Getting Started with Move Mindfully®

You want to bring Move Mindfully® to your school, but how do you start?

What is more intimidating; teaching mindful strategies to a class of 35 high school students or teaching mindful strategies to a room of 110 high school staff members?

Getting Started

I was far more intimidated to teach mindful strategies to high school staff. As an educator I have worn many hats including that of an elementary teacher, a school psychologist, a special education coordinator, a school board member and a coach. In each position I have watched educators tirelessly tear apart standards and infuse the latest ‘best practice’ into their teaching. What I haven’t seen are significant increases in test scores, consistent reductions in our achievement gaps, or more socially emotionally intact children leaving the educational system. Secondly, and equally important, I have watched educators put their own self-care aside. I have seen educators take mental health leaves, enroll in treatment programs, divorce, and move from a place of compassion to one of survival.

No matter how loud my amygdala was screaming, I believed that bringing mindfulness into the high school I worked at was important. I took a few deep belly breaths, replaced my amygdala’s blown cap, and responded to the second email,  “Of course I would be willing to fit the two hours of mindfulness into the last two hours of our inservice week.”

Introductory Workshop

I reached out to 1000 Petals and scheduled a Move Mindfully® Workshop. I was acutely aware that in order to create buy-in, the two hours needed to be research based, had to stand firm on the backbone of brain science, had to be simple enough and adaptable enough to work across all settings, and needed to pull at the hearts of each educator.

After the workshop, staff were already asking for more Move Mindfully training. Over the next year I worked with a team of colleagues to capture the excitement and move us beyond awareness and into the depths of practice. In the upcoming blogs I will openly and honestly share some of the struggles and successes we encountered as a high school that had just begun embracing the possibility that teaching kids to live in the present moment could change children and change our lives in the process.

The 5 Tips to becoming a Move Mindfully® Champion

1. Surround yourself with good people

You can not do it alone. No matter how respected you are in your building, you must first build buy-in. My team consisted of a staff member from two additional secondary buildings in our district. One was a school counselor and one was a social worker. Along with a district level special education supervisor and a grant writer that also had a background in health.

2. Find something inspiring

It is important to believe in what you are sharing and to find the inspiration within. My inspiration began with Kathy Flaminio and carried into my everyday experiences working with staff members and students that were exhausted. I experience a lot of secondary trauma and at the end of each year I am angry and tired of the systems at play for children. This is not a good place to be and I was inspired by the idea that i could do something that helps my students, the staff, myself and my own family.

3. Take your time

Implementing something new is a marathon and not a 5k. I have witnessed many well intended administrators move too quickly when implementing something new. Staff believe, and often rightfully so, that this new idea is yet another unthought out initiative that will be gone six months from now. Take your time to talk to people, to try some things on a small scale and to learn from others.

4. Find a funding source

This is important. I realize that funds can be tight. I started by writing a grant for private funding through a mental health agency. Later, we found additional funding from the county health department. Neither grant was for a lot of money, but enough to get us started and to get staff excited.

5. Discover your teacher leaders

Find your courageous leaders and begin planting seeds about what is coming up. The feedback they can provide about how practical something is and how kids and families may respond is priceless. Your teacher leaders will share and model new ideas, and when they find success, others will be willing to take the same risk.

Written By, Tanya Holub

Tanya has been an educator for 17 years. While serving as an elementary teacher she worked with student’s that came to school with various hurdles that made learning hard. This sparked her desire to continue her education and pursue a degree in School Psychology. As a school psychologist Tanya primarily worked at the secondary level and continued to work with students that had challenging behavior and social emotional needs. Two years ago she began working as a special education coordinator and brought mindfulness to her high school. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her two daughters and family, coaching and serving her community as a school board member.

Creating an Interactive Mindful Space

 As a mental health therapist, it is important to create an environment conducive to mindfulness.

My name is Katie Mac Jurado. I am a School Based Mental Health Therapist with an amazing nonprofit agency, Headway Emotional Health Services. I operate a practice within a school building and prioritize creating mindful spaces for my clients. Here are my Top 5 Tips to Creating an Interactive Mindful Space!  

Connect with Nature

Nature has a positive impact on our biology.  After 40 seconds of being exposed to images of trees and nature there is a biological and calming response that occurs.  Children take a paper leaf with them as a tangible conclusion to our session. I sat with a group of young girls who had been struggling with friendship issues. One girl looked around the room and said, “You know, Katie Mac, your room here is like a little oasis in the middle of the school.”

