I just finished re-reading ‘The Power of Moments’ by Chip & Dan Heath. (If you know this book, awesome! If you don’t… get yourself a copy!… There’s a reason I read it a second time around! :P)
I first read this book 2 years ago. One day recently, I started thinking about it. How I wanted to read it again. And refresh my memory of its many lessons.
Two days after that thought, the book ended up on my boyfriend’s doorstep… randomly, through a book exchange he was a part of…
Talk about synchronistic!!
I took it as a sign to start reading it again. It was just as good the second time around!
‘The Power of Moments’ a wonderfully inspiring book about how we can capitalize on and craft moments that have the power to be life-changing. (More on HOW in another blog post… :P)
One of the biggest takeaways from this book was:
The Power we have to Create Moments Through Simple Connection.
It is so easy for us to get lost in our day-to-day mundane tasks. We go through the motions; Do our jobs and cross things off our daily list.
Students, clients, and fellow staff members become 2 dimensional characters to us. It’s easy to forget there’s more beyond the surface of the people we interact with daily.
I know for myself, after working with the same students each day, it’s easy to lose sight of the human being behind the student. Too easy to focus on the daily to-do’s. Especially when it feels like there’s a million of them…
But the truth is: Our students, our kids, our coworkers, are more than just a number, or a ‘to-do’ to cross off a list.
They have their own identity. And with their identity, comes a whole background of experiences and moments that shaped them into who they are.
It is important for us to acknowledge each individual identity. After all, we are all different in some way. We’ve had different experiences that all led us up to this one moment. HOW we got here matters just as much, if not more, than the fact that we are here.
Its our human nature to want to be seen and heard. To be noticed and acknowledged.
The authors of this book suggest a reframe to our thinking…
Instead of always asking “What is the matter with you?”,
we simply ask instead “What MATTERS to YOU?”
See how powerful that statement change is?
We get lost trying to assess and fix problems, we often forget to consider the individual as a whole.. Their feelings and their experiences.
I wanted my students to know that they were loved and heard. I wanted them to feel appreciated, down to their very core.
During a Wednesday afternoon in Mindfulness Club, I brought in different coloured sheets of paper, markers, and crayons. I explained we would be mindfully working on a little project called:
“What matters to me!”
I reminded all of my students that although we are all in the same place, we all have different stories and backgrounds. There are certain things and experiences that make us, us. And how important all of our individual stories are. How those stories deserved to be acknowledged.
And so, we all had the opportunity in Mindfulness Club, that day, to create our own “What Matters to Me” poster (myself included!) so that everyone around us could see our stories. So they could see what lies beneath.
A one-day-project, turned into a whole-month-project!
Because my kiddos had so much they wanted to share about themselves!
They shared about their families and their experiences. About certain memories that stood out in their minds. About the things they liked and the things they didn’t. Some were personal. Some were sad.
All were so very beautiful in their own ways.
I learned a lot of things that day. About my students… About our own stories…
About making sure those stories are heard and understood.
What I’ll remember the most about that day, is the way their eyes lit up just because someone listened…
I really do believe it is as simple as acknowledging those around us.
Seeing them… I mean, really seeing them.
We all deserve to be seen.
And the most wonderful part about that…
Is thatWE have the power to give others the acknowledgement they deserve…
In my last post, I explained, plain and simply, what mindfulness is.
Essentially, it is a state of being consciously aware of something… really anything! Anything that draws our focus to one particular thing in the present moment.
This could mean bringing focus to our breath or our surroundings. Using our 5 senses to analyze the things around us. Grounding us here, in the now.
Once we become better at practicing mindfulness, our subconscious will allow us to automatically become more present throughout our day. Until then, it’s important for us on a daily basis to deliberatelyschedule mindful moments in.
To train our subconscious mind.
These moments could be big or small, although I recommend beginning anything by starting small. Making it more manageable to do will improve your success and follow through rate. Plus, once you are confident in your first baby step, you can take a few bigger steps until you eventually reach your ultimate goal.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “Change for the better” or “Continuous Improvement.”
It is a term that involves the continual process of manageable and incremental steps in order to see improvement.
We can use the kaizen philosophy to better ourselves (and the kiddos in our lives) at being mindful. By taking small, intentional steps to reach our fullest potential. We can adjust our steps as needed. This guarantees success!
Now, there are SO many ways and opportunities to schedule mindfulness into our days!
Whether you are practicing mindfulness for yourself, or for your kiddos, or perhaps, you have an entire classroom of kids, it is EASY (and hopefully I’ve convinced you it’s possible) to find time for mindfulness.
Tips on HOW to Schedule Mindfulness into your Day:
Schedule specific times on a calendar. When you write things down, you are more likely to make it happen! It doesn’t matter if it means only deep breathing looking out the window for 30 seconds-1 minute each day. It’s still the start of something. The key is to make it INTENTIONAL. Set specific times each day to make time for YOU!
