How Mindfulness Helps

An excerpt from Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids and Teens by Sherri Gordon

The practice of being mindful allows children and teens to cope with frustration when they are faced with something difficult in their lives. It can also be used when they need to focus their attention on something specific and not allow distractions to derail them. The more kids and teens practice being mindful, the better they get at it.

Plus, it really works. In fact, research shows that practicing mindfulness can improve attention spans for just about anyone—including young people with ADHD who often have trouble paying attention. Overall, people who learn to practice mindfulness are able to pay attention better and are less distractible. Mindfulness also helps individuals stay calm under stress, avoid getting too upset, get along better with others, and be more patient. It can even impact learning, help kids and teens become better listeners, and help them feel happier overall.

Childhood and adolescence are important stages in the developmental process for young people. What happens during these phases of their lives will lay the foundation for their their future mental health.

Mindfulness helps students learn how to pause in all types of situations and respond in a thoughtful way rather than just reacting. This skill is especially helpful when they are faced with challenges or encounter kids who engage in bullying.

Not surprisingly, practicing mindfulness can help kids and teens learn how to manage stress, regulate their emotions, focus on the task at hand, and develop a positive outlook on life.

Kids and teens who use mindfulness also develop a better understanding of how their brains work. They may even develop a sense of curiosity about how their minds work and why they feel the way they feel, which in the end may lead to a deeper understanding of who they are as a person. Research has shown that when mindfulness is used in schools it can provide a range of cognitive, emotional, and social benefits.

Cognitive Benefits

Research has shown that teaching kids mindfulness can impact their cognitive skills, particularly the executive functions performed by the brain. Executive functions are responsible for a person's ability to pay attention, switch focus, organize information, remember details, and engage in planning.

In fact, one study of third-grade students over a period of eight weeks found that when a mindfulness program was implemented in the school, the students showed improvements in regulating their behaviors and focusing on the task at hand when compared to a control group that did not participate in a mindfulness program.

Meanwhile, another study found that students participating in a 24-week mindfulness program scored better on attention-based activities than other students in their elementary school. Likewise, a study of preschoolers found that students with a mindfulness curriculum scored better on academic performance tests. They also showed greater improvement in areas that predict future academic success.

Emotional Benefits

Emotional health, or a positive sense of well-being, is an important component of every child's life. Not only is it the basis for mental health, but it also can help deter mental health issues like:
Anxiety
Stress
Depression
Self-esteem issues
Improved social interactions
Overall, being mindful or participating in mindfulness activities can not only help students manage stress but also increase their sense of well-being. For instance, one study found that after participating in a mindfulness program students were more likely to report feeling optimistic. Meanwhile, another study found that preteens reported feeling calmer, getting better sleep, and having an enhanced sense of well-being after participating in a five-week mindfulness and stress-reduction program.

Social Benefits

Difficulty interacting and communicating with others can lead to problems with learning, understanding, and school climate. But mindfulness programs have been shown to improve these skills and lead to positive results within the school.

For instance, a five-week mindfulness program in an elementary school led to better participation in classroom activities. Meanwhile, a mindfulness program in a high school helped nurture mutual respect and care among students and improve school climate.

Full Article:


Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids and Teens


 BY Sherri Gordon


Gordon, Sherri. “How Kids and Teens Can Benefit From Mindfulness.” Verywell Family, 17 Sept. 2020, www.verywellfamily.com/benefits-of-mindfulness-for-kids-4769017.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

As adults, it is easy to overlook the stressors that kids go through. Giving them a healthy outlet such as mindfulness can help lead them to a better path and be able to regulate the strong emotions that come along with navigating the world. 

ABC of Mindfulness

An excerpt from Medium.com by Ravi Lekkala

Have you ever tried to pull a door when it actually says push, or tripped over not minding your step? You are not alone. And these are only less complicated situations in life.


I’m grateful to my yoga teacher at my primary school who introduced me to the world of meditation. I’ve been practicing meditation for over three decades and interacted with several other practitioners, learning and sharing different approaches. When it comes to mindfulness, three key elements are crucial.


I would like to throw light upon those 3 basic elements of mindfulness. I believe they are fundamental and indispensable in anybody’s mindfulness journey.

A — Awareness

Awareness is the core aspect of mindfulness.

It is a device to observe and acknowledge the present reality dispassionately, moment by moment.


How to practice:

Start your meditation with focus on your breathing and slowly expand your awareness to the extent possible of the five basic senses. If you notice your mind wandering, you acknowledge the deviation and refocus on your breathing and awareness. Then, you further expand your awareness to your thoughts. You try not to control your thoughts but just observe and acknowledge them without judgement.


How it helps:

Not surprisingly, this state of awareness starts reflecting in your day to day life. You notice improvement in your focus and concentration. You are more often attentive and seldom absent-minded.

Please note this is only a by-product of your practice and not an expectation to start with.



B — Being with experience

Being with experience complements and enhances awareness.


How to practice:

You try to observe your thoughts and feelings by fully being with your experience of the current moment. You try not to resist uncomfortable thoughts or encourage comfortable ones. You try to avoid digging past associations or building future aspirations. You just try to know and cherish being with your present experience.


How it helps:

You start to comprehend situations of life with increasing clarity, and start accepting the reality. And this makes you better equipped to be unaffected by the feelings of anxiety and even pleasure.

Please note the reality itself doesn’t change, but your reaction to it does.



C — Choice

Awareness and being with experience leads to a conscious choice.


