Resources to practice mindfulness

So you want to practice mindfulness – great!! This post focuses on providing resources to help bring mindfulness into your classroom.

First off, mindfulschools.org – whether you’re looking for videos, audio, books, or even blog posts, this website has tons of amazing resources to get you started, including their “starter lesson” which you can find here.

This website has tons of free resources for practicing and teaching mindfulness and meditation, kindness and compassion, generosity and gratitude, social responsibility and social-emotional skills. That’s right, FREE RESOURCES. Their website also has sections for self-care resources, recommended books and mindfulness training links.

Of course, YouTube is a great place to find videos for children of any age, to help practice mindfulness whether that be through mindful breathing or other activities. Here is a link to a guided-relaxation playlist (more geared towards younger primary students) if you’re not yet comfortable leading the class in guided-relaxation/mindfulness.

The MindUP curriculum is another incredible resource that I came across during my inquiry. This program features “15 lessons that use the latest information about the brain to dramatically improve behavior and learning for all students.” (mindup.org)

The Free Mindfulness Project has a ton of downloadable resources readily available on their website, although I have not tested all of them so please ensure they are appropriate for your grade level before using! Some of these resources include guided imagery, mindfulness of breath and self-guided mindfulness exercises.

There are also a whole bunch of downloadable apps that could be incorporated into your classroom or just everyday life. here are a few:

  • DreamyKid: offers meditation, guided-visualization and affirmations curated for children and teens. (FREE)
  • Breathing Bubbles: helps kids practice releasing worries and focus on good feelings by allowing them to select the emotion they’re feeling and how strongly they are feeling it. (includes deep breathing and visualization. (FREE)
  • Smiling Mind: designed to assist people in dealing with the pressure, stress, and challenges of daily life. Suitable for ages 7-18. (FREE)
  • HelloMind: helps change negative thought patterns. Children can choose treatments based on whatever is bothering them – low self-esteem, needing courage, or being afraid to stick up for one’s self. (FREE, but in-app purchases)

Image result for dreamykid app    Image result for breathing bubbles app

Image result for smilingmind app      

Last but not least, Calm. They have just launched The Calm Schools Initiative, and are offering every teacher in the world free access to Calm, their mindfulness app. They want to empower teachers with mindfulness tools and resources by giving us unlimited access to their guided-meditation and mindfulness exercises. There is no catch. All you have to do is go to this link, and fill out a couple questions on the form at the bottom of the page. Easy. 100% would recommend!!

Obviously there are a million other resources out there to help practice mindfulness in the classroom. Like I said, these are just a few that I found helpful and will be incorporating into my lessons.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about mindfulness with me – stay tuned for my summary of learning.

Until then,

S.

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Creating a mindful space in your classroom

What does “mindful space” mean? Why should I have one in my classroom? What if I don’t have enough space? These were just a few of the questions I had when looking at how to create a mindful space in the classroom. What I realized is that students might need time to manage their feelings at school – I know that being in a group context can be overwhelming for me, so why would it be any different for my students. Processing those feelings is important, even as adults; 5-10 minutes (or even less) can do wonders for level of participation.

Despite what some students may think, a mindful space isn’t a space they can go to escape learning; it’s a space that allows them to check in with themselves and experience a break before returning to the group. I believe that it is very important to have a positive outlet for students who might need a break. This space should support self-regulation and encourage students to recognize, accept and understand their feelings.

Ultimately, we want students to gain independence by choosing strategies for themselves, and understanding what works for them in that space. Some of those strategies/items could include:

  • stress balls
  • glitter jars
  • breathing spheres
  • a mirror (to help identify emotions)
  • emotional feelings sheets (to identify and record emotions)
  • iPad + headphones with short videos on mindfulness/guided breathing/any kind of calming video
  • sand timers
  • weighted blankets
  • blank paper, pens, pencils, crayons (to draw emotions, write a letter, or reflect on strategies used in the space)
  • books
  • yoga cards with pictures (self-guided)

And the list goes on. Here are a few photos of my favourite spaces (brought to you by Pinterest🎉):

the result of my Lokoff award grant, the Peace Corner - Thoughtful Spot, for kids who just need to take a break, think, calm down, focus, breathe, or just be for a bit. the spot is for encouraging mindfulness and resilience in the children.