Incorporate of All 5 Senses

The more we integrate a child’s brain, the more effective they are at learning, re regulating after hard emotions, building healthy relationships, and understanding their own patterns of thinking and behaving.  We have the power to support this process through the environment that we provide. An interactive and mindful space should include processes that target each of the 5 senses: Sight, Touch, Smell, Sound and Taste.

Sight: Use images of trees and nature, and intentionally incorporating colors like blues, greens and natural tones will elicit this same biological response and support a mindful space!

Hearing: Almost constantly, there is mindful music of some sort playing within this space.  At times I will play nature sounds, or classical music, drums or other rhythmic options. (Check out one of my favorites on YouTube)

Touch: Different sensations offer new ways to experience the space. My space includes a leather couch, cotton pillows, soft carpets. I also have available 8 different kinds of sand and 5 different kinds of putty.

Smell: Essential oils, can be used to increase calming, focus, reduce anxiety, and lower someone’s heart rate. Learn more about Essential Oils here.

Taste : I will often offer a small snack or treat at the end of a designated time or may lead a mindful eating activity with a most delicious piece of chocolate (definitely a favorite for many children).

Comfortable, Casual, and Flexible Seating

My first day in my office I was greeted with a large metal teacher desk, a circular table and some chairs. I removed all the hard chairs and tables and replaced them with soft casual seating (couch, pillows, a wobble chair, a tall spinning chair, a soft bowl chair, and a variety of yoga mats).  I purchased a small rug with a river and nature scene to incorporate nature as well! Flexible seating supports sensory needs, movement, self-direction and autonomy.

Provide Opportunities for Move Mindfully®

Children learn through movement. Students love the Hoberman Sphere and the movements described in the Move Mindfully Poster Strips and the Move Mindfully Card Deck.

Create Safety and Structure

Children need an environment of safety and structure. Starting with breathing, going into regulating movement and ending wtih rest is the cycle of each session. We first calm and focus our minds and bodies (often with a chime, the Hoberman Sphere, pulse counting, or belly breathing), then increase movement and activity. Each session is concluded with a final resting pose and mindfulness practice. This way, children are practicing skills and prepared to emerge into new expectations as they leave the space.

How do you create a mindful environment? Which of these tips are you going to try?  Leave a comment!

Contact Katie at Kathryn.Jurado@headway.org

Our “Why” and Explaining the Brain

“All of this yoga stuff- my students will never take it seriously.”

Does this sound like a self-doubt you have faced when considering implementing Mindful Movement?

As we begin the journey of teaching body work infused with social emotional learning, ensuring buy-in can seem like a daunting task. There is a fear that students won’t take the work seriously, and instead act silly, leaving the teacher to feel helplessly embarrassed. This fear is real. For many teachers, knowing how to begin the conversation and create a classroom culture ready for this work, can be the biggest hurdle.

We recommend beginning with the facts. Begin with the brain science. Once students (and teachers) understand the “why” behind these techniques, the buy-in is almost automatic.

Model of the Brain

flipping your lid

Even small children can benefit from this simple, interactive model of the brain from Daniel Siegel.  Begin by having everyone show a fist (thumb inside). This model serves as a visual for parts of the brain we want students to understand.

  1. Brain Stem (wrist)

The brainstem is what attaches the head to the spine. It is the first part of our brain to develop.

  1. Hippocampus (inside the palm)

The hippocampus is responsible for memory. What is the latin name for butterfly? Where is the capital of Georgia? How can I remember 4 x 6? Students rely on the hippocampus for academic success throughout the school day.

  1. Amygdala (thumb)

The Amygdala is the part of the brain that interprets the world through the five senses and constantly analyzes situations to ensure our safety. Someone drops a glass in the hallway and it shatters. The sound triggers the flight response as you atomically jump in your chair.

  1. Prefrontal Cortex (fingernails)

This is the part of the brain that does the thinking and reasoning. It processes the memories, the sensory inputs and makes logical decisions based on past experiences.

