Do you ever wake up in the morning and just feel like hiding under the sheets all day?
Have you ever had that heavy, dull and draining feeling in your chest?
I have had it many times, where waking up and getting out of bed has been the hardest part of the day. All the stress, worry and anxiety has worn me out and finding a way to just get up and get to work is a mission in itself.
I’ve been through this on countless occasions but as the years have gone by I have developed tools and strategies to better cope with being tired and stressed. These strategies have become a part of life and I use them to help my productivity, mindset and emotions.
Learning about mindfulness has significantly improved my ability to manage my emotions and thoughts. Lets delve a little deeper into mindfulness and how it can help you to teach with more purpose, self-awareness and positivity.
“To successfully navigate back to high performance leadership, you need to both more consciously work your brain to enhance internal resources and develop resilience to stay on the path of high performance, especially when external and internal demands of stress, uncertainity, or self-doubt threaten to derail you. The solution is mindfulness”.
In the third chapter of his book “Leading Well from Within”, my admirable friend, Danny Friedland unpacks mindfulness and applies it to busy lifestyles, his approach to managing stress and building resilience is a driver for SMILE Teachers to create engaging and empowering programs such as the Mindset Manoeuvre Workshop.
In last weeks blog Dinosaur vs Superproactive Teachers we built your understanding of how our mind plays a key role in directing flow of energy and information within our brain. The practice of mindfulness helps you engage and deliver the focus of your attention with conscious awareness, a state of mind that allows you to shift between reactivity and creativity when it would better serve.
Being able to manoeuvre your mindset to suit the right situation is a powerful skill teachers can learn by attending one of our workshops, programs or online.
How mindful do you think you are on a daily basis?
According to John Kabat-Zinn, who inspired much of the research that popularized mindfulness in Western culture, “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”
Mindfulness enables you to be more aware and present, less prone to being swept away by pain and distraction, and more purposeful in focusing your energy and attention on what is truly most meaningful in your life.
Do you see how mindfulness can make you a more effective teacher?
You are responsible for cultivating the minds of other human beings, you hold a very large piece of the puzzle that helps put together your students mindset. You have an influence on their thoughts, behaviours, actions and emotions. The way you respond to your student’s needs can directly have a positive or negative impact on their lives.
Do you teach with a purpose, focused on the present moment and non-judgmentally?
Is it time to take ownership of the role you play in students lives and teach with a more creative mindset?
The Mindset Manoeuvre is designed for teachers to experience benefits right now by helping you choose which mindset best suits any situation. Rather than over identifying with, being swept away by, or judging yourself for any particular reactive thoughts or feelings (like anger, fear or resentment), you’ll learn how to observe your thoughts and feelings with openness, curiosity, and kindness. This allows you to experience a greater sense of clarity, presence, and equanimity that characterizes being happy and teaching well.
Many forms of mindfulness have been practices for thousands of years in many of the wise old traditions, including Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
The power and benefit of being more mindful isn't just some airy fairy construct we have whipped up out of thin air. It’s been around for donkey years and thankfully we have discovered our own methods of practice that are applicable to teachers and schools. SMILE Teachers consistently works on the best ways to educate educators on selecting mindfulness tools that works best for them.
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn began teaching mindfulness as a way to help patients deal with their suffering from pain and chronic illness when it could not be fully managed by the health care system. His evidence based, non-religious Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program has been taught at over seven hundred hospitals worldwide. Its practices have been adopted by Google who created a Mindfulness Centre in Silicon Valley and this same program inspires SMILE Teachers to share it with you.
Applying mindfulness to education is a no brainer. A large body of research supports the benefits of mindfulness. Repeated studies have shown that mindfulness reduces anxiety, depression, pain, stress and distress. It’s been shown to benefit a wide variety of conditions such as ADHD, eating disorders, addictions, IBS, psoriasis and other health concerns. It has been shown to increase our internal quality of life and productivity at work.
Further neuroscience research has shown that mindfulness can help you reshape your brains pathways to better manage stress, transform your stress response from threat to challenge, shift from a reactive to a creative mindset, and live healthier, more engaged, more joyful, and more productive life.
The greatest thing about mindfulness is its free, readily available and anyone can do it.
What are you waiting for?
To unpack John Kabat-Zinns definition of “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non judgementally”:
“On purpose” refers to being aware of your intention in practising mindfulness, or “why” for practising it.
