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February 23, 2018

5 Stupendously Simple Mindfulness Exercises: Perfect For Teachers!

As teachers, it is important to practice what we preach. When we ask our pupils to focus, let go of distractions and be here in the moment – it can seem like a simple request at the time. But to what extent are we able to do that in our own lives?

It’s not always easy, is it? There are myriad diversions waiting to take our attention away. BUT for this week’s instalment of #MindfulMondays, we wanted to share 5 simple mindfulness exercises that are breathtakingly easy, can be done nearly anywhere and only take as much time as you want, or have available!

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1. Breathing

What?: Active breathing is perhaps the simplest of all mindfulness techniques. Breathing is usually a background activity, but bringing your focus to it is a fantastically efficient way to lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and release tension.

How?: Breathe deeply and slowly, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Counting your breaths – in for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds – brings extra focus to the activity. While breathing, try to focus on nothing but the activity. Be aware of the feeling of air sweeping into your lungs, causing your chest to rise and then deflate, as your breathe completes its circuit through the respiratory system.

Timings?: 1+ minute – this is a fantastic exercise for immediate relief during an otherwise hectic day.

Too busy?: You are never too busy to breathe! But bringing focus to your breathing can take a little bit of practice, so try to make the most of those brief moments during your day when you have 30 seconds to spare. Perhaps while your class begin a new activity? As you’re walking down the school corridor? Even when you’re on the loo!

2. Tasting

What?: We all eat, but when stressed, it’s all to easy to forget to taste. Rather than worrying about what the rest of the day has to bring, instead bring your attention to the food itself. Not only does this heighten your appreciation of eating, it also can aid digestion and prevent overeating.

How?: Look at what you’re about to eat. Notice its appearance: colours, shapes, textures. Does it smell? Does it make a noise? If the food is something you eat with your hands, recognise how it feels against your skin as you pick it up. And then when taking a bite (arguably the best bit!), notice the temperature, the texture, and which bits of your tastebuds are ignited. Try to eat slowly and bring awareness to your chewing and breathing as you go.

Timings?: 4+ minutes – this mindfulness exercise can be easily extended to incorporate various elements of the eating process, from the moment your stomach begins to rumble, to choosing what to eat, to preparing the food, to sitting back down with a full tummy.

Too busy?: The beauty of this technique is that is can be done while doing an existing part of your daily routine – eating! It is most effective if you can slow down and fully appreciate the process, but if it needs to be a quick meal then you can still give it a go.

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3. Counting

What?: Also known as the ‘five senses’ exercise, this is an especially effective mindfulness exercise to bring back focus, especially during moments of heightened anxiety. Best of all, you need nothing other than yourself and your surroundings to do it.

How?: The idea here is to shift focus between each and every one of your five senses:

  • Sight: Firstly, look around the room and make note of 5 things you can see. It can be absolutely anything, from objects, to colours, to shapes. Feel free to categorise them, or make an effort to notice things you may have otherwise missed: the way the light shines through a window, the shadow on the floor, the specific texture of a surface.
  • Hearing: Close your eyes and focus on 4 things you can hear – you may be surprised at how much you’ve been filtering out! It could be distant sounds, like a car passing on the road outside or children shouting from the playground. Or focus on the sounds closer to home, a bird just outside the window or even your own breathing. Remove judgement and just notice the sounds for what they are.
  • Touch: Keep your eyes closed and think of 3 things you can feel. Bring awareness to any feelings of contact: the dryness of your hands resting in your lap, the pressure of your feet atop the floor, the warmness of the scarf around your neck. Feel free to reach out and pick up an object – perhaps one of the items you saw in step one?
  • Smell: Breathe in through your nose: what 2 things can you smell? There may be food cooking, or the floor could have been recently varnished, or perhaps you’re hiding out in a stale P.E. cupboard! That’s ok too. Opening your eyes can help bring awareness to your sense of smell.
  • Taste: Finally, bring awareness to 1 thing you can taste. If you have a nice sweet or a mug of tea nearby, then that’s your answer! If not, simply notice how your mouth tastes and roll your tongue around your cheeks and teeth to see if there are any fluctuations.

Timings?: 5 minutes – try to give each sense a minute of your time, although this is entirely flexible. The numbers are just a guideline and can be built up or down depending on your situation.

Too busy?: This is a great one to try while on the move, so if you cannot take the time to sit down and experience it, why not try it while walking into your school or office of a morning?

pexels-photo-374703 mindfulness exercises

4. Listening

What?: Like breathing, listening can often become a background activity as we forget to tune in to the noises around us. And if we’re not paying attention, we’re more than likely not being mindful. But it can be very grounding to consciously listen, without feeling any pressure whatsoever to respond.

How?: Take the time to listen to a sound for its entirety – from the moment it begins to the moment it ends. Chime sounds effects are perfect for this purpose (video below), as the sharp ‘ting’ immediately catches our attention, and then it is up to us to remain focused on the vibrating sound as it slowly ebbs away. This is a great mindfulness exercise to combine with active breathing.

Timings?: 1 minute (the video we’ve linked to below is just 52 seconds!)

Too busy?: If you don’t have the time or right environment to actively listen, then try to incorporate the technique into your personal time when listening to music. Seek out a song you’ve never heard before and listen to it judgement free. Can you recognise any instruments being played? Can you imagine how someone would dance to this song? If there are vocals, how would you describe their tone?

5. Scanning

What?: The body scan is one of the most popular mindfulness exercises as it is so easily accessible and can be done in minutes. It brings awareness to our body, can help to release tension and is especially good at helping to relax before going to sleep.

How?: Sit or lay in a comfortable position and begin by steadying your breathing. The task here is to bring awareness to each different part of your body, starting with your toes. Give them a little wiggle if you like to say hello! Focus on your toes and take several slow, deep breaths as you do so. Now move onto your ankles, then your shins, your knees, your thighs, your hips etc. Continue to check in with each part of your body as you slowly scan upwards, all the way up to the top of your head, doing nothing more than just bringing focus to each part of the body in turn and breathing deeply. Try to consciously relax on your breaths out, sinking further down into wherever you are sitting or laying, and concentrate on any specific areas of tension.

Timings: 5 minutes

Too busy?: All about relaxation, the body scan is perfect for releasing tension at the end of the day. You don’t even need to set any time aside for it – simply give it a go next time you lie down to go to sleep. You may be pleasantly surprised!

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Teachers spend so much time devoted to others, it can be all too easy to forget to take time for ourselves. Try integrating these exercises into your daily routine, as much or as little as you can, and see what benefits mindfulness exercises can bring.

#MindfulMondays is an opportunity to share news, tips and insights around mental health and mindfulness, in order to open up a conversation and ultimately help destigmatise a natural part of life that is relevant to us all. Quite simply: we want to talk about mental health. Find out more and read how you can get involved in #MindfulMondays here. 

Love from all the team at One Day Creative x

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