Once you have a lucid awareness of the present reality and accept the same by being with the experience, you are in a better position to make a clear choice of doing or not doing something. That is in a more free manner without being subject to pressure or prejudice. You will start seeing that the decisions you make and the actions you perform seem like a matter of common sense, and more appropriate.



Like everything else, it takes some practice to become comfortable with meditation. I believe the framework of these 3 basic elements advances your journey of mindfulness and helps you avoid tripping over your next steps of life. Namaste!

Full Article:


ABC of Mindfulness


 BY Ravi Lekkala


Plotkin, Robert. “3 Components of Mindfulness & How They Impact Our Mood.” Technology for Mindfulness, 6 Nov. 2019, technologyformindfulness.com/3-components-of-mindfulness-how-they-impact-our-mood/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Having simple steps to Mindfulness can make a concept that seems so overwhelming and difficult a little more comprehensive in a time in which you really need it. Sometimes being in the moment may feel like the last thing you want to do, but when you approach your current situation with attention, you can more easily overcome it.

Good Stress vs. Bad Stress for Kids

An excerpt from Good Stress vs. Bad Stress for Kids by Jerome Schultz, PhD

At a Glance

      • Not all stress is bad. There’s good stress, too.

      • Ongoing challenges and fears can create stress in kids.

      • Remembering past successes can help your child feel more  confident and in control.


When someone says they’re stressed, it’s usually not a positive thing. But stress isn’t always bad. There’s good stress, too. And it can help kids rise to challenges, resolve problems, and build confidence.


Learn about the difference between good and bad stress, and how each can impact your child.


Types of Stress: Good, Tolerable, and Bad

Nature gave us the ability to spot danger and respond to it. When faced with dangerous situations, our bodies and brains kick into fight-or-flight mode. But we don’t like to stay in that state for long. We like to deal with danger quickly so we can feel safe again.

Our body’s ability to deal with stress helps us do just that. Our stress response system gets our brain and body ready to solve problems and tackle challenges. And when we overcome the problem, our brain “feels good” and remembers our successes.


Good stress happens when we confront a situation we believe we can manage or control. Here’s an example:


A child is coasting down a hill on a bike with just one hand on the handlebars. When she sees a pothole up ahead, she feels stress and instinctively puts her other hand on the bars.


In less than a second, her brain goes in to survival mode. It tells her heart to pump blood to her legs, her vision gets a little better because her pupils open to take in more light, and she’s ready for evasive action. She guides herself around the hole and continues safely down the slope.


In this case, she quickly handled the danger without a problem. It was good stress that helped her meet the challenge, because she believed she could do it.


The brain loves success and will store the memory of this event. The next time this child faces such a dangerous situation, this positive memory will help her deal with it. Good stress makes us stronger, ready to take on new challenges.


Soon, however, she’s faced with a new danger. It suddenly starts raining hard, and big puddles form on the bike path. She grips the handlebars tightly. This time she’s feeling a greater level of stress because the danger has increased and is lasting longer. Still, she believes she’ll make it home safely.


Why is that? She’s been in situations like this before and succeeded. She knows she has the skill to do it again, and that gives her confidence. She’s experiencing tolerable stress. And the next time she faces such a challenge, it’s more likely she’ll be ready for it.


But now, the situation changes again—for the worse. The rain is coming down harder now. Lightning is flashing, she’s having trouble seeing, and she takes a wrong turn.


She’s never ridden in such terrible conditions, so she’s never had the experience of getting through them. She doesn’t feel capable, and she doesn’t feel safe. In fact, she’s overwhelmed by fear.


This is bad stress—and it’s toxic. It happens when we’re in a threatening situation that goes on and on, and we don’t feel like we’re able to get through it.

Bad stress erodes confidence and makes us question our ability. At this point, the girl lets the bike drop in the mud and she runs, as fast as she can, toward her home.

Full Article:


Good Stress vs. Bad Stress for Kids


 BY Jerome Schultz, PhD


Schultz, Jerome. “Good Stress vs. Bad Stress for Kids.” Understood, Understood, 22 Oct. 2020, www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/managing-feelings/stress-anxiety/good-stress-vs-bad-stress-in-kids.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Stress is often seen as a negative emotion, but it is important to realize that stress can also be a good thing that pushes us forward, depending on the kind of stress and what we do with it. Realizing this gives us more control in our own lives. 

Teen Stress has been Heightened by a Year of Pandemic. Here’s How to Help Them

An excerpt from Teen Stress has been Heightened by a Year of Pandemic. Here’s How to Help Them by John Duffy

(CNN)--I started working with Shannon, a high school junior, at the beginning of lockdown. Shannon has asthma, and she's afraid of getting Covid-19 herself. She's also afraid of making a family member or someone else sick. And she fears the pandemic will never be over, that things will never again feel normal.

I also work with Tim, a high school senior. I started therapy with Tim about two years ago. He is a handsome, popular, athletic guy. But he's stressed about being able to afford the upper-middle-class life his parents have given him. He can't picture being successful, and he is painfully anxious about it. Especially during the pandemic, possible failure is on his mind nearly constantly.

Do you remember worrying about your adult life when you were a teenager? Neither do I. Kids just think differently now. Like Shannon and Tim (not their real names), they have this broad scope and range of experience and knowledge, based in large part on what is available to them on screens, and from their friends.


The pandemic has made things so much worse. Many teens I work with deal with a nearly crippling social anxiety, either from a lack of practice after a year with precious little time with friends, or because of overall social insecurity. As a result, they experience the fear of missing out regularly, and they think their friends are enjoying themselves on TikTok and Snapchat, adding to their levels of stress.


