End of the Year Behaviors

The end is near. And we’re losing it.

As we enter the last few weeks of school, feelings of intensity, excitement and fear are common among staff and students. For many staff it can be a time of exhaustion where we just want and need to push through. In times like these we can turn to our mindfulness practice for support, reminding us to get curious, to notice and most importantly to stay present and lean inThe end of the school year is a perfect time to “use the stress,” and as one my teachers Jennifer Clifden states, “To burn into the work, rather than burn out. To use the stress as our practice.”

head on desk

For many youth, school is their safety net. It is a place that is predictable, providing shelter, food and friends. To know in two weeks this safety net will not be there anymore may be scary if not terrifying, leaving them feeling out of control. So, in order to feel more in control, we often begin to see “the push” including students pushing limits and pushing against other students and/or peers (both physically and emotionally).

In my work in the schools and treatment settings I’ve found a lot of predictability in the unpredictability. I’ve found students who were struggling experiencing even more intense struggling. There was a sense that “I am going to control the good-bye by pushing you away because it is too painful for me to have you push me away or say goodbye.” So as educators, this is our opportunity to counter “the push” by leaning in, moving towards students and holding space for them.

Here are some tips for staying present and leaning in.

Breathe

Now more than ever, a daily structure of breathing together is important. The daily Belly Breathing* routine is a great foundation for calming breaths. However, an opportunity for releasing breaths is equally important, especially this time of year. Lion’s Breath, Wood Chopper*, Explosive Volcano*, and Conductor Breath can all be incredibly effective. Make sure you follow releasing breaths with a calming breath, like Hand Tracing, or a forward fold to pull the group back together.

Hoberman Sphere

Move

Big, gross motor movements work well to get release of big feelings and high energy. Our purple Permission to Pause poster features Down Dog, Plank and Child’s Pose. Try our After Recess Routine for a longer sequence. Want to make it a game? Students love Plank Challenge. How long can you plank?

Permission to Pause

Gratitude

Taking a few minutes to focus on gratitude can create an immediate classroom energy shift. Try our Chair Routine and layer in the social emotional language of thankfulness into each movement. This activity is great for adults at staff meetings too and offer a simple way to wrap up the year on a positive note.

Staff Gratitude Activity

High Expectations

Hold a firm boundary with love. Don’t have “behavior/trauma” be an excuse for not holding boundaries. We need students to understand they can’t hurt things or others but when and if they do, we can repair.

Try hosting a healing circle where staff and students come together. Share about how hard this time of year is and brainstorm ways to help each other out until the end of the year. When we can name the emotions that are MOVING through us we can tame the emotions by giving them voice. For example, we might ask, “Is anxiety and fear moving through you? What breath work or movement do we know of that can help these feelings move through?” It can also be powerful to explain the brain and that sometimes going into the unknown of summer can activate the stress response in our amygdala.

Class Meeting

Self Care

Finally and most importantly, remember to take time for self care. Keep nourishing yourself with adequate sleep and food and continue to keep your body open, stretching and breathing throughout the day. Try starting your day with a seated backbend. Check in with a coworker while doing partner poses during your breaks. As very personal as this feels when students push us away or fall apart after making so much progress please remember: it is not about you! In fact, I am going to be bold and say it is because of you and all of the amazing work you have done to connect to your students this year and create a space for learning and that is too painful for them to loose. Hence, the “PUSH.”

Partner Tree

We at 1000 Petals want to thank you for all the work you have done to teach and love your students. Trust that you have done your best. We close this year in deep gratitude for the opportunity to co-create a loving learning environment for all students to thrive. Remember, stay present and lean in.

What do you implement at the end of the year to end on a high note? What has worked well? Leave a comment!

Written By,

Kathy Flaminio, Founder 1000 Petals LLC

Kathy Flaminio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Yoga Calm® Activities

School Wide Implementation of Move Mindfully®

Change is hard. School wide change is… really hard.