Fun with Fidgets - Inspire Me ASAP

Classroom safe space calm down corner

These mindful spaces don’t have to be anything fancy – it could even be a desk somewhere in your classroom – but I do believe that there should be a safe space for any student to go to calm themselves down if they need to. Of course you would go over expectations for this space with students at the beginning of the year (and throughout if needed). Despite possible difficulty in the beginning, having this space would be beneficial for everyone in the classroom.

How would you incorporate a mindful space into your room?

Until next time,

S.

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How practicing mindfulness benefits student and teacher health

While practicing mindfulness, children learn how to build self-awareness and compassion for themselves as well as others around them. Practicing compassion and caring for others is key to building better relationships and emotional well-being. During this process, children also learn to cope with stressful situations, regulate emotions, relax and focus better so they can concentrate more easily. Learning to still one’s mind and breathe correctly can help to manage anxiety and sleep problems. Mindfulness not only decreases stress, but also increases happiness!

Practicing mindfulness has benefits on both psychological and physical health. Some benefits include:

  • decreased anxiety and depression
  • increased coping skills
  • improved learning ability and memory
  • improved self-esteem
  • improved immune function
  • reduced physical stress responses
  • better sleep

Along with these health benefits, mindfulness also helps us as teachers by:

  • Helping us understand our own emotions it’s hard to consciously shift our focus from what needs to be done to what’s happening in the present moment. However, when we’re wrapped up in the anxiety of “what comes next,” we are more prone to reacting to disruptive behaviour, rather than realizing that that student may just need help self-regulating. Mindfulness can help us recognize our emotional patterns and regulate how we behave and respond to situations.
  • Helping us set up a better learning environment for our students – Mindfulness helps us realize that we can can control how we communicate and behave. That we can set and reinforce expectations and limits. It is important that we control the physical classroom space so it supports learning.
  • Helping us strengthen our relationship with students giving students our full mindful attention, even for a short period of class time, gives them the message “I see you.” Making connections with students lets them know that we value them as individuals.

Teaching children mindfulness gives them the ability to adjust and deal with the stressors they can often face every day. Teacher stress can also be a problem for students – stress impacts learning and hurts the quality of education in the classroom. Students learn better in more positive, less stressful environments – that’s why mindfulness is so important for everyone.

 

I’ll leave you with this idea (brought to you by an anonymous source): “Mindfulness matters because what we pay attention to shapes our brain.”

 

Next up: Creating a mindful space in your classroom

Until then,

S.

 

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What is mindfulness?

Essentially, mindfulness is being present in the moment by acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts in that moment. Mindfulness does not mean emptying your brain – rather, it helps you become an observer of your thoughts without getting stuck in them. We can practice mindfulness by maintaining an awareness of our  feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment. Paying attention on purpose, without judgement, helps us become aware of what’s going on in our heads and bodies, which leads to self-discovery and self-acceptance. 

So why should I practice mindfulness in my classroom?

There is no special equipment or training needed.

Practicing mindfulness can teach students essential skills to cope with anxiety and stress, while also helping them develop self-regulation habits; this is especially effective in schools/classrooms that have students affected by trauma. 

By this time, most of us know that it’s hard to get a lesson across if students aren’t ready to learn. Imagine starting each day with a two-minute mindful breathing session – how would that benefit you? Well, controlled breathing calms the nervous system, which tells the brain that “all is well”, essentially putting one in a state of relaxation. Teaching students to pay attention to their breathing also teaches them to pay attention to other things. So, if students are calm and relaxed in the classroom, there’s a much better chance your lesson will go smoothly.

Mindfulness benefits not only the student, but the teacher and school as well. By practicing mindfulness, students learn social-emotional and self-regulation skills, among other things. Teaching students to be present in the present moment, to acknowledge and accept their thoughts/feelings while allowing them to be still and feel silence is very empowering. Accepting the present moment as it is, without wanting to change it is something most adults struggle to do; imagine what could happen if students practiced it daily.

Here’s a video I found explaining the power of mindful-thinking through aboriginal perspective. Hope you enjoy!

Until next time,

S.

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Hello!

Welcome to my VIUBlog. Follow along with me while I explore the topic of mindfulness in the classroom. Feel free to share any comments and feedback you may have!

-Miss. Twamley

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