Take Time to Teach Specific Strategies for Mindfulness in your Classroom
If you teach teenagers, setting them up with strategies they can use forever will offer them a toolkit of mindful practices. In addition to the benefits that you’ll see in class, you’ll give them a surefire way to stay happier (and healthier) in the long run. In these times, it’s not uncommon for your students to feel anxious, stressed, or completely overwhelmed. Our job as teachers entails supporting our students in all possible ways, mental health included.
We know that students cannot focus on learning or higher-level thought processes until their basic and more urgent needs are met. You may notice that there are days lately when you need to take a step back and help support kids on another level that takes priority over educational goals and standards.
Now, possibly more than ever, it is so important to teach mindfulness and the valuable skill of regulating these difficult feelings and emotions.
That’s where practicing mindfulness comes in. Try transitioning into your class period with one of the strategies below, so you can start to meet your students’ basic needs before trying to tackle the lessons of the day. They may not be ready for them until they get a mindfulness break and a little mental health moment. Here’s how to get started:
Explain the Meaning of Mindfulness
First, students need to get familiar with the meaning of this practice. Simply put, being mindful is being aware and present in the moment, without allowing ourselves to get caught up in thoughts and worries about the past or future.
Teens are constantly worrying about things like what to wear to the school dance, their weekend plans, or what their peers thought of them in 2nd period. When they practice being mindful, they’re training their brains to calm their thoughts and feelings.
Then, when they encounter feelings of worry or distress, they can enter that place of calmness and mindfulness so much more quickly and easily.
Discuss the Benefits
According to Bupa, practicing mindfulness can even physically change parts of the brain. Taking time to be in the moment can reduce stress, improve creativity, and enhance memory.
These impacts on stress levels, memory, and brain health mean that having a powerful set of strategies could quite possibly be life-changing for children and teens. Simply taking a couple of minutes to reset when you feel distressed or out of control is incredibly beneficial. Teaching students these strategies can provide them with the valuable skills they will carry with them throughout their lives.
The Biggest Challenge
The biggest obstacle to teaching teens mindfulness is getting them to actually do it. It is so much easier said than done. You can guide and encourage your students until you’re blue in the face, but you can’t control what goes on in their heads. But by offering a few different options, you can at least help them practice and improve their mindful moments. Just sticking with it and devoting 5 minutes a day to one of the strategies below can set them up for success.
Set aside a few minutes of class for Mindfulness Activities:
We know you’re probably stretched for learning time as it is, but consider the benefits. Students are much more likely to start practicing mindfulness if they’re sitting in front of you and are being instructed to do so! Sometimes it seems more appealing simply because they view it as a "break" from the course content. Spend the first few minutes doing a short reflection instead of your usual entry quiz or warm-up. It will be time well spent and may sometimes take priority over the educational tasks or extra 5 minutes of review.
Set the tone in your classroom:
When practicing mindfulness in your classroom you don’t want students feeling the normal pressures of their typical learning environment. Turn off the lights. Put on calming meditation music. Really get them in a zen mood.
Side Note: Read this post to access our Calm playlist, as well as a bunch of other school-friendly playlists for the classroom!
Strategies for Teens
Here are some fun activities to try with your students:
1. Deep Breathing: This one is extremely simple. All you need is a minute or two. Sit with your eyes closed and both feet planted on the floor. Take deep breaths. Each time you inhale, think This is my in breath, and every exhale think, This is my out breath. You will start noticing your thoughts drifting to other things. Gently remind yourself to let it go and focus on your breathing. With practice, this will get easier and you will have fewer outside/distracting thoughts.
2. 4-4-4-4 Breathing: Simple and effective, this exercise takes deep breathing to the next level. Take a deep breath in, while counting to 4. Hold it for 4 seconds. Exhale for a count of 4. Finally, hold for 4 seconds before repeating again.
3. Five Things: Silently take notice of your 5 senses. What do you feel? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you see? Take a mental note of each sense in the moment.
4. Heartbeat Counting: Set a timer for 3 or 4 minutes. Close your eyes, place your hand on your heart, and silently count each heartbeat.
5. Guided Meditation: Putting on an audio recording, a 3 minute retreat, or another prepared meditation will offer the guidance you and your students need. If you need some samples, check out these guided meditations.
Make Mindfulness an Obvious Choice
Once you've exposed your students to these 5 different strategies a few times and they are familiar with each one, you can start inviting them to choose their favorite. Or you can begin to encourage them to spend their own time doing this here and there outside of your classroom.
One day, try surprising your students. Instead of their typical homework assignment, they must complete at least one mindfulness activity of their choice for 5 minutes. Carving out time in their schedule might be the push they need to practice mindfulness at home.
Don’t forget about your own mental health too! Check out this post on how to relax as a teacher.
Two More Helpful Links:
If you'd like more tips and resources for teaching teenage students, get our emails for teachers of teens here. We're also chatting about teaching middle and high school students over here in our facebook group, "Let's Talk Teaching Teens.
Click to set custom HTML