Some also feel a sense of desperation, depression and anxiety they have never experienced before, always having considered themselves positive, upbeat people. Several of my clients are now taking medication to balance their moods.

How to Recognize Stress in your Teens

Sometimes, our kids actually tell us they are stressed, which is amazing. If they do, you are lucky. Skip down to the "what parents can do to help" section right now.

More likely, they won't. In my experience, kids are rarely forthcoming about these things, assuming parents either won't get it or may limit their freedom to keep an eye on them at home in a misguided attempt to help.

Sometimes, our kids actually tell us they are stressed, which is amazing. If they do, you are lucky. Skip down to the "what parents can do to help" section right now.

More likely, they won't. In my experience, kids are rarely forthcoming about these things, assuming parents either won't get it or may limit their freedom to keep an eye on them at home in a misguided attempt to help.

I encourage parents to look for any marked change in their child's mood or behavior due to anxiety and worry. Stressed kids can present as irritable, avoidant, even withdrawn. And/or their stress might manifest in physical symptoms, including fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, stomach issues and difficulty sleeping.

They may also regulate their emotions more poorly, become short-tempered, angry and overly emotional. Your formerly compliant child may now seem suddenly rude, talking back, yelling and disrupting the household. Before doling out discipline or a consequence, sit with her, talk, and listen, about not only her levels of stress, but her emotional life overall.

If it's stress, get to what's causing it. I find parents are often wrong about why their kids feel stressed. Parents might think, for instance, that their kids are worried about their grades when they actually are concerned about being left out socially.

Know that what's stressing you out about your kid is likely different than what's burdening them. So, hear her out. Be curious. But give your child space and time to process. Set your judgment and ego aside, and really listen, acknowledge, and don't overreact.


Sometimes just listening and acknowledging can solve the problem. But if not, talk about what you might be able to do together to help.


What Parents can do to Help

Guide your child to calm her mind and problem-solve. A moment of meditation or a few deep breaths can bring quick relief to your stressed child. And once she is calm, break down the stressor into digestible chunks.

Maybe he can reach out to his teacher for an extension on a project. Or she can text an apology to her friend for slighting her. Often it's just a matter of looking at the stressful situation in a different way. Thoughtful problem-solving under stress is an invaluable lifelong skill.
And finally, model healthy coping. Don't forget you are an enormous influence on your child. Kids are forever paying attention to the way you manage your stress.

Full Article:


Teen Stress has been Heightened by a Year of Pandemic. Here’s How to Help Them


 BY John Duffy


Duffy, Analysis by John. “Teen Stress Has Been Heightened by a Year of Pandemic. How to Help.” CNN, Cable News Network, 4 May 2021, www.cnn.com/2021/05/04/health/how-to-help-teen-stress-wellness/index.html?utm_source=fbCNN&utm_term=link&utm_content=2021-05-04T18%3A01%3A18&utm_medium=social&fbclid=IwAR1se7Cv4O2Nptva1-6fVl4-XCmlWY2mBjO-uVECO92d8M2adiUk0fCuQVY.

Director of Strategic Communications

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[nekiesha]

this article touched on the types of stress and anxiety teenagers may be facing during the pandemic. I found it really compelling because as parents, we often focus on the behavior in our children, instead of first considering the cause.

How to Use Mindfulness in Times of Crisis and Challenge

An excerpt from How to Use Mindfulness in Times of Crisis and Challenge by Mellissa O'Brien

There have been five main ways that mindfulness has helped me and the family during this time. I’d like to share these in case these may be helpful to those out there who find themselves in a similarly difficult time. May these bring peace and presence into the darkest of days.

Present-Moment Attention

This was the strongest predictor of increased positive emotions in the students who were more aware in the present moment indicated that they felt happier and better overall. Why might this be? When you allow your attention to wander it shifts to things like anticipation of future events or regrets about the past.

When you notice your mind wandering, try focusing on your breath or something in your current surroundings.

1. The Breath Hug

The 3-breath hug has been the most beautiful way to ground ourselves and reconnect with each other and our moment-to-moment experience. Kristen Race shared this simple practice on Day 23 of The Mindfulness Summit as a practice for mindful parenting, but we’re finding it invaluable right now to bond as a family.

When one of us (or all of us) becomes very distressed, we have been coming together for a 3-breath hug. Imagine this situation – we had a very emotional family meeting with a doctor (telling us that Gary will never be the same due to massive brain damage) which ended with another family member in the room having a seizure and another one nearly passing out. We then had alarms going off and nurses rushing in to help. Very stressful, very difficult. We gathered outside the room right after that meeting, put our arms around each other and had a 3-breath hug to ground ourselves and give each other love and support. What a gift!

The kids especially love it when they’re stressed and it’s a way that the adults can wrap them up in love and support in the middle of it all.

2. A Mindful Mantra 'This Too'

When life presents us with the unpleasant and the unwanted there is a strong tendency of the mind to resist what is happening. Resistance to pain, though, just creates more suffering. It’s futile. So here we are in this extremely stressful situation. A loved one in bed fighting for his life, probably not going to make it out of that bed alive. That’s very unpleasant. Feelings of fear, grief and loss naturally arise, and if I let them come and go without suppression, that is healthy and natural.

But if I begin to get into mental resistance patterns like ‘why is this happening to me?’ or ‘it’s not fair’ or ‘this shouldn’t be happening’ or ‘I want this to stop/ change/ go my way’ then I start fighting with reality. I start fighting with the present moment – and that, I know, is completely futile and just creates more layers of suffering. I will also lose touch with myself and the present moment if I get into resistance.