When students feel calm, the amygdala passes information to the prefrontal cortex, which passes to the hippocampus. All of the parts are working well together. However, we have all heard the phrase, “blow your top”. At this point, students shoot their four fingers up into the air, exposing the thumb (amygdala).

handy model

This metaphor perfectly illustrates what happens when the amygdala senses danger. It stops communicating with the prefrontal cortex and the brain is now in “survival mode”. Survival mode is great when… well, we need to survive. However, we run into problems when our amygdala interprets something like- getting budged in line, as a survival situation.

Visit our Teachers Pay Teachers store for the poster.

This brings us back to our “why”. Through Mindful Movement we are using breath and movement in specific, meaningful patterns to sooth the amygdala, and the stress responses. To know that you have control over your mind and body is the ultimate power. Once students have this realization and experience it for themselves,  they often want to return to this relaxed/alert state. The work sells itself. Here is a script of this explanation to get you started!

child's pose

Have you explained the brain to your students as a justification for Mindful Movement? What has worked for you? Leave a Comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

5 Daily Happiness Practices

If you could articulate in one sentence or even one word, what you hope for your child, what would it be?

In other words, what do you most want for your precious little one(s)? What’s the end goal? Is it straight A’s? Making the volleyball team? Getting accepted into fashion school? Passing the state test?

Not having children of my own, I was very curious about the answer. After asking hundreds of parents, I was shocked at the overwhelming amount of similar responses. The answer was crystal clear- HAPPINESS. Parents deeply want their children to be happy.


Sounds simple. But, the reality is every day as a school counselor, I was noticing so much stress permeating the hallways and classroom and seeping into students and staff daily lives. I thought, “Why aren’t we teaching ways to cope with stress, anger, sadness and anxiety? Also, why aren’t we teaching the habits that have been proven to increase happiness?” After all, we now know that happiness is a skill and with the latest research in neuroscience, we know that we can train our brains for happiness.

Research also shows us that being in a state of happiness triples creativity, increases productivity and promotes health. Shawn Achor, a Harvard researcher who studies happiness, states, “the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.” My experience is that children and adults desire happiness. So, what can we do to intentionally teach these skills?

Good news- there are five simple daily practices that you can start practicing today. Below is a list of the Happiness Habits from Shawn Achor’s research, along with a daily assignment:

Gratitude:

People who regularly practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.

We know that 90% of happiness comes from how our brain perceives life. When we practice gratitude, we’re training our brains to look for the “good” and in turn by seeing the good, it increases our happiness.

Daily practice: Take time to notice the positives. Write or draw 3 things you’re grateful for daily.

The Doubler:

Journaling or talking about a positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours “doubles” the serotonin released into your body. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between the experience happening or you talking/writing about the experience,

It’s important to train our brains, just like we workout our bodies.

Daily practice: Tell someone one positive thing that happened within the past 24 hours.

Exercise:

Exercise changes your Tetris effect. The brain says, “I’ve been successful in one domain. I bet I can be successful in another domain.” Also, movement releases physical and emotional energy, develops concentration and self-confidence and increases serotonin and changes emotional states.

Daily practice: Yoga, cycling, walking or any exercise for 20 minutes.

Stillness:

Taking 5 minutes to sit in a stillness promotes inner peace, feeling grounded, and gets us set for the day by focusing on an intention. Meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD of doing it all and allows our brain to focus.

Daily practice: Sit in stillness for at least 5 minutes.

Acts of Kindness:

When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind, and it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends — to three degrees of separation.

Being kind causes elevated levels of dopamine in the brain, so we get a natural high, often referred to as “Helper’s High.”

Daily practice: Choose one intentional act of kindness. Send a former teacher an email, help your mom organize the kitchen or give a co-worker a compliment.

As you can see, these simple practices don’t take much time at all. Hope you enjoy doing these activities with your kiddos. It might be easier to start with one practice and try it out for a few weeks before adding another one. Isn’t it exciting to know that we have the power to wire our brains for happiness?

Here is one of our Happiness videos where we highlight one of the skills listed above.

Thank you for teaching your children about happiness, which will make this world a “happier” place. After all, a peaceful world begins with a peaceful mind. Keep shining!

Lyndsay Morris, M.Ed, RYT-200 is a whole child education advocate, the founder of Generation Wellness, the host of the Wellness Warrior Show and author of The Mindful Student. Lyndsay believes that connection is at the heart of learning and inspires students and staff to live a life of less stress and more success through “teaching peace” and “choosing happy”.

For more info, click here: https://www.generation-wellness.com/