How aware are you of what is going on around you? How aware are you of yourself at this moment? How aware are you of the things you have done today? We are so distracted by our constant access to technology and sources of instant entertainment and communication that many people rarely have any time to be truly aware of themselves or the world around them.
Let me give you a little challenge. Try and remember exactly what your favourite food tastes like. What about the smell or the texture? Chances are that you can’t.
To expand your awareness try this lovely little exercise you can do by yourself or in groups. Get various foods and eat them slowly, savouring everything about them. It is best to choose a range of foods to include foods you like, feel ambivalent about and also don’t really like. This can really change your perception of these foods. Some people we have done this with, who had eaten chocolate all their life decided they didn’t like chocolate anymore. Other people learnt to appreciate foods they have always avoided.
The term mindfulness has been borrowed from Buddhism. It refers in general to the “attentive awareness of reality, both external and internal.” When we are being mindful we have a “Clear comprehension of what is taking place.”
Since the 1970s the term has been adopted within psychology to describe techniques and methodologies that encourage awareness and self-regulation as means to deal with stress, depression and other psychological issues. Numerous studies have shown these techniques to be successful with adults and recently attention has been paid to applying these techniques to children and adolescents where they have also been found to reduce anxiety and increase academic performance.
There is a strong relationship between mindfulness and self-regulation. When you relax and focus not only does this reduce anxiety and stress but allows better responses to your own feelings and self management of behaviour. Researchers believe it is this self-regulation that leads to improved academic performance.
If you are thinking that mindfulness involves sitting around meditating and so it is not for kids, especially the young ones, Pathways to Resilience Trust staff have many techniques and exercises that work with all ages.
Mind in a Bottle/Mind in a Jar
We have previously blogged about this method. Have a bottle filled with water and
glitter, shake the bottle and it becomes cloudy. Put the bottle down the glitter will settle. Kids will watch the glitter while relaxing and gathering their thoughts. It is also a fun craft project for kids to do as well. Read more about this in our blog https://pathwaystrust.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/helping-kids-also-helps-families/
If you ask younger the kids to lie down and relax they will quickly start to wriggle, fidget or worse . However if you give them something to concentrate on it is much easier for them to sit or lie still. Give them a glass bead, the bigger the better. Have them hold it in their hand or even put it on their forehead. Simply ask them to concentrate and focus their attention on their bead.
Have students observe an object, either something you bring into the classroom or an item that is already there. Take them through different aspects of the object. What is the objects shape, what is the subject’s colour, is it heavy or light, what is special about this item, how does it feel when you touch, how do you feel about it and so on?
How do you feel when you listen to this poem, song or sound? Not only do students learn to become aware of their feelings, but also learn to label and talk about them.
Left hand (non-dominant hand)
We do so many things without really thinking about how we do them. If you ask students to do something they often do but with their non-dominant hand you will firstly provoke lots of giggles. You can then ask students to concentrate and be aware of all the little steps it takes to do something like write the word cat or draw a dog. You can also tie this into step plans which will we look at in a future blog.
Favourite Personal Mindfulness Exercises
At Pathways to Resilience Trust we believe that teachers are also leaders. To lead others to be more mindful and self aware we also must find ways to practice our own self awareness. Here are some of ours.
Anne (Executive Officer): Likes to take time out from work at her desk. She focuses her attention on what is happening out of the office window, watching the wind sway the trees or the sun reflect on various objects (she is the boss so she can get away with staring out the window).
Kate: Takes a timeout for herself to relax, she particularly likes to sit and watch the ocean waves.
James: Simply concentrates on breathing to anchor himself into the present moment.
Roy (Blog Editor): Can’t beat long walks for reflection and self awareness.