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Beauty and the Beast – A mindfulness lesson plan

Beauty and the Beast Mindfulness Lesson PlanTale as old as time…

This magical fairy story has been delighting children and adults alike for centuries. The story of a young girl who loves books and learns to fall for a beast of a prince may not be the perfect story for our modern feminist daughters but it isn’t far off in my opinion.

Beauty and the Beast has been my favourite fairy tale for as long as I can remember. The symbolism of the beastly behaviour of the prince causing him to be tranformed physically into a beast is wonderful. Beauty (Belle in the Disney version) is brave, outspoken and self assured. She loves reading, long before women were allowed to attend school or better themselves in any way, is inspiring. Imagine how excited I was when I learned they were remaking it! Not just any remake but a remake with live action and Emma Watson – who I love!

My daughter was desperate to see it, my sister contacted me as soon as she heard to make me promise we wouldn’t watch it without her, and we started praying that they wouldn’t spoil the original magic.

I was 15 when the Disney cartoon was released and I’m not afraid to say that I LOVED it! I had posters, the soundtrack on my CD player and I even dressed like Belle for a while (no I’m not sharing any photos!).

Well, we were not disappointed. We all felt that the new film paid homage to the original animation, without being a replica, and added a little depth and maturity.

I was so relieved.

So, what is so special about the story of Beauty and the Beast?

I love that Belle sees through the Beast’s appearance to the person within. He has learned his lessons about not judging people by their outward appearance. He has learned to be patient, tolerant, kind.

There are worse role models for our children, that’s for sure.

My Beauty and the Beast lesson plan combines some mindfulness techniques and breathing strategies with simple yoga to create a magical lesson. It explores both our senses and our bodies in a calm and gentle way. Children love taking time to explore sounds, smells, sights and tastes as part of this magical story. It is a wonderful way to introduce mindfulness to even the youngest of children.

Get a copy of the lesson plan or it is available as part of my Key Stage 1 Literacy Mindfulness Pack.

To see my full range of mindfulness and relaxation resources visit my shop.

 

 

 

No one is Perfect!

AnxietyNo one is perfect. We hear it all the time but do we really believe it is ok to be less than perfect?

This is one of the hardest blogs I have ever written, but I know I have to write it. Partly because it is a therapeutic must, but mostly because I know that many of you reading it need to read what it will contain.

So what is this challenging subject?

Well, I have been struggling with anxiety recently.

I know what some of you will be thinking:

“Well, she should know better shouldn’t she?”

And, yes I do. I have been applying all the things I advocate for everyone else; breathing techniques, keeping up with my meditation and mindfulness, giving myself time to take stock, eating well, resting… you name it I have done it.

I promise.

So “what’s the problem?” I hear you cry.

Well, despite all this there have been times when I have been completely overwhelmed.

I have cried a lot. Hugged a lot. Slept a lot. For a little while I even ate chocolate (pure poison for someone who is not only dairy intolerant but also chocolate intolerant!).

Here’s the thing though. I am not perfect. No-one is.

Sometimes I want to be though and therein lies the problem. I want to be able to do everything, help everyone, be kind to everyone and be as successful as possible at everything I do.

Who doesn’t?

So when I have a difficult time personally, which I have the last few months, I feel overwhelmed like everyone else at times. I lost my beloved Grandma, family members have been struggling, and of course I have been caring for the world and forgetting me. But that I can manage. I have spent years doing it.

Until I hit a bump in the road.

This time that bump was a verbal attack which knocked me off my axis.

It’s not like it has never happened before, but I rarely upset people, I am generally accommodating and whilst not often a push over, I tend go out of my way to be kind and helpful and make life as pleasant as possible for everyone. Sometimes I guess you just have to be reminded that other people don’t have the same philosophy as you though.

So, I spent a few days getting myself in a tiz. Wondering if I should have handled things differently, then I had a lovely holiday with my children. When I returned I realised that being back was triggering the same emotional responses I had left.

So what can you do if you feel like this?

  • Well, I have spent a couple of days really tuning in to my inner wisdom. Is this my issue? Can I change anything?
  • I have made sure my diet is supporting my mental health; reduced my sugar intake to virtually zero and eaten lots of fresh fruit and veg and I don’t drink alcohol or coffee anyway, but I have reduced my tea intake.
  • I have been doing my mindful breathing exercises; belly breathing and 7/11 breathing I find to be the most helpful.
  • I have been getting outside; fresh air and connecting with nature, especially in this beautiful sunshine, are so healing.
  • I have been spending lots of time with loved ones. Cuddles, love and feeling supported are so important.
  • I have talked about it. Not to everyone but I rang my parents for a chat, spoke to my sister, my in laws and of course my amazing husband. One of the biggest messages of the “Heads Together” campaign which the young royals are so involved with, is the importance of talking to loved ones and not bottling things up. This has always been my approach, I believe whole heartedly that a problem shared is a problem halved.
  • I gave myself permission to be human.