But the tendency to resist is strong when there is a lot of unpleasantness. That’s why I have been using my mantra that I always use in difficult times ‘This too.’

‘This too’ is my abbreviation for saying ‘I accept unconditionally the unfolding of this present moment in whatever form it takes – this too is allowed and accepted.’

‘This too’ reminds me to soften my resistance. It reminds me to stay grounded in presence (as best I can) and connects me to background of ease and peace even in the middle of this pain. I often repeat it mentally, sometimes out loud.

3. One Conscious Breath

We spoke at the summit, about the power of just taking a few deep, slow, conscious breaths – especially when you’re stressed. Breathing just a couple of breaths this way whenever we have felt overwhelmed has been so soothing for us all.

I’ve also been using my time in the ICU waiting room to do these mini-breath meditations, taking this time to step out of the mind and reconnect with my body and being-ness. It’s so simple, but has been profoundly nourishing.

I might just close my eyes and take one long slow breath, or maybe ten, if I have a minute free. One conscious breath brings me back to my self – reminds me that the world is still turning, birds are still singing and the sun is still shining through the window. There is more to this moment than just the pain, it’s all alive and it’s a miracle.

4. Creativity to Connect

As I mentioned, there is a lot of waiting around so we were looking for ways to be mindful while we waited. It’s all too easy to become caught up in the stressful energy of the ICU ward and all too easy for the mind to start running ‘what if’ scenarios while you wait.

At the summit, Danny Penman spoke about mindfulness and creativity and we also did a DMC (Daily Mindfulness Challenge) of colouring in. It was a fun and grounded practice and one we’ve brought into the waiting room. We’ve got a whole bunch of mindful colouring in books and so we have all been engrossed in mindful coloring in between visiting Gary by his bedside. Check out some of our creations! We ended up with a lovely board of pictures to put by his bedside.

5. Keep Up a Daily Practice and do Things that Nourish You

It’s common that we tend to abandon our daily practice on the darkest of days – when we’re sick, tired or stressed – but that’s exactly when we need it the most. I’ve found my daily meditation an incredible gift during this time. It’s been a time of cultivating self-compassion and gentleness. It’s been a way of opening up to the wholeness of life and reconnecting to what really matters.

We’ve also made sure that we are doing things that nourish us like eating well, going for swims in the ocean and getting some exercise. This is a way of self-nourishing at a time when I think many of us feel like drowning our sorrows in junk food, booze and unhealthy habits. It’s an act of kindness to ourselves in a time of uncertainty and pain. Also, reach out to get support from your loved ones. You don’t have to do it alone.

If you’ve faced your own challenges and can share some tips with us, please do in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.

I hope this blog post may help anyone going through similar challenges to what we face right now. The main thing is to just take it all one step and one breath at a time.

Full Article:


How to Use Mindfulness in Times of Crisis and Challenge


 BY MELLIssa O'BRIEN


O'Brien, Mellissaon May. “How To Use Mindfulness In Times Of Crisis and Challenge.” Mrs. Mindfulness, 3 Apr. 2019, mrsmindfulness.com/how-to-use-mindfulness-in-times-of-crisis-challenge/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

When facing times of crisis, it is easy to succumb to those serious emotions. It can be so overwhelming that it leaves you feeling powerless. Personally, I believe that having these steps to turn to can help you regain control in a time where you have none. 

Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers

An excerpt from Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers by Jill Manly

Improve Your Sleep

If I had a poor night’s sleep before a teaching day, I knew I was headed for trouble. I’d slap a smile on my face, chug a coffee, and try my best to lead the class. Yet, my patience was always thinner, my smile strained. Worst of all, my students would see right through me.

Teaching requires peak energy levels and patience. Yet, it’s easy for teachers to lose sleep. They often lie awake, ruminating over a child who has been bullied or reviewing how to lead a lesson more effectively.

Reduce Your Stress

Teaching is one of the most stressful professions, no question. An analysis by the National Foundation for Educational Research revealed that “one in five teachers (20 percent) feel tense about their job most or all of the time, compared to 13 percent of similar professionals.” Even more, The American Federation of Teachers found that “78% of teachers reported feeling physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.”

The antidote? Mindfulness. A Harvard study compared the stress levels of people who went on vacation with those who began a meditation practice. While both groups initially showed improvements in stress, the meditators still showed improvements 10 months later while the vacationers’ stress levels had returned to baseline. Remember that mindcation idea? Well, it turns out that using mindfulness to take a mindcation has longer lasting effects on stress than an actual vacation.

Increase Your Focus

Teaching demands a high level of focus while multitasking. You might find yourself simultaneously teaching a math lesson, soothing an overwhelmed student, and redirecting off-task students. Data from busyteacher.org estimates that “teachers make about 1,500 educational decisions a day or about four decisions per minute based on 6 hours of instruction.”

Unfortunately, multitasking diminishes one’s ability to focus. Research shows that “productivity can be reduced by as much as 40% by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks.”

Teachers, all is not lost. Multitasking comes with the job, but you can practice mindfulness to increase your focus. Mindfulness meditation training improves executive attention and cognitive flexibility.

Maintain Healthier Relationships

While teachers love supporting their students, it’s easy to feel drained. Imagine you’re comforting the fifth child who has come to you in tears that day. Before you know it, you feel overwhelmed and impatient. The well of compassion you started your day with dwindles with each new upset.