Try having a morning and evening practice. Once again, even if you can only dedicate a minute in the morning and a minute in the evening, that’s okay! Starting the day with mindfulness can set you up for success and ending it off with mindfulness helps you relax for a more peaceful evening or sleep.
Take deep breaths before beginning tasks. An easy way to sneak mindfulness in the day, whether in your personal life or in the classroom, is to begin each transition (of whatever it is you’re doing), with a deep belly breath or 2. Getting in your car to run an errand, before starting work, transitioning from one task to another (in a classroom setting, switching subjects), coming home from work or school are all great times to sneak in a few deep breaths. Deep breaths are powerful because they calm our brains and allow us to reconnect with our body and breath.
Positive affirmations and intentions: Take a quick moment in your morning to set an intention or speak out some positive affirmations for your day ahead. Could be as quick as taking a minute to say things like “I intend to be filled with gratitude today,” “I am happy and healthy,” “I will persevere today!” Really feel the power behind your statement as you make it. This could begin as a quick moment in the morning, and grow to the point where you are stating affirmations randomly throughout your day, maybe even setting intentions at night for how you’d like to feel the next morning!
Express your gratitude daily! I really do believe that gratitude is the most powerful form of self-medication! You get the most “bang for your buck” with adding in the practice of gratitude. Expressing gratitude on a consistent basis really does make us happier and healthier humans. I could go on and on about the power of gratitude, but there will be more time for that in another post… 😛
Here are some other quick & easy mindfulness practice ideas:
Going for a walk in nature
Thinking of 3 things to be grateful for each morning or night
Taking a minute to do a quick body scan and listen to your body
If you’ve been following my journey, you can probably already tell that I have a passion for promoting health & wellness through MINDFULNESS!
But… WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Chances are, if you stumbled on this blog, you have some sort of idea what mindfulness entails. But I’m going to simplify it for you! Because there are many interpretations of what mindfulness is and isn’t.
If we look up the definition of Mindfulness it notes:
“Mindfulness is the state of being consciously aware of something”
And quite literally, anything! It is focusing on one particular thing, whether that’s our breath or a part of our surroundings. Focusing on that one thing brings us into the present moment.
Yes, we can schedule certain mindfulness practices into our day, but we can also live each moment with a mindfulness mind set. Completing our daily tasks and going through daily events, mindfully!
We can eat mindfully by eliminating distractions. That means no watching TV or scrolling through our phones while we are trying to eat. Focusing solely on our food and enjoying it with all 5 of our senses.
We can go for a walk or a drive mindfully! By tuning out any conversations and focusing on the sights and sounds around you! Even the smells, if you are outside in nature.
We can even have mindful conversations. Putting our phones away, turning off music, and focusing solely on our heartfelt conversation. Active listening is a wonderful way to have a mindful conversation.
We can even do our work with mindfulness in mind. By breaking down our day and focusing on one aspect of the day at a time. Being fully present in whatever your task is.
Are you a Multi-Tasker?
Multitasking is not a mindful activity. Our minds are constantly flipping between tasks and we are most definitely unable to focus our attention on one item! Not to mention, multi-tasking is not productive (unless you are of course the 1% exception to this rule or a computer), often taking a lot longer to complete all of your to-do’s and getting them done without paying attention to the details.
Multi-tasking tends to lead us to our MONKEY MIND.
“Monkey mind” is a buddhist term that refers to being unsettled, distracted, restless, even confused. It is the OPPOSITE of true mindfulness.
Our goal is to calm and settle our monkey mind in order to live truly mindful lives.
So yes, mindfulness can be practiced at any time throughout your day. You can practice it anywhere, and with just about any activity (unless you’re combining activities, of course)!
The key is AWARENESS! Being aware of your thoughts and your monkey mind. Being able to pause and say:
“Okay, I’m thinking about the past or future right now, when I should really be focused on the present.”
Awareness can be challenging, but it can also be TRAINED. You can get better at becoming more self-aware. All it takes is a little bit of practice and some deliberate scheduling of mindfulness into your day.
I highly recommend training your awareness by purposefully adding mindful moments into your day, whether that is with mindful breathing, mindful eating, practicing gratitude, yoga, etc. The important thing is to find what works best for you.
By intently adding it into your day, you are settling your monkey mind, and training your brain to think in the present moment, all the time!
Read my follow up post for more ideas on HOW to schedule mindfulness into your day!
Do you want to know how I brought mindfulness to my students?
Before we go any further, I’m assuming most of you who stumbled across this blog probably know of mindfulness or meditation.
But in case you haven’t, mindfulness is quite simply being aware or conscious of something. It’s the practice of allowing yourself into the present moment. Getting out of your head and staying mindful of the world in front of you.
I anticipated that mindfulness would help my students work through some of their traumas by helping them to understand their emotions and by learning how to regulate them. I hoped it would help them with any stresses and anxieties they may have. Because of a lot of their circumstances, we had some interesting student behaviours and students who lacked self control and self awareness.
Mindfulness studies have shown to have huge benefits in these areas!