“Paying attention” refers to the way you learn to direct and redirect your focus of attention to moment by moment, in the present (energy flows where attention goes).
“In a particular way” refers to the attitude or qualities you bring to your practice. While a cold, analytical or judgemental lens can create a hard driving or self-critical way of being, the non-judgemental qualities of openness, curiousity and kindness promote a sense of equanimity and ease.
In a further response to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and your adaptive stress responses, kindness facilitates your tend-and-befriend response to meet your love and belonging needs and curiosity engages your challenge response and growth mindset to meet your needs for self-actualization and significance.
In our recent blog "A mysterious word with purpose", we explain how in Japanese kanji, mindfulness (nen) is represented by a character that combines the elements of “heart” and “mind”, nestled under a “roof” representing “now”. This character captures the very essence of mindfulness- bringing conscious awareness with your heart and mind to your moment of now.
Mindfulness is the power to notice and choose. Your minds ability to notice and choose engages your prefrontal cortex, the Headmaster of the brain. And at your hub of awareness, with your mind engaging the Headmaster of your brain, you are truly centred and have tremendous power to marshal your inner resources to meet any demand and teach well from within.
Start cultivating your practice of mindfulness, you can simply practice focusing on your breathing for at least 5 to 15 minutes, twice a day, as well as more informally integrating it into your day by bringing mindful awareness to whatever you are doing for at least a few moments each hour, starting now.
Try some of the things from Roche Martin’s list of 50 tips to being more mindful, we have selected our top 10 that are most applicable to teaching:
It’s no secret that focusing on breathing is a great way to calm you down if you’re stressed, but don’t wait until then. To help you focus practise breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. If this proves difficult, countdown breaths from twenty. It may seem too easy, but it will help get rid of those distracting thoughts.
Often, when we work out, we try to distract ourselves from what we’re doing. A great way to become fully aware during an exercise routine is to have a purpose and plan like weight-loss and 3 kilometres. Try to slow down. This will help with awareness of what you’re doing. Throughout remind yourself to breathe and focus on your breathing. Exercising mindfully also reduces the chance of injury.
Walking is one of the most common activities that humans do, so it’s the perfect opportunity to be mindful. Try walking with intention. If you are carefully focused on and aware of each step you take you will begin to feel that quiet sense of peace that instils you when you practise mindfulness. Do the same with sitting.
Like walking, eating is an everyday activity so it goes without saying that mindful eating can change your day. However, to begin with, it can be hard to eat an entire meal mindfully, particularly if you have children. Start with a snack. A piece of fruit or even a glass of water. If you concentrate and focus your attention, your mind will be calmed. There have even been studies that suggest mindful eating can help with weight loss. Give relaxed attention to feelings of hunger, thirst or overeating.
There are other ways to start the day consciously. Your mindful morning practice might be intention and focus while you drink your coffee. Or it could be while brushing your teeth you focus on the sensation of brushing. You might even sit and meditate for five minutes.
Throughout the day, check in. If your body is tense, focus on relaxing it. If your mind is wandering try to bring it back to the moment.
This might sound strange but cleaning, or in fact, any repetitive or seemingly monotonous task is the perfect time to practise mindfulness. Whether you’re mopping, cleaning windows or washing the dishes this is the ideal time to become present in the moment and experience greater peace and cultivate mindfulness. Try focusing on breathing or the task itself.
Usually, mindfulness advice tells you to turn off all electronics, but that’s not always possible these days. But what can help stop you from playing a game could be a mindfulness app. There’s plenty to choose from. They offer led meditations, individual tracks, emotional check-ins and other programmes to help you on your mindfulness journey.
Use your phone as a mindfulness prompt
It’s easy to get caught up in a busy day and forget to practise mindfulness. An easy way to remember is to set a reminder on your phone to prompt you to focus on physical sensations or your breathing.
Listen to music
This might sound too good to be true but if we mindfully listen to music, we achieve a present awareness. Select a piece you’ve never heard before, shut your eyes and allow yourself to get lost inside the melody. If your focus wanders bring it back to the music.
Mindfulness really is your most underrated teaching tool. We have seen the impact it has had on our own careers, student well being and now you have heard more about its ability to unlock your potential.
Would you prefer to teach in a reactive fixed mindset that leaves you feeling stressed and an emotional time bomb or is it time to take control and become more creative and happy?