Lucky for you, mindfulness increases one’s emotional-regulation skills. When you can regulate your own emotions, you can better support the emotions of others. Even more, mindfulness promotes forgiveness during conflicts due to a decrease in rumination and an increase in perspective-taking.

Gain Strong Communication Skills

Effective teacher communication plays a critical role in the wellness of teachers, students, and parents.


Teachers, here’s how you can bring mindfulness into your conversations:


- Be fully present

- Listen actively

- Slow down to process what’s said

- Reflect – what feelings exist behind the person’s words? What emotions come up for you as the listener?

- Ponder how to thoughtfully respond, rather than impulsively react

Practice the mindfulness skill of nonjudgmental acceptance to be responsive to students instead of reactive. This helps you focus on how someone is, instead of how you want or expect them to be.


You might expect your students to be perfectly respectful and focused on your lesson. The reality? Not so much. Often, negative emotions arise when something or someone does not meet our expectations. We judge the situation and therefore make it worse for ourselves.


By practicing nonjudgmental acceptance, we take the emotional reaction out of the situation. We simply notice what is and thoughtfully choose our response.


Increase Your Productivity

Does this sound familiar? You spend your recess breaks scarfing down a snack, fleeing to the bathroom, or talking with a student. You spend lunch prepping materials for the upcoming science lesson. You cram the overflow of work into breaks, evenings, and weekends. I felt this way, too. Let me tell you, it wasn’t sustainable. When I discovered mindfulness, I learned how to increase my productivity by working smarter, not harder.

A study on mindfulness intervention and workplace productivity showed that mindfulness produced “greater reductions in burnout and perceived stress, improvements in well-being, and increases in team and organizational climate and personal performance.”

Achieve Greater Happiness

Teachers support their students through all of life’s challenges; they are often the first-responders to students’ pain. While being there for children is a true privilege, it can take a toll on teachers’ happiness. Research shows that “educators and other school-based staff can experience the stress of compassion fatigue and/or vicarious traumatization.”

Enhance Your Memory

Teachers, you are experts in the subjects you teach. You want your memory to be in tip-top shape, right?

Mindfulness meditation can boost one’s memory. It also enhances episodic memory, or memory of a previous experience. Mindfulness training increases attention on a moment-to-moment basis, so people practicing mindfulness experience greater task engagement which makes experiences more memorable. Mindfulness training can even decrease mind-wandering and improve GRE test scores.

Boost Your Immunity

Every teacher knows the threat of germs well. Now, add on to that a global pandemic. Yikes.

Fortunately, a study proved that “a short program in mindfulness meditation produces significant effects on immune function.”

Wear a mask? Check. Meditate? Check!

Optimize Your Brain

A teacher’s brain not only houses in-depth knowledge, but it responds to frequent emotional stressors. How do you keep your brain in peak condition to master these demands? Mindfulness, of course.

One study had individuals facing high levels of stress participate in 8 weeks of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. MRI scans showed a decrease in gray matter density within the right amygdala of participants (the part of the brain associated with fear).

Another study found that meditators had thicker prefrontal cortexes, the part of the brain associated with decision-making, situational awareness, and focus.

Full Article:


Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers


 BY JILL MANLY


Manly, Jill. “Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers.” JabuMind, 24 Mar. 2021, jabumind.com/top-10-benefits-of-mindfulness-for-teachers/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

With this week being Teacher Appreciation Week, we have been reminded of all of the hard work that teachers do. With an occupation that requires you to give up so much of yourself to help others, it is important to take time for self care and self reflection.  

Don’t Give Up! Four Stages on the Path of Mindfulness

An article from Everyday Mindfulness by Amy McMillan

Mindfulness is becoming more popular day by day. Often viewed as a panacea for every mental and physical ailment, it seems that there is nothing it can’t help. However, before jumping onto the bandwagon, it is important to note what mindfulness is not. It is not a quick fix. It is not just a set of self-help techniques. It is not designed to help you achieve great things in life (if your interpretation of achievement means career success, money or status).

Mindfulness is a way of being. We open to life as it is in the present moment without judgement, clinging or avoiding. This does not come naturally for most people and requires daily commitment and dedication. However, mindfulness should not be seen as a chore or just another technique to be fitted into an already busy life. Mindfulness practice gradually becomes more natural and effortless, and for the committed, the benefits will continue to deepen over a lifetime. Jon Kabat-Zinn calls it an ‘adventure in living’ and I love this approach. I like to take an open, curious attitude to my practice; learning to see the world with a vibrant clarity as the incessant mental noise inside me calms and stills.

Most people seek out mindfulness because they want to suffer less. This could be for any number of reasons although our fast-paced lives in the west have led to a particular focus on stress-reduction. It can be disheartening in the beginning as expectations of instant, blissful relaxation, calm and inner peace are replaced with the reality that meditation can be uncomfortable mentally and physically. We discover that there is no ‘Off’ switch for the brain. Lack of instant success can be a stumbling block for many people (myself included) which is why it is particularly effective to learn in a group where we can see how common these pitfalls in the journey are. It is most definitely worth persevering as meditation is a firm foundation for a lasting mindfulness practice (even if only for brief periods each day) and it is where the much publicized positive physiological changes take place.

