Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Stop & Smell the Roses-Mindfulness in Wellness Classes

Stop and Smell the Roses

The wellness department will be incorporating more mindfulness into our curriculum this year. Two years ago, the Wellness department was generously awarded a WPSF grant to have Helen Rainoff from Getting Centered Meditation come in to teach us how to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into our classrooms. Since then, Coach A has added a 3-class unit on meditation and mindfulness to her 8th grade in the classroom curriculum.  In the yoga unit that I teach to 8th graders in the gym, we end class with savasana. Savasana, also known as corpse pose, has been called the most difficult of all the yoga poses. Many students struggle with just lying on the floor. Relaxation is hard because we can’t force ourselves to do it. Fortunately with practice, mindfulness, like a muscle, can be strengthened and can eventually become second nature.

What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that teaches one to pay attention in a particular way, with intent. It involves training our awareness to be in the present moment, focused, and undistracted. Mindfulness doesn’t involve avoidance of feelings and emotions, or in clearing the mind. It allows us to calm and focus the mind and increases our ability to redirect and refocus or attention when we become distracted.

Why do we want to practice mindfulness? What are the benefits?
Learning mindfulness can improve the emotional, social, mental, and physical wellbeing and health
of those who take part. Mindfulness has been shown to:
·      Decrease stress and anxiety
·      Decrease reactivity and bad behavior
·      Improve sleep and self-esteem
·      Increase calmness and relaxation
·      Increases the ability to regulate emotions and behavior
·      Improves self-awareness and empathy

Mindfulness can improve the development of cognitive and performance skills and executive function. Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. It helps students pay attention better, be more focused, think in more innovative ways, use existing knowledge more effectively, improve working memory, and enhance planning, problem solving, and reasoning skills.

According to “Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People” by Katherine Wearer of the Mindfulness In School Project:

“Well conducted mindfulness interventions have been shown to be capable of addressing the problems of the young people who take part, and improve their wellbeing, reduce worries, anxiety, distress, reactivity and bad behavior, improves sleep, self-esteem, and brings about greater calmness, relaxation, and self-regulation and awareness. Adolescents who are mindful, either through temperament or training, then to experience greater well being; and mindfulness correlates positively with positive emotion, popularity and friendship-extensiveness, and negatively with negative emotion and anxiety (Miners, 2008).”

As a Wellness department, the benefits of mindfulness beautifully hit all 7 dimensions of Wellness, which is the cornerstone of our curriculum.

How to practice Mindfulness:
You don’t have to just sit still and watch your breath. You can strengthen your “mindful muscle” in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:

At mealtime: before eating, take 10-15 seconds to stop and notice your breath, the food, the smells and the taste of the food.
In bed: when you wake up, or at bedtime, in bed or out, lying down or sitting up, close your eyes and focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale; practice gratitude.
In the shower/bath: focus your mind on the feeling of the water on your skin, the smell of the soap or shampoo, or the sound of the water coming out of the faucet.
Before tests, performances, sports, etc.-take a few moments to focus your attention on your breath and the present moment. Deepen and slow down your breathing and say in your head “I’ve got this. I am prepared” I will succeed” or some other positive thought.
While waiting: having to wait for any length of time is a source of frustration for many. Use this time to focus on deepening your breath, the ways your lungs move in and out with each breath. Bring your focus to the way your muscles feel when you deepen your breath.
Pick a prompt: choose a cue to remind you to shift your focus into a mindful state. Set an alert on your phone/computer/tablet to go off every day at a certain time to remind you to pause, breath, and be present. You could use a beverage like coffee or tea to remind you to switch into mindful mode. Herbal decaffeinated tea is a great way to wind-down before bed.

I hope that this information on mindfulness was helpful and that you are open to trying some of the techniques in class and at home. As always, if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask.

Yours in Health,

Sources/ Further Reading:

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