I also anticipated some positive impacts in the classroom and a ripple effect throughout the school as well.. Like increased empathy and understanding towards classmates, therefore decreasing classroom conflicts and improving problem solving. I expected mindfulness to bring about a more compassionate school atmosphere!
Educators out there, doesn’t this sound like an IDEAL school environment?!
… back to the actual HOW of bringing mindfulness to my little Elementary school…
Being an Educational Assistant and not having my own classroom or my own scheduled time to hold any sort of mindfulness lessons, I had a little bit of a problem on my hands.
But problems are meant to be solved! All it took was a little bit of creative thinking and planning!
I asked myself a few questions:
“Who am I going to work with? Just my own home room class? The whole school?”
“What sorts of activities will I plan and lessons will I teach?”
“When am I going to find and make time for this?”
“Where can I get myself together with a group of students to teach them mindfulness exercises?”
“How am I going to get other’s on board with this idea?”
My goal was to get mindfulness into as many classrooms as possible, but I realized that I had to start small! With a little bit of a trial period…
As an EA, there’s not a whole lot of flexibility in my schedule and I don’t get any prep blocks so I knew I had to find time SOMEWHERE to get mindfulness into the week. I approached my teaching partner and our school principal with my dream. They were ecstatic and willing to give me the time and space in a spare classroom to practice mindfulness activities.
We decided on running it Monday to Friday in the mornings from 8:35-8:45, 10 minutes after school began.
On Mondays, we quietly and mindfully colored gratitude notes and put them in a jar to be read on Fridays.
Tuesdays to Thursdays were a mix of meditations, guided breathing techniques, relaxation activities, mindfulness stories and yoga games.
Fridays were for reading and sharing our gratitude notes with our group. And then displayed on the wall for all to see!
It started off small, but over time, it flourished into a full classroom! I even had one committed teacher who brought her entire class down to the little spare classroom every day to begin their morning with mindfulness!
With some of the improvement I had been seeing and the participation I was getting, I decided to take it one step further the following year, when I had a bit more flexibility in my EA schedule…
….And Mindfulness Club was born!!
Mindfulness Club was a recess club that would be offered to the whole school and kiddos were able to come to the club as they needed – there was no “you need to be here every day or you’ll get kicked out” rule.
I held ‘Mindfulness Club’ every Monday, Wednesday and Friday during afternoon recess. I wanted to get a variety of mindfulness practices in, so students were able to continually add new tools into their “mindfulness toolbox.”
I organized these practices into themed days:
Mindful Mondays: On Mondays, we would do breathing activities, guided relaxations, short meditation practices, etc. It was our day of silence and breath work.
Wind-Down Wednesdays: On Wednesdays, we did activities like mindful colouring, reading stories on mindfulness, doing kindness/empathy fostering activities, and holding sharing circles.
Flexy Fridays: Fridays were by far, the most popular themed day! Flexy Fridays were days filled with yoga and stretching activities. These days began usually with a Yoga Pose of the Day we would all learn together, and afterwards, we would do a yoga video, play a yoga game, or read a yoga story. Sometimes, we did partner yoga or took turns leading yoga sequences. It was so much fun to watch this crew transform into mindfulness leaders!
Regardless of theme, I always began and ended Mindfulness Club the same way every day.
We always opened with a circle (Don’t get me started on the power of circles!! We’ll leave it for another post…). We would take 3 deep breaths together, normally switching up the kinds of breaths we took, before breaking off into whatever activity was to follow.
We ended in a minute of quiet reflection. I would ask kids to sit down, closing their eyes or focusing on one spot on the floor. I’d instruct them to listen to their bodies. Do they have any physical feelings? Or any emotions that they feel now? How are they feeling now, after coming to Mindfulness Club? Before heading back to class, I’d ask them to do a quick check-in with me. Some shared a word that explained their feelings, others expressed themselves with the thumbs up/thumbs down system.
The question I’d like to leave them with was:
“What can you do for yourself TODAY, that can help you continue to feel joy?”
For 2 years, I had kiddos rate their happiness levels on a scale system of 1-5 (5 being the happiest) so I could track the average. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it allowed me to see trends and also to adjust my club based on the needs of the group.
Mindfulness Club ran in-person for 4 successful years. My little mindfulness crew grew bigger and bigger! It had a variety of students who attended it, many of them, coming back for more mindfulness again and again!
I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring mindfulness to kids. It’s been an exciting journey to watch them grow, learn, lead, become kinder and gentler humans…
It’s been an honour…
In March of year 5… DUN DUN DUN… the schools in Edmonton had shut down because of COVID-19. It posed a real challenge for me, trying to figure out how to get mindfulness to my students in their homes, whom I knew neededmindfulness, right now, in times of uncertainty and fear.
But, you know me, I’m not a quitter. I figure things out, especially if I believe it’s important enough, and so I did some more creative thinking and came up with an idea for bringing Mindfulness Club online…
Check out my next post to learn more about Mindfulness Club going DIGITAL!