It’s been almost a year now since our leadership team started the Yoga Calm® Certification process and dreamed up a school wide Move Mindfully® rollout. We began with an all staff training workshop week and hosted residencies this fall. We started off the year strong with these strategies. However, like it always does, after a hard winter, missed school days and standardized tests looming, we were losing our collective steam. We needed to get reinvigorated. We decided to roll out a school wide initiative called, “Drop Everything and Move!” Here is how we created a school wide intervention and got everyone Moving Mindfully!

Time of Day

We started by working with our behavior interventionist and looking at the data. We identified four times during the school day that student behavior referrals were high. Setting a time in the day can be tricky because no singular time would work for everyone. However, that was the beauty of the plan. Whenever you were (hallway, playground, lunchroom, specialists, etc.) you would literally drop everything and move. The entire week the movement break was at the same time. Then, the following week, we would introduce a new time. By the end of the month, teachers were able to see the intervention work in various times of the day.

Forming New Habits

They say it takes 21 days to create new habits. Our team decided that we would implement this initiative for four weeks. Each week we introduced a new routine based on the Move Mindfully Routines. You could also use the Permission to Pause posters for shorter, 3 movement, routines.

Power of the Loudspeaker

Our principal announced the routine over the loudspeaker. The students were prompted to stand up and join in with the movement. This element was crucial for success, allowing for an atmosphere of school  wide coaching. Adults not yet comfortable with the movement had the pressure of being the leader taken off of their plate. This process allowed staff to begin as observers, participate as comfortable and eventually many were prepared to take on a leadership role with their students at the end of the month.

Positive Reinforcement

To layer on an element of school wide excitement, our PTO provided us with 20 $5 gift cards that would serve as our carrot. Each day, teachers were encouraged to photo document our movement break and post to Twitter with the hashtag #WeAreSkyOaks and #PauseMoveLearn. At the end of the day, everyone who submitted a photo would be entered into a drawing. We announced the winners from the day before right after our movement break.

This served many useful functions. The students were motivated to get up and move so their teacher could capture a winning photograph. Teachers were motivated for the prospect of a Starbucks gift card. Community was built in the building as students cheered for their winning teacher. Also, we were able to communicate to the community and especially our parents, what Move Mindfully looks like in our building. We found that this PR push helped to increase interest in family night and facilitate use of these strategies at home.

Feedback

After our month long implementation, we sent out a feedback survey to staff. The results were overwhelmingly positive. Here are some of the comments.

It’s a great tool for teaching students how to take control of their body and regulate themselves for whatever circumstance they are in.

Enhances overall culture and climate of the building. Provides skills/tools for adults and students to aid in focus, self control/composure, and mindfulness (awareness of self and others).

It has truly become a part of our culture!

Taking movement breaks is a healthy, productive way to refocus myself and my students.

It is hard to only do it in pockets such as special education and some grades. To be most effective it needs to be school wide, so students can learn to use these strategies in the classroom and not have to leave.

I REALLY loved the whole school brain breaks! There was a lot of power in knowing everyone was doing the routines at the same time!

Move Mindfully teaches you to stop and check in with yourself. Often, I don’t think we realize that we don’t stop and breathe. Students and teachers just go, go, and go, and forget to breathe and calm their body and mind.

Check out all of the amazing photographs on our Twitter Feed!

 

 

Have you tried a school wide initiative around mindfulness and movement? What has worked? Leave a comment!

Sarah Singleton

Staff Self Care Challenge

As an educator, it can be easy to forget about self care.

I see my coworkers support our students with all they have to give, day in and day out. It’s just what we do. However, without established and sustainable self-care practices, educators run the risk of health issues, compassion fatigue and burnout, all of which can compromise their ability to continue to provide quality education.

