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