lives.
Engage with Education’s Voice through each week’s blog post

(www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com), Twitter (@Ed_Tmprince) or Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ) by sharing where the challenge has taken you that week (at home, at school or work place).

Ensure you use #MindfulMayChallenge in your posts!

#MindfulMayChallenge: Week 4 – Mindful Touch

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Week 4: 21st-27th May 2018
Mindful Touch–
Take time each day to notice how everyday objects feel

The sense of touch is an integral part of our everyday life. We use it to evaluate and make decisions about all we do in life, from choosing items we want to buy to showing love and care for the ones we love. We use the sense of touch to bring us comfort and to give comfort.

The mindful context of touch changes emotional attachment to the environment around us.

This week we bring focus to our sense of touch. We will take the time to explore the sensations and feelings that objects hold when we take the time to mindfully touch them.

1. Take a few deep, mindful breaths before you begin.
2. Choose any object that encourages the use of touch to explore; examples would be seashells, faux fur, slime, Play Dough, tree bark, textured material, etc.
3. Close your eyes and allow your hands to explore the object, running your fingers softly over the ridges and indentions. Allow time for the object to sit in your hands and notice the weight and the pressure it exerts.
4. Don’t do anything except notice the thing you are feeling; relax into watching for as long as your concentration allows.
4. Really take the time to feel the object.
5. Allow yourself to mindfully touch every detail and allow yourself to be waddle in its presence. Use different body parts like top of your hand, your cheeks, nose, arms, etc.
6. Allow yourself to connect with the object.
7. Make a note of this mindful moment by one of these activities below or one of your own.
8. If this is being done with a class, allow a few minutes to discuss what was noticed and how we can use this strategy to bring calm into our lives.

Taking It Further
Positive Mindful Touch is important for our well-being. Showing care for ourselves helps us show Loving Kindness to a very important person in our lives, YOU!

These two mindful strategies helps to begin to show ourselves the importance of mindful touch.

Mindful Face Massage : https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/mindfulness-in-the-classroom-mindful-facial-massages/

Mindful Hand Massage: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/mindfulness-in-the-classroom-mindful-hand-massage/

Suggested Activities
1- Keep a photo record of mindful moments each day.
– create a weekly collage
– Share daily photos or collage with others (don’t forget to add #MindfulMayChallenge)
2- Create a display (classroom, staffroom, workroom) and add your Mindful Moments using pictures, post-it notes, drawings, etc and watch mindfulness literally grow.
3- Use the #MindfulMayChallenge flower sheets to journal each day with a few words or drawings to document the month. (found below)
4- Get families involved by encouraging them to take part at home either before or after school to support greater development of mindfulness for all that are a part of our lives.
Engage with Education’s Voice through each week’s blog post (www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com), Twitter (@Ed_Tmprince) or Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ) by sharing where the challenge has taken you that week (at home, at school or work place). Ensure you use #MindfulMayChallenge in your postcs!