Every so often I thought “I shouldn’t be going through this , I’m supposed to help others through this”. That perfection monkey crept in.

This is ridiculous. I am human. Not just that, I’m a human who struggled with anxiety all through my late teens and twenties. Anxiety was part of the reason that I got into mindfulness and natural healing in the first place.

How could I expect to just miraculously heal and never have this silent monster raise its head again?

The difference between this short attack and the anxiety of my twenties was that I acknowledged it. I didn’t try to paper over the cracks. I sat in the cracks, explored why I was feeling this way and helped myself heal. I asked for help from friends who are therapists and I allowed myself to be imperfect.

I could easily hide this time if I wanted to. I am more than capable of pretending that I’m ok. Of getting through days with loved ones and even visits to schools. It has been less than a month, I could easily conceal my true emotions on social media, and let’s be honest, very few of you are likely to bump into me doing the weekly food shop!

But one of the things that is most important to me is raising awareness of depression, anxiety and mental health issues.  Spreading the word that it can happen to anyone, at any time. So, how am I being true to my message if I hide away under my duvet while posting about sunshine and flowers online?

So, I am stepping into the light and shouting loud and proud about my recent blip in the hope that it will help someone to realise that it’s ok to be human. It’s ok to stand up and say “I need help”. Anxiety and depression are not about being weak, they are about being strong for too long.

At the moment I seem to have things back under control. I am using all the strategies I mentioned and I feel wonderful. But I am not naïve, I know that this may be a life long struggle. I am working hard to rewire my brain. To stop my need to be perfect. To release my instinct to worry about everyone all the time. But it’s a journey.

Anyone who says they never have a bad day is either so numb that they are unaware of their emotions or isn’t telling the truth.

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression. If you are one of the thousands of people who dreads Mondays, who is wondering whether you will have the strength to get through the week.

Please, please talk to someone.

Talk to me! 

Most of you reading this will have heard everything you have just read before. Most of you will have felt the way I have been feeling. The reason I wanted to write this and be so public about this blip is to let you know that will all the strategies in the world. All the knowledge in the world. Sometimes things still go wrong.

I can honestly say I haven’t had an anxiety attack since I was 24 years old. I’m now 40 and with so much more understanding of mental health issues and how to ease them. Please don’t be fooled into thinking that I have had an easy few years, because that really isn’t the case. It isn’t that life has been easy and this is the first time I have had to deal with anything negative. Believe me I have been the subject of trolls online, I nearly lost my daughter, I was diagnosed with a life altering illness, I have lost loved ones, I have been through all the usual stresses everyone goes through.

The reality is, I have been through much tougher times than I am going through at the moment. The scale of mental health struggles isn’t necessarily relative to the size of the issue. So if you are feeling like you shouldn’t be feeling the way you are because other people are going through much bigger/more challenging times, that’s just not how it works.

I can tell I’m starting to waffle now, but I would love to continue the conversation in my Calmer Classrooms Facebook Group. It is a private group so you can head over and share in a safe place.

If you feel you would benefit from some real support at the moment and you don’t know where to turn, my daily “and breathe…” emails and private Facebook Group are the perfect place to get that loving support as well as lots of tips and resources to help you get through this challenging time.

 

 

Can You Connect With Your Students More Using Mindfulness?

Teachers are busyMindful classroom

I’m fairly certain this isn’t news to anyone.

Especially teachers.

You may have stopped to think about the fact that you should be trying to take more time for yourself. You have undoubtedly made a conscious effort at some point to try to be more present with your family.

But have you ever stopped to think about the impact all your dashing about has on your classes?

I’m sure some of you have.

I wanted to take the time to give you some easy to implement ideas to help you connect with your classes on a deeper level and make them feel truly valued.

Let’s think about the start of the day.

When the children come in to the classroom what are you doing?

Are you welcoming them in with a smile and a friendly “Good morning!”?

Or are you busy getting resources ready for the day ahead and finishing your coffee?

How do you take the register?

Do you keep your head down as you put the right ticks in the right boxes and mindlessly call out names from a list?

Or do you look up to see the child, look them in the eye, smile and welcome them?

If you are checking a child’s work with them, how do you do it?

Do you put your nose in the book and tick and scribble in 14 colours of pen (this seems to be the current average number of colours needed to mark children’s work in the UK!)?