Rick Hanson refers to the following four stages of mindful development in his excellent book ‘Buddha’s Brain’. Also known in psychology as the Hierarchy of Competence, these stages can be used to clarify our mindfulness practice as we encounter pitfalls and breakthroughs on our path. I find them very useful and encouraging in my own practice.

stAGE 1

Unconscious Incompetence

Unconscious incompetence is the opposite of mindful awareness. In this stage we are mindlessly caught in our unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour. Many people spend a lot of time here, caught in a loop of repeating thoughts and behaviour. These patterns can initially seem helpful (for example, distracting ourselves from painful feelings), but a continuing reliance on harmful patterns can negatively affect us both mentally and physically. I spent many years here; anxious about so many things and feeling that if only outside circumstances were different, I would be happier. I was unaware that my own unhelpful thought patterns were creating my sense of inner unease. I was unconscious.

stAGE 2

Conscious Incompetence

As we begin to practice mindfulness meditation, we start to become aware of our unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour but we cannot yet change them. It can be uncomfortable and confronting to become more self-aware; we realise just how unhelpful our thought processes can be. We become aware that we are unable to focus, re-living the past or rehearsing the future, full of judgement or anger. This is where we often want to quit. Perseverance and self-compassion are key to surviving this stage. Understanding that all of these ‘negative’ patterns are simply part of the human condition; we all experience them at one time or another and they will come and go. In fact, they are likely to always come and go, but we learn to take them less seriously as practicing mindfulness gives us a new perspective. I have been in and out of this stage countless times, becoming acutely aware of my anxious and judgemental thoughts. Developing self-compassion is an ongoing process for me, both in meditation and daily life. I am learning to treat myself as my own best friend; accepting & appreciating that I am perfectly imperfect – and so is everyone else.

stAGE 3

Conscious Competence

As mindfulness practice becomes firmly embedded in our lives, we notice that difficult thoughts and feelings still arise but we are less caught up in them. We have become the observer of our thoughts and no longer identify so closely with them. We understand the transient nature of our thoughts and feelings, and are able to step back and let them go. We have the space to choose how to respond to our thoughts and feelings rather than reacting unconsciously. We are able to open up and engage with life with more skill and less fear. I still feel anxious thoughts but I can now usually make the conscious choice not to let them overwhelm me or carry me away down the uncontrollable river of rumination.

stAGE 4

Unconscious Competence

This often elusive stage is where our mindfulness practice really becomes effortless. Unhelpful reactions no longer arise. Situations that would have once created anxiety, depression, anger or frustration are met with acceptance and equanimity. Our perception shifts as we experience a growing sense of the peace and clarity of our true nature beneath the noise of incessant thinking. As Wayne Dyer says ‘it’s all small stuff’. I get glimpses of deep peace and clarity, arising more frequently as my practice has deepened over the past few years. These glimpses can occur during meditation or arise spontaneously during everyday life, even in the midst of mundane or painful circumstances. These glimpses are often only fleeting but they encourage me to persevere with my practice.

We will repeatedly encounter these stages on our journey and understanding them can help to give us clarity and encouragement. We may find ourselves feeling fairly competent and aware in some areas of our lives, only to find that we are still easily triggered into unconsciousness in other areas. I would honestly say that after several years of practice, I still only experience brief periods of unconscious competence. I spend most of my time being consciously competent with some lapses back into conscious incompetence if I neglect my practice! Nowadays, if I fall into my old patterns, I am usually much quicker at catching myself and I have the power to make better choices in thinking and behaviour. I am also quicker to forgive myself for those lapses as I know these are a natural part of this fascinating journey.

Finally, I’d like to make it very clear that these stages are only suggested as for guidance and encouragement. In this age of obsession with goals and progress, it is important to understand that it is impossible to rush progress on the mindfulness journey, whether your goal is simple relaxation or enlightenment. It’s a paradox but we are not trying to do anything or get anywhere all; the key is simply to practice daily without attachment to any particular goal. We commit to mindfulness practice for its own sake; to simply open to the rich tapestry of life unfolding as it is, in all its pain and glory, one breath and one moment at a time.

Full Article:


Don’t Give Up! Four Stages on the Path of Mindfulness


 BY Amy McMillan


McMillan, Amy. “Don’t Give Up! Four Stages on the Path of Mindfulness.” Everyday Mindfulness, 2015, www.everyday-mindfulness.org/dont-give-up-four-stages-on-the-path-of-mindfulness/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Starting a mindfulness practice is not always as simple at it seems. It is easy to get in a mindset of "I'm not doing this right" or "This won't work for me" and giving up seems like the best option. This article helps to identify why we feel this way, and how we can use it to preserver in our pursuit of mindfulness.

The Science of Adversity

Dr. Pamela Cantor explains the science of adversity and how we can use this information to design better learning environments.

The Science

There is a connection between adversity, stress and academic performance. Children often endure stress from adverse experiences, such as exposure to violence, loss of a loved one, racial discrimination and homelessness. Unfortunately, most schools aren’t designed or equipped to address the impact of stress on learning.

Adversity doesn’t just happen to children, it happens inside them.
Stress gets inside their brains and bodies with risks to health and learning. The good news is the brain is malleable. We can use science to address what stress does to children and to schools.

The Science of Brain Development

Not all stress is bad − in fact, stress is a necessary and important factor in human development. But chronically high levels of stress, without buffering, derail healthy brain development and impact how children perform in school.

The Antidote to Stress is Trust
Science offers reasons for optimism for schools struggling to educate children facing adversity. Genes are chemical followers − DNA changes in response to the environments and relationships children experience.

