We have a problem…
To say that we live in a busy world is a pretty big understatement. We are constantly connected to the internet for work and play. We are bombarded endlessly, with negative messages about the state of our world.
We work long hours, our jobs are becoming more stressful and we often struggle to maintain work/life balance. Our cities are becoming busier and more expensive to live in, so we work even harder. It’s no wonder that we are struggling. Our young people are struggling too.
Headspace and the National Union of Students annual survey found that about a third of the 2,600 Australian university and TAFE students surveyed had considered self harm or suicide in the past 12 months. It also found two thirds reported very high psychological distress in the past 12 months; almost 80% had felt anxious and more than half had experienced panic.
As an educator, I have seen first hand the impacts mental health issues, particularly anxiety, can have on young people. I have also seen the positive impact that placing higher importance on wellbeing rather than academic success can have on the life of a young person.
This is why, in my class, I taught mindfulness daily and it worked! I saw huge improvements in my students social relationships, their ability to solve problems and apply mindfulness tools in the heat of the moment. They enjoyed our mindfulness sessions so much, that if I missed one, they were quick to let me know!
What is mindfulness and how can we use it to improve our mental health and wellbeing?
Mindfulness is an essential life skill. Like all skills it is something we must learn and get better at with practise. Mindfulness is about understanding the link between our thoughts and our behaviours. If we allow ourselves to become consumed by the chatter in our minds, especially when this chatter is concerned with worries about the past or future, it can lead to stress, anxiety and even depression.
Mindfulness creates space in our mind and gives us time to think about how we might react or behave in certain situations. This gives us greater control over our emotions and behaviours which can help to improve our social interactions and relationships with others. It also gives us clarity so that we can see solutions – often referred to as growth mindset. All of these things can help to reduce stress and have a positive impact on our mental health.
By being mindful, we are training our brains to focus on the present moment and create a calmer state of mind. Being mindful doesn’t have to be a chore! Creating space for just 10 minutes of daily mindfulness meditation can have a massive impact on your wellbeing and can also be lots of fun!
Free mindfulness apps!
Here are three mindfulness apps that got a regular workout in my classroom and that I continue to use today. Why not give them a try?
Smiling mind aims to build a mindful generation of happier, healthier and more compassionate people. For both kids and adults, this app is easy to use and is quite intuitive. Once you’ve selected your age group, this app will give you a set of guided meditations designed to build upon your mindful meditation experience over time.
Headspace is designed to be your very own personal trainer for your mind. Both adults and kids will find this app highly engaging as social interaction with friends and community is encouraged. Begin with the free take 10 program to learn the basics of mindful meditation, and if you want more, you can subscribe. Subscribing unlocks heaps of research based mindfulness content including guided and unguided meditations from 10 minutes to an hour. The app also allows you to focus on specific areas relating to your own life and includes Headspace SOS for guidance during ‘meltdown moments’.
Mindfulness in a nutshell – Stop, Breathe and Think. This app will help you find your peace in five minutes. By stopping what you are doing, checking in with your thinking and how you’re feeling. Creating space between your thoughts, emotions and reactions by practising breathing techniques. Broadening your perspective and your force field of peace with personalised activities and meditations tuned to your emotions. Created by Tools for Peace, a not for profit organisation dedicated to helping at risk youth experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.