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 will be featured in another article.). 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!

Mindful New Year’s Resolutions

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As 2016 quickly comes to an end, our minds reflect upon the year. If we are truly mindful in our reflections, we will accept the problems of the year without judgement and be grateful for those moments of happiness and joy.

It is also at this time of year that we begin to think of New Year’s Resolutions. I am not one to like resolutions. They can be a bit self-defeating at times. However, Resolutions do tend to give us some sort of hope and goal that usually can lead to something better.

This year my New Year’s Resolutions will be mindful.

My Mindful New Year’s Resolutions

To BREATHE: It is the most basic of life reflexes. However, too often we forget to breathe. We hold our breath waiting for things to change or work out better. But, this year, I will just BREATHE!

To Be Present: Life will pass us by if we don’t stop living in the past and worry too much about the future. I need to stop and smell the proverbial roses and enjoy life in this moment.

To Let Go: We seem to plan out our every moment. Sometimes, things just don’t work out in the way you envisioned. That is ok! I will learn from it and then let go.

To Be Grateful: We tend to allow things we are not happy with overshadow those amazing aspects of our lives. I will reflect on what truly matters and be grateful for being able to live this life in the first place.

To Be Positive: In a world filled with negativity, I refuse to stay on that downward spiral and choose to start my own spiral of positivity.

To Believe In Myself: We tend to be a world of pleasers. We try to please everyone and when we don’t succeed, we lose our confidence. I will believe in MYSELF! I will believe in what I am doing, my convictions and my desire to make a difference.

So, there you go! These are my New Year’s Resolutions.

How about you? I don’t mind sharing mine!

5 Minute Mindfulness Strategy – Releasing Emotions

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Stress is a part of life. It always has been and it always will be. Trying to find mindfulness strategies to minimise how we react to stress is the key to life-long peace and well-being. The younger we are, the better we will be able to cope with what life gives us and use it to our advantage.

When we are stressed, our emotions overwhelm us. These emotions fight for attention and send our heart rates speeding. The emotions demand attention.

This simple 5 minute mindfulness strategy is a modified Japanese relaxation technique which allows us to give focused attention to various emotions in order to achieve peace and mindful relaxation.

This technique is appropriate for children and adults and requires only your hands and a quiet place.

How to:

Each of the fingers are associated with different feelings or attitudes.
* Thumb: Helps combat emotions like worry and anxiety.
* Index: Can help combat fear.
* Middle: Helps control anger and indignation.
* Ring: Emotions of sadness and depression; helps you to be more decisive.
* Pinky: Helps to calm anxiety, increases optimism.
Using the opposite hand, apply pressure to each finger by holding it tightly, focusing on that emotion and allowing yourself to release the negative energy of that emotion. Allow yourself to be a peace with the emotion without judging yourself. Breathe deeply for 15 breaths as you focus and release. You will begin to notice your pulse in the finger being held.

Complete the meditation, by applying gentle circular pressure to the palm of your hand as you smile and prepare for the rest of the day.

The key to this strategy is that you acknowledge your emotions, you give them some time that they demand. But, you control the way in which they are acknowledged and then put them to rest.

Christmas Mindfulness – Task 4

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AND BREATHE!

The last performance has been done and the class parties finished. The glitter is being swept up and it is time for a well deserved break.

With a week before Christmas Day, it is time to let go of thoughts of work and time to focus on families and friends. Sure, you may still have lots of shopping, family gatherings or baking to do. But, don’t forget to sit back and watch the twinkling lights!

This week’s task is to BREATHE!  Take time each day to sit back and watch the twinkling lights. It doesn’t matter when or where. It could be early in the morning while it is still dark or at a coffee shop while you take a rest from the hustle and bustle. Just make sure to take that time to focus on the lights and colour, take deep mindful breaths and remember that Christmas is not just about material things. It is a time to reflect and appreciate the present moment.

Merry Christmas!

Extra: Developing Mindfulness in the Classroom this month could also same your sanity. Why not try some simple strategies that will calm the children and bring the gift of mindfulness into their lives.

#WeekOfGratitude

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It has been a turbulent year across the world, to say the least. The anxieties of children and adults have been at an all time high. Somehow, in the mist of this upset and confusion, negativity can start to spiral out of control leaving us in a state of disparity and we loose sight of what is good in our lives.

Sometimes, we just need to STOP and count our blessings. We have lots to be thankful for.

Thus, I declare the week of 21st November #WeekOfGratitude!
Exploring and celebrating gratitude allows us and our children to mindful consider the good things in life in a variety of ways. Supporting and encouraging the development of the “bright side of life” gives us the ability to evaluate life with more balance. Life is made of up good and bad things.

This gratitude strategy gets children to explore the different aspects of gratitude.
A Week of Gratitude:
– Determine how the children will record their week. Some ideas are:
o Simple table divided into five squares
o A large flower with five petals
o A circle with four inner rings creating five consecutively smaller sections
o Create a small booklet

– In the beginning, discuss with children (Document what they have said):
o What does gratitude mean?
o When do we feel gratitude?
o What is that feeling or feelings?
o How does it make others feel?
– Each day, give the class 5-10 minutes to write and/or draw according to the theme of the day
o Memory Monday- Describe a happy/good memory.
o Thoughtful Tuesday- How have others been helpful to you?
o Whimsical Wednesday- Describe a fun or funny memory.
o Thankful Thursday- What are they thankful for in their life?
o Family Friday- Describe what is good and special about their family.
– Finish the week with time to share, discuss and explain their work with partners, small groups or whole class. Discuss the questions explored before the week’s activities. How do they compare? Has their understanding of gratitude changed or grown? How? Why?

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Hand Massage

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How many times have you seen an anxious child or adult wringing their hands in their moment of upset? Our minds are amazing things and we naturally revert to movements to calm ourselves down whether it be using sighs to stimulate deep breathing or wringing our hands to calm us down.

Mindful hand and wrist massages allow children to relax their muscles, calm their breathing, improve their mood, reduces pain, stress, anxiety and tension by way of a natural reflex.

Note:  The use of fragrance free oils or creams is optional. Please ensure that if you do use oils or creams that you have checked for all allergies for your class.

Before you begin:

  • Set the mood by lowering the lights of the classroom and putting on some relaxing music.
  • In the beginning, explain to the children how a hand and wrist massage can help them to calm down by focusing on the sensations and encourage the use of deep breathing through the entire session to enhance the effects.

Begin:  (Script)

  • Sit up straight and take three deep mindful breaths as you allow your mind and body to be in this moment.
  • Rub the emollient over the entire hand and wrist area in slow, gentle strokes. (Optional)
  • Use the thumb to rub small, gentle circles around the opposite wrist feeling the small bones located here and the sensations being felt.
  • Then use the thumb to continue to rub in small circles between bones on the tops of the hands. Follow the natural lines along the hand towards the fingers.
  • Take each finger in turn and use the thumb to rub in the same circular motion along each finger from base at palm to fingertip.
  • Pull each finger softly by the fingertip.
  • Clasp hands together, entwining hands (like in prayer) and move hands and wrists back and forth, left to right and in soft circular motions.
  • Turn the hand over and use the same small, gentle circular motions of the thumb to rub the palm of the hand starting at the thumb base and then working your way up the palm to the top near the fingers.
  • Repeat on other hand

 

  • Complete the massage by giving your hand one more rub down like you did in the beginning.
  • Lay your hands in your lap, take three more deep breaths and continue your day.

 

During the massage, continue to remind the children that all the motions need to be soft with focus being on their breathing and the sensations they are feeling when they are massaging their hands.

If you like this, try Mindful Facial Massages.

#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 .