Trust is fuel for healthy brain development. When children experience a consistent and supportive connection with a trusted adult, it can alter their brain chemistry. Positive relationships can reduce cortisol, a “stress hormone,” and increase oxytocin, a “love hormone.” But trust doesn’t just happen, it has to be intentionally built. For some children, school may be the only place where they receive this kind of support. When children are in a safe, calm, supportive environment, they can learn the skills and mindsets that are requisite for success in school and in life. By understanding and addressing the impact of adversity on learning, we can put all children on a path toward healthy development and academic achievement.

Full Article:


The Science of Adversity


 BY Dr. Pamela Cantor


Cantor, Pamela. “The Science.” Turnaround for Children, 3 May 2018, turnaroundusa.org/what-we-do/the-science/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I think that when we think about the education system, we often overlook the challenges of life outside of the classroom, which can effect the brain and the way kids retain information. Of course, we can not fix every issue for every child, but when we bring those things into account, we can help create a learning environment that will help ease those outside stressors.

COVID-19 has added to the educational barriers girls and women face around the world

An article by Alexandra Chaves of the CBC. Alexandra Chaves is a 19-year-old Plan Canada Youth Advocate who is passionate about gender equality and girls' rights.  

It's been nearly one year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Shortly afterward, schools in Canada and the world began to close, making access to education a global issue.

Here at home, students began navigating the new challenges of online education, lost school days, and the effects of the pandemic on their mental health. But the extent of uncertainty for students in many communities around the world, and particularly for girls and young women, has been much greater.

More than 11 million of them may never return to their education after the pandemic, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). That's the equivalent of 30,000 girls a day who may drop out or not have access to school in 2021 due to COVID-19, one girl every three seconds.

Why is this the case? The problem stems from a continuous cycle of gender inequality and poverty in developing countries.

Unequal and harmful gender norms often put the onus on a girl to care for her household and siblings, creating a situation where her family may see more value in keeping her home than sending her to school.

Girls sometimes face the risk of child- and forced-marriage, which can result in them dropping out of school. Stigma and a lack of access to clean water or sanitation in some places also make it difficult for young women to attend school while menstruating.

In contrast to the accessibility of education in Canada, the trek to school for girls in some countries also puts them at an increased risk of violence or harassment – a risk many parents will not allow their daughters to take.

A schoolgirl makes her way through the Kibera slums of Nairobi on Oct. 1, 2020, after the government partially reopened schools. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

Even in those developing countries where education is free, the cost of uniforms and school supplies is beyond the reach of many girls and women.

This means that even in circumstances where parents want their daughters to attend school, the financial barriers may be too great.

COVID-19 has added an additional layer to all of the barriers girls and women face, through school closures, lockdowns and unequal access to alternatives such as online learning.

No one's future should be decided for them, but for many around the world, the pandemic is doing just that. It's robbing girls of their education and threatening the future of up-and-coming leaders and change-makers in the process.

Saba Qureshi, a teacher at a government school, is seen in an an empty classroom in Dharavi, Asia's largest slum in Mumbai, India, on Feb. 22. Schools have been locked down due to COVID-19. (Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press)

Education is important to me, and I have never taken it for granted. I was fortunate enough to grow up with access to quality education at a public school near my house. I also had the flexibility and support to pursue an online education, which has allowed me to develop an acting career while exploring university aspirations.

Unfortunately, many young women are not afforded such opportunities. Access to education is a fundamental right under Article 26 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but for millions of girls around the world, it is a right that is not upheld.

We must act now to stop this setback.

Students attend an outdoor class taught by a 12-year-old girl on Feb. 7, 2021, as schools remained closed due to COVID-19 in Atmida, Egypt. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)

Schools enable girls to grow knowledge, provide them with opportunities, and act as a safe space to build confidence and personal agency. Getting and keeping girls in the classroom is crucial to improving our global society.

I have learned that the world changes when young people demand it. We can harness the power and privilege we have to create meaningful change.

We have the power to ensure that the world recognizes girls and women in crisis, and the challenges they face. Now is not the time to stay quiet.

On International Women's Day, as we celebrate the achievements of women and progress toward gender equality, we have a chance to reflect on how to create a new normal where girls and women worldwide can fully realize their rights, including access to quality education.

Children from remote areas are more likely to be digitally excluded during school closures than those in urban areas due to lack of internet access, preventing them from taking lessons online. Plan International recently delivered walkie-talkies to the island of Lembata, Indonesia, to help teachers maintain contact with their students while schools are closed by the pandemic. (Plan Canada)

Working with Plan International Canada toward gender equality has made me optimistic for the future. I have had the privilege to listen to and speak with inspiring and passionate youth who are creating change in their own communities and abroad. I encourage those looking for ways to be involved in creating change to visit and follow informative social media sources like @UNWomen and @feminist, and to share their messages and spread awareness. Join the conversation and listen to discussions about the gender equality movement.

Ask questions. Sign petitions. If you have the means, donate to organizations that are working to stop the setback to women's and girls' rights caused by lack of access to education.

And encourage others to do the same.

The signs are all around us. We can only make the changes the world needs right now when we work together to ensure that women and girls everywhere can access the education that is their right, and realize their inner power to be the leaders they are — now and in the future.

Full Article:


COVID-19 has added to the educational barriers girls and women face around the world


 BY Alexandra Chaves


Chaves, Alexandra. “OPINION | Pandemic Robbing Many Young Women Worldwide of Their Education | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 8 Mar. 2021, www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/opinion-women-equality-education-1.5935791.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Women's issues have always been something I have been very passionate about. During women's month, it is incredibly important that we not only look at the outright sexism and misogyny that is very present in our world, but the underlying systematic issues as well, like how the expectations of women start so early in a girl's life that it can fully effect her education in ways that would not effect that of their male counterparts.