Or do you look up as you read sections, make eye contact and ask them questions about it?

 

I’m sure many of you are doing all the second questions and forging life changing relationships with your classes.

But if you aren’t why not give it a go for a few days and see the difference in your class’ response to you.

Don’t get me wrong, you can have a wonderful relationship with your class without doing any of these things, but by taking the time to connect with them first thing in the morning, or at the start of your lesson if you teach secondary school, you are signalling to them that they are important and you are making them a priority over paperwork.

 

 

Would you like to start your day with a sparkle and a calming note of inspiration?  Do you like receiving regular mindfulness tips, resources and access to an exclusive library of MP3s and videos? Why not join “and breathe…” and learn to live and teach more mindfully.

If you want to introduce mindfulness to your school why not sign up to my newsletter and get started using the free resources you receive.

I also have a bank of resources in my shop that you can dip into as and when you feel they are appropriate.

 

 

Can’t sleep?

Can't sleepIt is estimated that 86% of us suffer with disturbed sleep or insomnia to some degree.

Some people are able to get to sleep but then wake in the early hours and can’t get back to sleep (often writing lists or worrying about the day ahead). Other people can’t get to sleep in the first place. Either way a few simple tricks, which are a bit more powerful that the usual have a bath and a warm milky drink might be helpful. So before you resort to sleeping pills why not try some of these natural options.

So what are my top tips for getting to sleep, or back to sleep?

Show your muscles how to relax

When you are stressed or anxious, or if you have been snacking through the evening and your body hasn’t used all the energy the best method for relaxing and helping you sleep is to get physical.

The simple act of tensing and relaxing all the muscles in your body in sequence will help you to relax and sleep. This works by using up the cortisol and excess energy that your body has produced, either in fight or flight reaction to your stress, or due to the excess calories you have consumed. By using your muscles you expel some of that energy and allow your body to calm down and sleep.

Begin by tensing your feet, then your lower legs, upper legs, stomach and bottom, one arm, the other arm and finally your face and neck. You can then finish the process by tensing your whole body and releasing. You will instantly feel more relaxed and will find it easier to sleep.

Left nostril breathing

This is a yoga technique which involves lying on your left hand side and gently placing your finger on your right nostril so you are only breathing through your left nostril. Breathe deeply and slowly using only your left nostril and it will reduce your blood pressure and calm your body.

Belly Breathing

This mindful breathing technique involves simply lying on your back with your hands gently resting on your stomach. As you breathe deeply, feel your breath entering your body, feel your tummy and hands rising. As the breath leaves your body feel your hands and tummy fall and the breath leaving through your nostrils.  This is a very calming breathing technique. Often people will fall asleep during the process.

Meditate

Guided meditations are brilliant for helping you to sleep. They calm your body and your mind and give your busy head something to listen to. It is the adult version of a bedtime story. There are many guided meditations on YouTube simply find one that appeals and where the person’s speaking voice is pleasant and listen as you relax into a sleepy state.

White Chestnut Bach Flower Essence

This natural flower essence can be bought in health food stores and is for calming the mind. It removes unwanted thoughts and repetitive thought patterns which can cause sleep issues.

If you want more advice about this there are many practitioners and the health food store staff will be able to help.

Smiling Mind

This is a wonderful free app which you can download from the app store. It takes you through a programme of mindfulness which is suitable for you. You can use it whenever you need to feel calmer or to build your personal mindfulness practise. (I am recommending this as I have used it personally and with clients, I am in now way benefiting from this recommendation).

 

There are many, many more techniques. If you are struggling to sleep try these and see if they help. If not, let me know and I’ll share some more in a few weeks.

 

World Book Day Mindfulness

World Book DayI love World Book Day!

It’s one of my favourite days of the year. Seeing all the children dressed in their costumes and the teachers dressed up too. Knowing that they will be spending all day talking about and learning about and celebrating one of my favourite things in the world… books!

My children love it too.  My daughter in particular is a real book worm. At primary school she loved dressing up and trying to choose a character no one else would. (The image here is the year she went as Amy from Little Women, I think she was in Y6. Her head teacher challenged her as to whether she had read it, which of course she had!). My son is a more reluctant reader (unless it is the football pages of the newspaper!) but he still loves dressing up for World Book Day.

Magical memories!

