I have been practicing mindfulness for a little over two years now and have discovered that through this daily practice, I’ve trained my brain to be more in tune with the world and have learned to focus my attention better throughout the day. I’ve realized that I’m more resilient and able to bounce back from disappointment much faster than ever before. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that I’m never disappointed, it’s just that the disappointment dissipates much faster than my previous experiences. I have read numerous books on the subject that tout the benefits mindfulness and want my students to experience the benefits I’ve found from this practice, but could I really persuade a group of first graders to sit quietly and focus on their breathing? Is it even logistically possible?
It turns out that it was a lot easier than I had ever imagined and my students reported feeling calmer after they practiced mindfulness. I used the “Mind Yeti” app which is my favorite mindfulness app for kids. Through this app kids learn to understand and manage their strong emotions like anger and frustration, focusing techniques, getting along with others, resetting their brains for transitions, and calming down. Once they learn how to train their wandering thoughts, they are able to have more self-control and manage their feelings more easily. You’re probably thinking that young kids are never going to sit for any length of time, but you’d be surprised what they’re are capable of doing, especially given the way Mind Yeti has designed their lessons in these short, but age-appropriate sessions for K-8 students. If you’re still on the fence, you can watch their short intro video to get a taste of the language they use to explain mindfulness concepts to kids.
For older students, adults, and my own personal use, Calm.com is a fabulous resource that has guided meditations that cover stress, anxiety, focus, and so much more. The screensavers that accompany this program are fabulous. I personally adore the snowflakes background. It’s a bit pricy for the average person, but for teachers (and counselors) they have a free offer which includes their “Calm Kids” program. The mission of their company is to “make the world a happier and healthier place” which aligns nicely with our work.
Last, but not least, is Insight Timer which is the app I use daily for my own mindfulness practice. It is a free app that of course has pricey upgrade features, but the free portion works brilliantly for me. It has beautiful bells, blocks, and other sounds to start your mindfulness practice and you can add in the “ambient sound” feature to play while you’re focusing if silence is just a bit too much for you; my favorites are the “Deep Om” and “Raindrops.”
I hope you’ll give this a try for yourself and with your students. Just remember, you’re watching your thoughts, not trying to control them. Give yourself a little grace if your thoughts are all over the place when you first start–that’s kind of the point. You, like your students, are learning to focus and the more often you practice, the easier it will become.