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Mindful Living in the Big City

Mindful Living in the Big CityMindfulness is everywhere at the moment. Nowhere more so than at the Mindful Living Show, at the Business Design Centre in Islington, this weekend.

This was the first Mindful Living Show and it was a triumph. There were wonderful speakers, inspiring workshops and tempting stalls. Having been to many Mind Body Spirit shows over the years I was a little apprehensive because all too often there is a tense and desperate energy which was uncomfortable. Here there was an interesting range of organisations and companies, promoting their services, workshops and products.

It was a long day, I was up just before 5am and we didn’t arrive home until almost midnight. It was worth it to spend time with friends and colleagues and to meet all the lovely people who were at the show.

My Fan Girl Moment

Of course the real highlight, was seeing Ruby Wax speaking. She was so popular that even though we were early to the session we had to stand. It was absolutely worth it. If you haven’t read her latest book Ruby Wax – A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled I highly recommend it. It is a wonderfully accessible and funny book. Ruby explains the science behind mindfulness. She even includes an 8 week course set out in the middle pages.

Signed BookI was thrilled to have chance to speak to Ruby after her talk and get my book signed too. I am a total bibliophile so getting signed copies of my favourite books is such a treat.

We decided to leave the venue for lunch.  We had a wonderful meal just round the corner before we returned for more wonderful talks. I particularly enjoyed Katie Sheen‘s talk on mindful eating. Mark Brown’s introduction to Street Wisdom, an intriguing new movement which I intend to try soon, was also a highlight. My only criticism was that there were so many wonderful things to do that I couldn’t get to all of them. The interactive workshops looked amazing but you can’t do everything. Too much wonderful content isn’t a bad criticism of an event though! I just wish I could have stayed for the Saturday. Family commitments meant I could only attend on Friday, maybe next year.

I’m sure next year there will be even more to see and experience.

All in all it was a wonderful day. I am delighted to hear on the grapevine that they are already planning next years’ event. Who knows maybe I’ll be speaking or exhibiting next year?

If you are interested in the increasing popularity of mindfulness going to events like this and speaking to the people who really know their subject is a great starting point.

 

 

 

*the links in this blog may be affiliate links.  I only endorse products which I have used myself and which I believe in wholeheartedly.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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 

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?

 

Can Mindfulness Really Help Children with SEND?

mindfulness-and-sendThe use of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, or MBCT to support and aid children with SEND has been studied for several years now. This is a complex and very varied subject but I felt you might benefit from me bringing together some helpful information and studies on the subject. I hope to help you make an informed decision about the children you are working with.

Anyone who has ever worked with children knows that to give a blanket “this always works” response to any issue is a huge mistake. All children are different. All will respond very differently to the approaches we try. Having a few generalities can be helpful though so we know what it is worth trying.

ADHD and Mindfulness

Are you affected by ADHD and want to know more about using mindfulness? These articles are a wonderful starting point.

Mindfullyadd

http://psychcentral.com/lib/mindfulness-skills-useful-in-addressing-adhd/

Suffice to say that it has been proven that 8 out of 10 people felt that they were less affected by the condition after they embarked on a programme of mindfulness.

ASD and Mindfulness

When affected by ASD a person will often struggle to shut off their internal monologue. They may get stuck in the “doing” mode of life. By encouraging mindfulness we can enables them to feel more comfortable in the “being” mode.

For more information please read:

Autismandmindfulness.org

I hope you will find this a valuable resource, it gives a list to many sources of information and research.

Research Autism

Other conditions

Interestingly there is now considerable evidence that mindfulness benefits conditions as diverse as eating disorders, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue. It is also shown to improve relationships and improved self esteem.

If you are interested in this subject or there are specific conditions you would like information regarding, let me know and I will guide you as best I can or point you in the direction of more research materials. I am acutely aware that however many conditions I include in a post like this there will be people who feel I have missed their condition. I have focused on the most popular issues in schools. I would love to help you if you have specific questions or needs that you require help with.

 

 

 

Glad to be Dan – a mindfulness book review

Glad to be Dan - cover

Those of you who know me are already aware of my love of books, particularly children’s books. Imagine my joy then when Jo Howarth got in touch and asked whether I would be happy to review the new book. She has written Glad to be Dan with Jude Lennon and it is lovely.

This book is a triple whammy for me!

  • It’s a children’s book – tick.
  • It is a book about mindfulness – tick.
  • The main character is called Dan (my son’s name) – BIG TICK!

So when it arrived in the post I was delighted to discover that this book is everything I could have wanted it to be and more.

It is a picture book which has been beautifully illustrated by Trev Howarth. Deeper discussions would inevitably come from this book with older children, it is definitely suitable for the whole primary range. I would suggest possibly even into secondary schools too as a starting point for dialogue about negative emotions and mindfulness.

The story of Dan is a familiar one. He is fed up, anxious, angry and generally struggling to see the positives in life.

jo-howarthWhat I love though is that this book doesn’t just giving wishy washy solutions to his woes. This book gives practical ideas to help over come these negative emotions. Better still, it explains these techniques not only as part of the story but in greater detail at the back of the book.

If you are looking for a gentle and accessible way to introduce mindfulness to your children, at school or at home, this is the perfect starting point.

It will definitely be staying in my “toolbox” for schools and sessions in general now. I just wish that I had written it.

If you are interested in finding out more or would like to get a copy yourself you can buy your copy here.

* Disclaimer – I did not receive any financial incentive for writing this review, nor is this an affiliate link. I received a complementary copy of the book so I could review it.