Mindfulness Activities You Can Do During a Busy Week

An excerpt from Mindfulness Activities: Fun Ways to Be Mindful (No Matter How Much Time You Have!) by Rachael Kable

These mindfulness activities are short and easy to implement. Why? It’s simple - I know you probably don’t want long and complicated things to do during a busy week!

These mindfulness activities are also designed to help you effectively slow down, become present and switch off from stressful thoughts. So, if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by your to-do list, these mindfulness activities can be really useful. Let’s dive in!

Start Each Day with a Mindful

Breathing Technique

If you have an alarm clock, set it up so the alarm wakes you 5 or 10 minutes before you need to actually get out of bed. When the first alarm goes off, you can either hit snooze or set a new alarm so you’ll still get out of bed on time.

For those extra 5 or 10 minutes, sit up in bed in a comfortable position and use that time to do a mindful breathing technique.

This can be a great strategy for a few different reasons.


  • One - you still get out of bed on time and you don’t have to sacrifice anything else from your morning routine.
  • Two - practicing mindfulness first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day. Hopefully, you’ll feel calm, refreshed, and clear-minded.
  • Three - it gives you time to wake up gently, rather than jumping out of bed and already feeling rushed.

You might be wondering, what is a mindful breathing technique?


A mindful breathing technique involves paying attention to your breath without changing it. Even though this might sound easy, focusing your attention on a simple thing like your breath can actually take some discipline and practice. Your mind will probably wander off. Many times.


Mindful breathing is simple in theory, but it can be a challenge to implement, especially at first. However, the more you practice and get used to bringing your mind back when it wanders, the more you’ll be able to experience the calmness and connection to the present moment that mindful breathing techniques can offer.


Choose One Daily Task to Do Mindfully

There are probably many different tasks you do every single day on autopilot. Those tasks are wonderful opportunities to invite more mindfulness into your life!


Here are some ideas:

  • Drink your morning cup of tea or coffee mindfully by putting your phone down and paying attention to the flavour, aroma, temperature and textures of your cup
  • Shower mindfully by observing the sensation of the water falling onto your skin.
  • Walk mindfully by listening to all the different sounds you can hear in your environment, or feeling the ground underneath your feet as you walk, or looking out for objects you’ve never noticed before.

The point of this daily mindful activity is to create a habit of doing something simple each day in a more mindful way - letting go of distractions, being present, and focusing on your senses so you can actually experience the activity.

Give Yourself Space to Feel your Emotions (Without Judgement)

This can be a great mindfulness activity to do towards the end of the day to help you check-in with yourself and your needs.

Simply ask yourself “How am I feeling right now?” and if you can, give yourself a few minutes to really observe your emotions and create space to experience them.

For example, you could sit down somewhere quiet and turn your attention inwards.

Notice how you’re feeling physically.

Reflect on the events that unfolded during the day.

Observe your emotions and the reasons behind them.

Then, let go of the reasons and focus on the emotion itself. “I feel irritated because the house is messy and my boss expects too much from me” simply becomes “I feel irritated”.

Notice how it feels to be irritated without berating yourself for feeling that way.

Allow yourself to fully feel that emotion and you might even notice the intensity of it start to fade.

Try the "Don't Know Mind" Technique

I learned about the Don’t Know Mind from Jack Kornfield over a year ago and I still use it often.

It involves recognizing and becoming comfortable with uncertainty and the more I practice, the more I feel like I’ve been able to let go worrying about things I can’t control.

The “Don’t Know Mind” technique works like this:

  • When you notice yourself predicting the future, or obsessing over certain outcomes, or worrying about what’s going to happen, give yourself some time to do this practice.
  • Observe what your mind is doing for a few moments, then in your mind, start to say the words “I don’t know what will happen and that’s okay”.
  • You might like to repeat these words a few times and let yourself explore what it’s like to embrace uncertainty; to let go of the need to achieve a certain outcome and to trust in yourself that no matter what happens, it will be ok.

For example, a lovely friend of mine showed me a cool online platform recently called Medium. It’s a huge collection of great quality articles on a range of topics, including psychology, productivity, mindfulness, work, money, and relationships. I was so impressed that I thought “Wow, it would be really great if I could write my own articles and publish them there.”

I did quite a bit of a research and worked on an article and a few days later, I posted my first article about setting goal categories (rather than “random” goals), which was both exciting and really nerve-wracking.

Then, I started thinking “What if no one likes my article?”, “What if my article goes viral and I actually make some money – how amazing would that be?!”, and “What if nothing happens and it ends up taking too much of my time?”.

I was starting to feel stressed and kept checking my statistics… Until, I realized it was the perfect opportunity to practice the “Don’t Know Mind” technique.

I’ve practiced it a few times now to become more comfortable with the uncertainty of writing on Medium, and now I feel much more accepting that I can’t control what might happen. I’ll do my best and learn new things, but I’m not quite so attached to any particular outcome. It feels more like an experiment – and that’s way more fun!

Full Article:


Fun Ways to Be Mindful (No Matter How Much Time You Have!)


 BY Rachael Kable


Kable, Rachael. “Mindfulness Activities: Fun Ways to Be Mindful (No Matter How Much Time You Have!).” Rachael Kable, Rachael Kable, 6 Mar. 2021, www.rachaelkable.com/blog/how-to-be-mindful-with-fun-mindfulness-activities.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Sometimes the weekdays get so busy you feel like you're drowning in them. It's very helpful to have a few techniques that take little time, but can help regulate your entire day. 

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