As a school occupational therapist, I am passionate about mindfulness and movement. I work throughout the day to incorporate these skills into my instruction. However, this month, I decided to take the lead with a co-worker and encourage our staff to use these strategies for their own self care. The old adage is true, “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”. Here is how I rolled out our Staff Self Care Challenge.

Brainstorm Simple Self Care Strategies

I started by brainstorming simple self care strategies that staff could use. Then, each day staff found notes in their mailboxes encouraging self care moments such as stretches, guided imagery activities, and quick little reminders to stop, breathe, and move mindfully in the moment. I began to notice that staff were taking time for self care, on purpose. Download and print this PDF for our ideas.

teacher wellness

Encourage Participation

It can be challenging to develop new habits. To encourage participation, I built in an incentive plan. Once participants had completed an activity, they would put their name into a drawing. Five winners received a goodie bag from SBell Wellness and a Move Mindfully® Card Deck. Our grand prize winner won a massage; thanks to a generous donation from the community. The prospect of fabulous prizes definitely increased enthusiasm!

wellness prizes

Lasting Changes

Since our mindfulness month, I can still hear teachers and staff chatting about mindfulness and encouraging each other to take these little moments. This fun activity is a simple way to introduce and encourage self care strategies. I notice that we, as a staff, are beginning to, “Pay attention on purpose to the here and now with kindness and curiosity, so we can choose our response.”

What have you tried to promote staff wellness? What’s worked? Leave a comment!

staff wellness winners

“Everything you need, your courage, your strength, compassion, and love; everything you need is already within you.”

Written by,

Shauna Bell, MOT, OTR/L 

shauna bell

Shauna is a school occupational therapist at District 47 in Crystal Lake Il. She is also a Yoga Calm® certified youth yoga instructor, natural solutions educator with  dōTERRA and is currently studying for certification as an Integrative Health Coach at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.  

Using Mindful Language

Mindful Language and Movement go hand in hand.

Teaching mindfulness and movement to kids in a public school can be very challenging. I’ve had some crazy moments where I don’t feel very calm OR mindful. Just last week I had a student flip a desk and throw a yoga mat out the window.   

How did I respond?  I took a deep breath and got grounded. The Pause allowed me to create space between the event and my reaction. First, I made sure the rest of the class was safe by using my radar. Then, I gave the student clear and calm directions.

I used mindfulness and clear language to keep the class moving and redirected the student in a way the let everyone know I wasn’t going to tolerate unsafe behavior. However, I was also able let the student know I still cared for him and that I was there to help with his big feelings.

How was I able to do that? Keeping in the present moment allows me to be aware of my surroundings and adapt as needed to the circumstances. I keep my senses aware of what is going on, and I use my words to bring power and purpose to every moment. Here are some tips to get you started.

How to Create a Mindful Classroom

Moving mindfully and speaking mindfully go hand in hand. Clear and mindful words increase awareness of the mind/body connection. Kids learn through example and will often model their behavior after adults around them. Mindful language, paired with movement and breath, can be an excellent way to empower them to be more mindful in their own actions and everyday lives.

How to use Mindful Language

The Responsive Classroom technique “Reinforce, Remind, Redirect” is the heart of mindful language. Here are some examples:

Reinforcing: Reinforce the positive behaviors that are already happening. This encourages other kids to remember what they could also be doing to get it right.

  • “I notice you used a breathing strategy to calm your body. This gets your brain ready to learn new things.”
  • “Using a balance position is a great way to keep focused attention!”

Reminding:  Remind the behavior that you expect, and give a quick reason why it’s important. This is often done to the whole group, but can also be directed to individuals, usually privately.

  • “Remember, when we keep our voices off during our movement break so everyone can hear the directions and learn something new from the leader.”
  • “We use kind words to each other to build up our team. Think about what you can say to help someone who might need some encouragement.”

Redirecting: Give a redirection to reset, then try again with the behavior that is expected. Remind why the current behavior is not acceptable. This is usually used when unsafe or completely off-task behavior affects the student or group.

