Practicing mindfulness in schools is a counseling topic that is getting a lot of attention these days! I decided to focus on this topic for my July post, which is finally ready for you. I had the honor this month of presenting at the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) conference in Los Angeles and it was a truly wonderful experience! However, all the time involved in presenting really delayed this July post, so better late than never! Here are a couple quick pics of my presentation at ASCA…
This month, I am full of ideas and tips on practicing mindfulness in schools! Since July is that glorious time of the year when school counselors have a bit more time to relax and enjoy the present, this is the perfect time to share this post on mindfulness! Read on to learn how you can use mindfulness to both improve your own life and to assist students in the school setting.
Mindfulness on Your Own
In case you wanted an actual definition of mindfulness in order to understand it better, the Mayo Clinic states, “Mindfulness is the act of being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment — without interpretation or judgment.” Of course this definition leaves a lot to the imagination in terms of the specifics of practicing mindfulness. So, here is an article from the Mayo Clinic with a few different mindful exercises that you can do yourself.
My favorite is the raisin exercise- it sounds a bit silly when you read it, but if you follow their raisin steps, trust me, you will FEEL it. And that is basically the gist of mindfulness- it sounds so simple, almost silly sometimes, but it is actually quite intense, and leads to really good, peaceful feelings. Here are a of my other favorite mindful exercises below- click on the links to try them out.
Practicing Mindfulness in Schools
So let’s start off with a little background about mindfulness in schools. Dr Andrew Weil, a Harvard-educated medical doctor who also runs a integrated health center in Arizona, reviewed the practice of mindfulness in schools and the following is his take on this trend sweeping the nation. “Schools in the UK introduced mindfulness training in 2007, and the practice has been expanding there and in the U.S. ever since. In these programs, the goal is to help students improve their attention and better cope with stress and anger, with a view toward avoiding disruptive behavior…. So far, there have been few studies of the effectiveness of mindfulness training in U.S. schools and little understanding of how it might work. Reportedly, however, suspensions nationwide have dropped…”
So what are some ways we can incorporate mindfulness in the schools that we work in? Read on for some ideas.
Practicing Mindfulness in Schools: Guidance Lessons
Remember the Circle Breathing exercise that I mentioned earlier in this post? Well, you can also use it with your students. Start by defining mindfulness with them, and explain how it relates to Circle Breathing. Show them the Circle Breathing video in the link above, model how to breathe with the video, and then give the class a chance to try it out. They will love it and you can foster a fab discussion after the mindfulness exercise by asking them:
- What did you like or dislike about this exercise?
- Tell what mindfulness is in your own words.
- How did you feel while doing the Breathing Circle?
There are activities all over the internet with scripts and videos to lead students through mindfulness exercises. Grounding is another way to promote mindfulness with them, which you can do using my latest counseling guide, Take it Easy.
Practicing Mindfulness in Schools: Group Counseling
The nature of group counseling really lends itself to mindfulness practice. Having a handful of struggling students in a room with you on a weekly basis is the perfect opportunity to teach them to incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives in order to lessen negative feelings and thoughts. I start off most of my groups with a simple mindfulness bell exercise which you can find on my Resources and Links page of this website.
If you are interested in promoting more mindfulness in your counseling groups, check out my group counseling book, Get Your Group On Volume Two at this link. This book has an entire group guide, “The Unstressables”, on stress management that incorporates mindfulness activities into every session.
Practicing Mindfulness in Schools: Individual Sessions
Mindfulness is also something that can be effectively implemented in individual sessions. Oftentimes as the go-to mental health expert on campus, school counselors are put in situations where we need to deescalate an upset child. Mindfulness, whether it is through progressive muscle relaxation, grounding, or just simple breath work, can work wonders in these situations. To do this, just invite the child into your office and tell them you’d like to teach them a way to feel better when they are stressed or upset. Then chose a mindfulness technique and lead them through it. In my counseling office, we have a box of crayons and a stack of mandala coloring pages in our waiting room. When an upset child comes in and needs a few minutes to calm themselves, we offer a quiet place to color. This gives the child a chance to self-regulate their emotions while we have a chance to finish up whatever task we were doing when they came in. Once the child is calm and we are finished with our current task, we can meet with them to problem solve. Oftentimes, after some quiet coloring time, they don’t even need to talk with us once we are ready to see them because they have calmed themselves on their own. Here is a link to free website that let’s you create your own mandalas! So fun!
NEWSY & NOTEWORTHY
- I am super excited to announce that Julia Cook’s publisher asked me to review her latest book- this means I have some advance copies of Be Where Your Feet Are to review and giveaway! Check back here next week to read my review and enter to win a free copy!
- Free monthly guidance lessons are coming! Starting the first week of August, I will be including a free guidance lesson in my monthly newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter and freebie guidance lesson every month.
- Our Facebook group, Mental Health Marketplace, is starting a Freebie Friday where every Friday we will give away a free counseling resource! Join our group at this link to keep up with the latest developments in the world of mental health AND to take advantage of our Freebie Fridays!
- I’ve been working round the clock to get my full curriculum of guidance lessons ready for you just in time for Back to School Season! You can find them by clicking on the resources picture below:
That brings me to the end of this July mindfulness post. Please leave a comment because I’d love to hear about how you use mindfulness in your counseling program. Catch up with me again in August for my monthly counseling post that I share during the first weekend of every month!