Of course any day where the children are out of uniform and off timetable has the potential for chaos and much more noise than usual. It is days like this which are saved by your mindfulness practice. But don’t take my word for it. Fiona MacNab has been using mindfulness with her class for a little while and this is what she observed on Children in Need Day last year:

“Wow! My pupils (P3/4) were extremely excited as not only was it Children in Need but we had our school Christmas Fair on Saturday and we had a class stall at it. We did the mindfulness lesson, which went extremely well, then it was our allocated time to go to the Pudsey cupcake stall. I usually have to remind them to walk quietly in the corridor as other classes are working, but I decided not to as it was such an exciting day for them and I didn’t want to spoil that. We got almost the entire way to the dinner hall with the entire class walking calmly and chatting quietly before excitement took over – that was a very visible and immediate result of the mindfulness lesson.”

So, you see it really does work! If you haven’t tried using mindfulness with your class before, using it on a day where they are more excitable than usual might seem a strange thing to suggest. But believe it or not it just makes the results more obvious.

If you are thinking of having a literacy based mindfulness lesson on Thursday there are lots to choose from in my shop.  Alternatively, if you are wary about spending money when you have never tried it, why not use one of my free lesson plans: Harry Potter or Where the Wild Things Are.

However, if you really want to give your class a treat, my Roald Dahl lessons are so much fun! You can buy them in a discounted bundle or you can grab one of my Literacy Packs and calm the whole school!

Whatever you decide to do I hope you have a magical World Book Day. I can’t wait to see all the photos appear in my Facebook timeline!

 

 

 

Moana – A mindfulness and relaxation lesson plan

Moana Mindfulness lesson planI recently saw the latest Disney “princess” film Moana with my children…

Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect, there is always so much hype when a new Disney princess is born. Those of you who know me will know by now that I’m a sucker for a good Disney film but there are so many and there seems to be a new princess born every other week.

I don’t know why I doubted Disney though. I was completely blown away by the message of this film. Long gone are the days of Snow White and Cinderella. We are no longer giving our daughters down trodden, manipulated women whose sole ambition is to find a suitable husband and get married. This generation of girls have role models like Merida (Brave), Else and Anna (Frozen) and Tiana (The Princess and the Frog). Independent women. I was impressed when the “need” for a husband to fulfil you seemed to fade and we had women of independent means who controlled their own destiny. Moana takes this message a step further and, thankfully, doesn’t even mention any interest in romance. She is a strong, courageous Chief who makes brave choices and survives an amazing adventure to save her island.

What has this got to do with mindfulness?

As I watched I couldn’t help thinking what a great relaxation lesson this story would make. There are so many amazing themes.

So I have made one for you.

I have intentionally created a simple, age appropriate lesson for you to enjoy as a calming treat with your class.

If you would like to download this gift you can grab your copy here:

Moana

 

If you enjoy this lesson why not take a look at my other lesson plans and make mindfulness a regular part of your timetable.

 

Changing the way you breathe can change your life

Are you aware of your breathing?

Is your breath usually slow or fast?

Do you breathe deeply or is your breath shallow? 

This simple practice of paying attention to your breath is the starting point for mindfulness. For teachers it is so much more though. The way you breathe has a huge impact on your health and your mood. When you breathe slowly and deeply your body naturally relaxes and you feel calmer. Not only that, everyone around you feels calmer too because you exude calm.

Are you starting to understand how this can have an impact on your classroom?

When we are stressed or in danger one of the first things that changes is our breath. Our body prepares for Fight or Flight and our breathing speeds up to enable us to be strong or run quickly. Unfortunately our bodies haven’t realised yet that we don’t often need that reaction in modern life. We are highly unlikely to run away or hit someone when we find out we have OFSTED coming (well not until they arrive anyway – tee hee!).

So, in order to calm your body you must learn to slow your breathing.

There are many breathing techniques you can learn, and teach to you classes, to help everyone breathe slowly and control their anxiety. Many of these are included in my free Calmer Classroom Cards which you can download here.

Breathing properly can also make a huge difference to your voice and your ability to project and preventing sore throats. If you breathe from your diaphragm and project from your chest rather than from your throat and head you will put less strain on your throat.

 

6 Ways to Introduce Gratitude in your School

6 Ways to Introduce Gratitude in your School

 

Gratitude is a word which is used a lot these days, particularly in alternative and new age circles, but what does it really mean?

Well, it is about being grateful. Grateful for; what you have, for the people in your life and for the opportunities your have been given.

Why is gratitude a magical thing to introduce into your school?

Well, there are lots of reasons. It’s so easy to focus on the things we don’t achieve. The media are always very quick to jump on failure but rarely look at all the amazing things happening in the world. We as humans seem to be pre-programmed to dwell on our inefficiencies and almost ignore our triumphs. Gratitude is a great way to reset the balance a little.

It is a basic human emotion to be thankful for the things we have. But in the modern world, we increasingly take basic things such as food and shelter for granted. Teaching children to be grateful can only be a good thing, even if it only helps them to put into perspective the fact that “everyone else” has the latest gadget and they don’t!

