Especially due to the stress of recent months, time is a precious and invisible currency that might seem to be constantly slipping through our fingers. One easy way to stretch out time and create space for more intentional living is to develop a regular practice of mindfulness. Over the next month as teachers, students, and families again face the unknowns of school amidst a pandemic, the BYU ARTS Partnership will be sharing different and simple ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily walk.
Mindfulness meditations use breathing techniques, visualizations, or guided imagery to achieve an alert, focused state of relaxation and an acute awareness of the body’s immediate thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgement or interpretation. Regularly practicing mindfulness develops personal awareness, illuminates the humor of frustrating situations, and grounds the stresses of teaching and living by offering tools for stress management and classroom calm. Developing a simple, daily practice of mindfulness is a great way to reduce stress, manage strong emotions, and create balance. Many of the mindful activities described below originate from mindfulness educator Susan Kaiser Greenland, the co-creator of Inner Kids and author of The Mindful Child and Mindful Games.
Mindfulness For Teachers
Titled the ABC’s of Mindfulness, this video from Susan Kaiser Greenland gives an introduction to the meaning and purpose of mindfulness, or a sense of awareness with an absence of judgement. Greenland describes ways to teach children about impulse control by stopping, feeling, and thinking. She teaches how to explain the basic neuroscience of mindfulness to children by using finger movements to demonstrate how repeated, focused attention creates pathways in the brain.
UCLA professor and neuroscientist Dr. Dan Seigel, MD is the executive director of the Mindsight Institute, creator of the Wheel of Awareness, and author of many books, including Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain and Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence. In this video, Dr. Seigel integrates mindfulness and brain development by using a hand model to explain the mind, brain, and body connection. He illustrates how schools and teachers can help develop social and emotional awareness in students by teaching reflection, relationships, and resilience.
Mindfulness For Kids
Using everyday objects like ice cubes, teddy bears, and pizza, Susan Kaiser Greenland offers wonderful, brief mindfulness videos geared toward children. Another useful tool from Susan Kaiser Greenland, the simple yet purposeful mindfulness games below teach children principles of stillness, breath awareness, and focus.
One Bite At A Time
Mindfulness For Everyone
One of the purposes of mindfulness is to carve neural pathways that shape feelings and responses to stress, as well as build a confident concept of identity. Mantras, or reminders, can help increase optimism, kindness, self-compassion, and create a positive mental framework for living. Focusing on and regularly reciting a handful of these universal themes is one way to sculpt productive and compassionate methods of thought.
A great beginner mindfulness activity is to practice a head-to-toe body scan: Lay down or sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Relax your fingertips and toes, and soften the skin around your eyes. Bring awareness to your breathing. Notice the regular rhythm of your breath filling your lungs and leaving your body. Notice the sensations within your body by gradually bringing your attention first to the top of your head, then slowly, very slowly, scanning back-and-forth down your body. Is your heart rate slow? Are your shoulders relaxed? Is your chest open? Notice each body part: your belly, your fingers, the corners of your mouth. Where are you carrying stress? Breath out stress and inhale calm. End the scan at your toes. Or, try a gratitude-based variation: silently name each body part, expressing thanks and awareness for the way each part of your body serves your daily walk. Practicing bodily awareness through gratitude eases tension and strengthens the brain, mind, and body connection.
Stretching out time by taking small, daily steps with mindfulness practice can make a big difference in carving healthful neural pathways. Mindfulness practice creates physical well-being by helping you discover the sensations of awareness, compassionately connect to others, develop self-acceptance and patience, and reduce stress by fully engaging your mind and body in the fleeting moments of your daily journey.
This blog post was written by Nora Ballantyne, a BYU ARTS Partnership editor. Nora is a New York native with a passion for pastries, kitchen dance parties, art, and books.
Resilience for Teachers: Learning to Thrive Instead of Survive.
To support the well-being of teachers, Cally Flox will be hosting a class: Resilience for Teachers: Learning to Thrive Instead of Survive. The class is specifically designed for participants and past participants in the BYU ARTS Partnership programs, but is open to everyone. Get details and sign up at this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/resilience-for-teachers-learning-to-thrive-instead-of-survive-tickets-115098408438.