Have you ever tried to meditate?
What’s the first thing that happens?
You will notice your brain has a mind of its own. It just takes off on a frenzy of thinking, fantasizing, imagining, planning, worrying, remembering, reacting and so on.
Why? It’s how our brain naturally functions.
In a study by psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University, they used a mobile app to gather 250,000 data points on people’s thoughts, feelings and actions as they went about their day to day lives.
They discovered that our minds are wandering about 46.9% of the time during any activity.
Most of us would say we experience both reactive, low-performance teaching and creative, high-performance teaching qualities, sometimes shifting between the two multiple times a day!
Can you guess what the one activity that is reported to generally have peoples undivided attention?
You guessed it, having sex! So fornicate all you like, you’re being mindful.
The study demonstrated that people’s feelings of happiness had much more to do with where the mind was rather than what they were actually doing. People consistently reported being happiest when their minds were actually on what they were doing.
As the great psychologist, Abraham Maslow stated in his studies, “the ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness”.
Certainly your mind can wander to pleasant happy things. Mind wandering becomes a problem when you are stewing over the past, or worrying about the future. But, the past is gone and the future isn’t here yet. What exists between past and future?
The present moment.
So how can mindfulness help you?
Unfortunately, as the world gets busier and life gets faster, so do we. We start to go from being mindful to becoming mindless and we have to tread carefully.
Mindfulness is a way to look after your mind. Your mind thinks all day and dreams all night.
It is always busy and you just expect it to keep on doing its job.
You cannot stop the mind from thinking, but if you don’t treat it right and give it rest, it won’t function well.
Think of mindfulness as the mechanic for your brain.
When you know your car is getting a flat tire, do you keep driving it until it is completely flat and you can no longer drive any further?
I imagine not. You stop to check in and ensure you can keep moving forward without causing any long term damage.
Think of your mind in the same way, by being mindful you are treating it with care to ensure you can keep on using it effectively without getting stuck in a reactive, low performance state.
Too often, we can get swept away by a wave of thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness can be particularly powerful when we are faced with worries, pressures and responsibilities and wanting things to be different. By tuning in and paying attention to what is happening in the present moment can be a welcome relief from these stressful and habitual thought patterns.
These habitual thought patterns have been there ever since the dinosaurs and when ignored or dismissed can hijack your mind and take over just like a virus disrupting your computer.
If you are teaching a lesson and being mindless, how do you appreciate the amazing job you are doing?
How do you notice the little wins?
Like when a student has a light bulb moment?
Can you go home to enjoy being present with your family without thinking about what happened that day or what might happen tomorrow?
Do you need mindfulness to rescue you from stress and reactivity?
As mentioned in our previous post Crafting Creative Teachers, having a reactive mindset decreases teachers performance, impairs school culture and resiliency against burnout plummets. Learning how to shift from a reactive mindset to a creative mindset is a process we believe all teachers need to understand, this includes mindfulness as an essential tool for managing your stress.
But, do you understand why you are stressed in the first place?
Discovering how your brain works to better work your brain is an essential component in the SMILE Teacher’s program. Shaun and Greg both work intensively to learn more about how their brains work so they can be more adaptive to stress and operate in a high performance state more often, transferring this knowledge to you.
Shaun combines a framework designed by his friend and mentor, Daniel Friedland M.D, who is an expert on the science of leadership, wellness and resiliency, with Greg’s dynamic and practical benefit mindset programs to provide teachers with the edge in performance and leadership.
For teachers to become conscious leaders who educate in a high performance state, we first need to understand how our brain works. Kids love dinosaurs due to their fascinating lifestyles, appearance and jaw dropping behaviour, we to get pretty excited about the prehistoric age, but for different reasons. This is where the keys to unlocking your potential starts.
The fight or flight response.
Older than Martin Luther King Jr, Jesus Christ and Manny the Mammoth combined. This “superproactive” piece of hardwiring has been coded into every single one of us, not just from child hood, but from millennia of evolutionary history.
