What is Wellbeing?
‘…the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy in physical, mental and emotional being…’
In my opinion a balanced mind, body and nutrition is the key to a healthy and happy life.
Why in Schools?
Starting this understanding and awareness with a young audience can help build the platform for a healthier, happier generation.
School may evoke happy memories in many of us. It is where the majority of our childhood was spent. Friends were made, lessons learned and knees were grazed. However, school is also a place of many pressures. You have to fit in, get the grades, think about your future and behave in line with a code of conduct. For others, school can also be a place of respite and an escape from their home life.
Essentially, children spend a good chunk of their time at school and in the presence of teachers who can end up being a big influence on a child’s life. Bringing the teaching of mindful practice in to schools, be it moving, eating or thinking, is a great way to get the message across to young people. It teaches them at a young age, the importance of wellbeing. Starting them young plants the seed that can hopefully blossom into a deeper understanding as they get older.
In my personal experience, by the time I got to high school I definitely hadn’t heard of mindfulness and I’m pretty sure if anybody had told my class to lie down and think about our breathing the whole lot of us would have burst into fits of giggles. Clearly, we didn’t know what we were missing! But, most importantly, had we have had lessons in mindfulness at Primary School, I think we would have all come to think of it as a normal activity. As teens, we become more self conscious about our actions, especially when trying something new. As infants, our brains are always searching to try something new and to experience more of the world.
In my work at St Ethelberts school, just outside London, children from aged 3 all the way up to aged 11 were so receptive of the activities I gave them. Without realising what they were doing, they were actively being mindful of the way they heard, saw and felt the environment around them. At the end of our workshop, all the children took part in a breathing exercise, again all ages were completely engaged and willing to learn. Many of the children even approached me at the end of the sessions to ask if they could do the activities everyday because it made them feel so calm.
I feel now more than ever, it is important to bring these techniques into schools with children of a young age, especially with the rise in technology. This rise in computer games and acceptance of spending hours on social media is meaning young people have less chance to let their brains rest. Likewise, children now have less chance to rest their eyes from incoming stimuli and blue light. This lack of rest, especially from blue light, means they are often not sleeping very well. Their brains are essentially on over-drive, constantly thinking of their next move in the game or ruminating over how many likes their profile picture is going to receive. These pressures are something that is very common in modern day life and we need to help this new generation learn to take a step back from it all, rest their brain and allow their minds to focus on being mindful.
It’s about getting the children to engage in mindful thinking through means they already understand. For example, getting them to engage in mindful ‘noticing’, through using all their senses, allows mindfulness to become accessible to a younger age group.
I also encourage the children to take part in activities that both raise the heart rate and then bring it down which instills a sense of calm. Once learnt, they can come back to these techniques and use again and again in the future.
With regards to mindful eating, I aim to encourage children to think before they eat and to think while they eat. This inspires them to make healthy choices, only eat when actually hungry, and to enjoy their food. It can essentially leave them feeling more satisfied after every meal and much less likely to snack.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you know of any schools that may be interested in Wellbeing Workshops, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will leave you now with a short testimonial from my previous works in Schools:
“Never has there been so much calm all in one room… An enjoyable and enriching day for students and teachers alike. Through Hannah’s imaginative use of activities, nursery through to Key stage 2 managed to grasp the concept of mindful noticing and enjoy exercising Pilates. We have had such a positive response from our children after Hannah’s sessions. We recommend her workshops to other primary schools and we are looking forward to having her back next year.” Alyssa Mercer, Schools Sport Coordinator
….from the children…
“Can we do this everyday?” Alex, Year 3
“I loved that, can you ask our teachers to put these activities into all our lessons?”” Darren, Year 6
“I feel all calm and happy now” Janek, Year 1