  • “Take three breaths. Then, when you are ready to stay safe come back to your carpet spot.”
  • “Put the book on the floor. Waving it around could hurt someone.”

Notice the Results

All of this should be done with attention to the words you use so that you are being direct and clear. Use a neutral tone that encourages kids to think about the consequences of the behavior for themselves. Once kids know the expectations and what they will get from following them, they feel more safe and confident. Safe, confident kids can explore and learn more.

At this point, they can become their OWN teachers. They will be empowered by the simple and direct language that encourages them to follow the expectations, gives them chances to remember why they are important, and leaves them space learn and grow.

In using this type of thinking about really bringing positive attention to good behavior, you will find yourself talking less. Once you know how to state only what is necessary, be clear and concise, you will have more time to breathe and play!

What mindful language techniques do you use with your students? Leave a comment!

Written by, Maia Horsager

Maia is a 5th year Movement teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy in Minneapolis, MN. She has been teaching yoga, mindfulness, and movement full time to kids for over 6 years.

Eye Yoga

Technology use can take a toll on our eyes. Practicing “Eye Yoga” can help.

It’s clear across settings — we’re living in, “The Digital Age.” With iPads, iPhones, Androids, Chromebooks, and desktops (not archaic to us all), there is no shortage of devices from which to choose. People are  learning, working, communicating, and entertaining themselves using technology now, more than ever before.

Whether doing digital homework, playing video games, reading on a Kindle, or shopping on Instacart, using devices takes a toll on our eyes. Screen time adds up quickly, and let’s not forget about television and the big screen. With increasing reliance on technology, most of us, adults and children alike, are getting much more than our recommended daily amount.

It’s time we open our eyes, literally and figuratively! There are things we can do to relieve and strengthen our played-out peepers. Start teaching your students and children some of the following practices. Plan and encourage breaks from screen time, and don’t forget to practice what you preach. You’ve got to preserve your vision, since we both know that you don’t really have another set of eyes in the back of your head! 

“The Eyes Have (Had) It!”

To relieve eye strain and strengthen eye muscles, practice the following:

1) Palming (“Friction Addiction”) – Rub your hands together for 10-15 seconds, heating them up with friction. Gently place your warm palms over your closed eyes. Rest fingertips on forehead and balls of hands on cheeks. Don’t push on your eyes. Just allow them to enjoy the warm darkness. Breathe deeply.

palming eye yoga

2) Eye Rolling (That’s right!) – Sit upright. Soften your gaze and relax your face. Without moving your head, direct your gaze up toward the ceiling. Rotate your eyes around as if they are touching each number on a clock that is on your face. Do this in one direction. Then, repeat in the opposite direction. (2-3 times clockwise and counter-clockwise)

eye rolling eye yoga

3) Holding Focus (“Cross Eyes”) – Hold one arm straight out in front of you, thumb up. Focus your eyes on your thumb. Bring it slowly toward your nose until your eyes can no longer clearly focus on it. Pause and breathe. Slowly reach your arm back out, keeping your gaze focused on your thumb. Repeat up to 10 times.

focus shifting eye yoga

4) Distance Gazing (“Eye Spy”) – Hold one arm straight out in front of you, thumb up. Focus your eyes on your thumb. Now, shift your gaze from your thumb to an object in the distance. It can be out a window if you are inside. Focus your gaze on the object as clearly as you can. Keep your eyes and face relaxed. Breathe deeply. Then, shift your gaze back to your thumb. Repeat this until you have “spied” several different objects in the distance.   

distance gazing eye yoga

‘Eye’ hope this helps! Which strategy do you think you will try? Leave a comment!

Written By,

Jenny Wood

Jenny Wood has been an elementary school teacher near Athens, Georgia for the past 18 years. She is passionate about promoting mindful life strategies and practices with children and gets plenty of practice with her own two boys.

jenny wood

 

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?

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/