We are all programmed to fight or take flight to protect ourselves from threat of harm. This response isn’t wrong, it’s adaptive and helps to face short term stressors, like being chased or attacked.
Today our brains still operate very much the same as when they did thousands of years ago in the Ice Age and beyond. We now have different stressors that last longer, such as worrying about money or difficult people in our lives, now our flight or fight responses over time can do more harm than good.
The positive side is that we now have the scientific research to better understand the modern brain and how to manage stress effectively. We understand the range of other stress responses that are far more helpful than fight-or-flight when dealing with these prolonged stressors.
So if your brain is your pre-historic operating system, these neuroscientific discoveries, such as mindfulness and meditation, these are your new software updates that will help you to not only handle greater levels of stress but actually use it to leverage and sustain higher levels of performance.
I hope you realise there’s nothing wrong with you when you do feel stressed or anxious, it’s a natural part of life. Learning how to manage these feelings and thoughts will help you become more creative and a high performing teacher.
We have established that mindfulness can act as a mechanic for your brain and that tools like mindfulness and meditation can act as software updates to better manage stress and allow you to operate with a creative mindset in a high performing state.
But, why is it that our brains feel scrambled when we get overwhelmed by stress?
Why does this ongoing threat response lead to burnout?
Using the metaphor of placing a frog in boiling water, we can think of stress and our response to stressors as a teacher, as being the temperature of the water. If we fail to educate ourselves on how to handle greater levels of stress, then the temperature of our environment will continue to rise. As we continue to feel scrambled and overwhelmed by stress in our busy days, just like the frog in the pot, we start to get complacent and fail to utilise our fight-or-flight response effectively. Suddenly the water has become to hot and before we have a chance to take control and leverage, we have burnt out, at least we fair a bit better than the poor old frog.
If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death. Version of the story from Daniel Quinn's The Story of B
The programs we have been developing with Daniel Friedland’s- Conscious Leadership, evidence based framework will assist teachers to learn which part of your brain best serves as it’s CEO in order to maximise your brain’s ability to manage and leverage stress, allowing you to proactively shift between reactivity and creativity and transform burnout into resiliency. (Join us in an online program, workshop or Bali Teachers Retreat and you’ll also discover how to avoid landing in a boiling pot of stress at home when you get home from work).
We all experience states of reactivity and creativity, why?
Because they relate to patterns of brain activity that we all possess. In short, this state of reactivity results when we feel threatened and our lower survival oriented parts of our brain hijack our system of thinking, and the state of creativity results when our higher more cognitively flexible parts of our brain are in control.
Teachers are constantly responding to stressors, whether it’s a needy student, misbehaviour, a demanding parent, deadline or personal challenge that could potentially derail the happy teacher express. We have the ability to handle stress in a much more productive and enjoyable way, learning how to do this is available to anyone.
SMILE Teachers are consciously aware of how a particular state of mind can be discovered to proactively shift between the states of reactivity and creativity. Empowering school teachers to handle greater levels of stress and actually leverage even more adaptive responses to sustain higher levels of performance is the goal of our team.
During the facilitation of our online programs, workshops and Bali retreats we have the ability to help teachers to be in control of their natural brain functions to optimise your energy and performance. The tools and strategies learned can then be adjusted to suit your students, colleagues and networks to create a more positive approach to stress management. Through the increased awareness and education of stress management techniques, we can help reduce the amount of burnout in teachers and students, leading to more resilience and a universal mindset.
Helping teachers to never be the frog in a pot is part of our vision. SMILE Teacher’s is "superproactively" seeking new ways to better support our education super heroes. Please get in contact if you have any further questions or can provide us with some feedback and suggestions on challenges you are facing or problems you would like solved.
Our next Mindset Maneuver Monday will expand on the power of the mind and how we are all hardwired to think a certain way about stress. We will unpack how the brain works so you can better work your brain.