Mindfulness practices have increased in popularity over the past few years with activities ranging from meditation classes to a daily breathing practice to full blown mindfulness retreats. Regardless of its trendiness, practicing mindfulness daily can be a restorative addition in your daily service experience. This can be with your work with your students, or simply for a short break during your planning period or lunch break.
To begin, what exactly is mindfulness? According to Psychology Today mindfulness is defined as, “the practice or state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” Through adopting this practice of living in the moment and taking in all of our experiences as they happen we are given a new perspective.
Why is this important? And how do I incorporate it into my routine?
As a corps member, it is incredibly important to take the time to not only reflect, but to actually be experiencing your service as it happens. Often times here at City Year we are asked to think about what we did in the past, and how we can adjust it for the future, and sometimes that comes at the expense of the present moment. So, I am saying to just take a moment. Even if you have what seems like an impossible amount of work to do, just take ten minutes to breathe and let the moment be. Here are some suggestions for how to spend your ten minutes:
- Sit in a chair, sitting up straight, and take three deep breaths. Then return to normal breathing and close your eyes and focus on your breath. If you don’t like closing your eyes, you can just observe what is going on around you, don’t judge it, and just watch it.
- Go to calm.com and just watch it for ten minutes with headphones in.
Go for a mindful stroll outside or around your school’s campus, pay attention to your breathing, and then pay attention to your steps and how your body moves with each step.
The “Why and “How” to use this practice with our students
Many times in our work with our students we encounter students who are experiencing high amounts of stress or trauma, or who are just a little wiggly. Mindful exercises are a great way to help students process their feelings or calm their bodies down. The benefits have even been noted in this article in the Atlantic. These practices are easily inserted into the afterschool space through an enrichment lesson, or it can even be integrated into your session plans. Here are some examples on how you can integrate mindfulness into your routine with students:
- Begin your interventions with 2 minutes of breathing.
- Create an enrichment session practicing mindful eating, breathing and observation.
- Set up lunchtime mindfulness groups for you and your students to relationship build and catch a break together.
1 Psychology Today. Mindfulness. https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness. Accessed March 30, 2016.
Danielle Smalls is serving as Team Leader with City Year Los Angeles. She graduated from Pitzer College majoring in Environmental Analysis. This is her second year with City Year Los Angeles and she plans to teach in California following her service years.