It is also proven to increase happiness considerably (if you want to read some science you can do so here.) Happier children are more confident, more cooperative, are less likely to be influenced by others and, importantly for schools these days, they achieve more.

How can you encourage an “attitude of gratitude” in your school?

Gratitude JarHere are some of my favourite ways:

  • Gratitude Jars – This is one of my favourite things in the whole world. You have probably seen it on social media at this time of year. It is so simple but so effective. All you need is a container and some scraps of paper. Simply write a little note every time something happens which you are grateful for. “I am so proud of the whole class because they were so well behaved on the school trip today”, “I am delighted that Sarah wrote her name for the first time” whatever it might be. Write it down, date it and pop it in the jar. You can write them all or you can allow the children to pop their own notes in too. Then when you are feeling like nothing is going right or at the end of term, read through some of the achievements in your jar.
  • Gratitude Journals – Similar to the Gratitude Jar, but this involves each child writing three things they are grateful for in a book or journal every day. This helps older children to really look at what makes them happy and how others are helping them in their daily lives.
  • Gratitude Display – Why not make a display of all the things your class are grateful for at the start of the term? Write thank you letters to someone who has done something special for them. Have your gratitude big and bold in your room.
  • Staff Gratitude Display – Many schools are now including a display in the staffroom where teachers and support staff can thank other members of the school for their help or for an action which really helped them.
  • Random Acts of Kindness – Why not choose one child or member of staff every week to receive a random act of kindness? It may be a little note saying something positive or a small gift.
  • Circle Time Games – Circle time is the perfect opportunity to express gratitude. You can ask each child to thank another member of the class for something. Give them an chance to say thank you for something that has happened to them or something they have received. Encourage them to think about all the amazing things they have which many children do not.

I hope this will give you a few ideas for how you can encourage your school to be more grateful. Start with yourself. Why not start a gratitude journal? It will begin to have an impact on you, your classroom and on the school.

I am very grateful that you have taken the time to read this post. I am thankful to everyone who takes something away and implements it in their school.

Thank you x 

Do you Dare to Blossom?

Rediscovery CardsWhen I am approached by people to look at or promote their products I am always a little cautious. I love sharing resources, especially if I feel that you will find them helpful.

When I received Mary Lunnen’s Rediscovery Cards and the accompanying book through the post I was delighted. Mary runs a small independent business working as a coach but she is passionate about helping children and someone had recommended that she try to get her cards into schools as they felt that they would be helpful for teachers. I agree!

There are fifty cards in the pack and each has a word clearly printed on a coloured background. The idea is that you choose a word for the day and think about how that word can help you and inspire you as you work. Then at the end of the day you can reflect back on the word.

Often the colours trigger an emotion or a response of some kind too so it is fun to talk about the colours used as well as the words.

How could you use the Rediscovery Cards in school?

The beauty of these cards for teachers is that they encourage discussion about emotions, as well as introducing new vocabulary and engaging with the children in a fun and exploratory way.

Perhaps you have a card monitor every day who gets to choose and then put it up on the board. Maybe you choose the words every day and ask the children to think about the word as they work. You could even use the words as part of your daily mindfulness or meditation practice. The possibilities really are endless.

If you would like to know more about Mary Lunnen and her lovely cards you can visit her website:

http://www.daretoblossom.co.uk

 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!

We're going on a bear huntI love “We’re Going on a bear Hunt”! I first came across the folk song as a Brownie in the early 80’s (I know I’m getting old!) when we we would sing it on coach trips and round the campfire. So when I started teaching in the 90’s and discovered that it had been made into a beautiful children’s book in the late 80’s I was delighted. It was one of my favourite books to read to classes when I was teaching. When I had my own children we would read it and sing it and sing it and read it. We went across Cannock Chase on our own bear hunts. There is something mesmerising about the repetitive onamatapoeic language. It is perfect for teaching children so many aspects of language.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that this wonderful story had been made into an animation. Even my daughter (who is now 12 years old) is excited about sitting and watching it on Christmas Eve with her cousin. (My niece is only 2 years old and the perfect excuse for us to watch it – if we needed one!).

Would you like a magical “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” mindfulness lesson plan?

Given my love of this folk song and story I couldn’t resist creating a relaxation lesson plan for you. Classrooms all over the UK and probably the world, will be buzzing with the swishy swashy sound of teachers reading this magical story.

Treat yourself and your class to a wonderfully relaxing lesson. Teach them some mindfulness skills for life and have fun at the same time.

You can get your copy lesson plan for less than a cup of coffee, what are you waiting for?