Sunday, July 24, 2016

Are You Happy? Songs for Reflection and Discussion

imagerymagestic for
Here are a variety of songs about feeling happy, looking on the bright side, and pretending to be happy while hiding our true feelings. 

Scroll to the bottom of the page for questions to spark reflection and discussion about our emotions and how we experience and express them.

And if you need a quick mood booster right now, check out the video of Pharrell Williams' song "Happy," featuring absolutely everyone at Deaf Film Camp. (Really.  I mean everyone.)  

Feeling Happy

Feelin' Good, Nina Simone
lyricsvideo of recording by Lauryn Hill (audio with album cover)
"Fish in the sea you know how I feel.  River running free you know how I feel.  Blossom on the tree you know how I feel.  It's a new dawn.  It's a new day.  It's a new life for me, and I'm feeling good."

Feelin’ Groovy (The 59th Street Bridge Song)
"Slow down, you move too fast.  You got to make the morning last.  Just kicking down the cobblestones.  Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy."

Happiness, Ben Lee
lyrics; official video with home movies of children
"If you wanna fix a problem, then you gotta be happy.  Being happy is the only way out of the mess. If you wanna fix a problem, then you gotta be happy ‘cause happiness creates happiness!...  If you’re waiting for a reason, then you might never be happy ‘cause happiness creates happiness!"

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Red, Orange, Yellow: A Mindful Driving Practice

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It all started with Rainbow Walk.  That's my favorite way to practice mindfulness of my surroundings, and it's been consistently in the top ten posts for the past couple of years.  So I thought it would be fun to try a "rainbow drive," looking at different colors like a red barn, the blue sky, and so on.

Let's just say that was not the most brilliant idea I've ever come up with.  I tried Rainbow Drive a grand total of one time, and it went like this:  

"Ooh,  look at the pretty flowers."   
"Oops, I just missed my turn."  
"Thank goodness that's the worst thing that happened while I was operating a 2-ton motorized vehicle on the public roads."  
 "What was I thinking?!"  

While driving, just drive.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Teaching English, Yoga, and Mindfulness in Indonesia (interview)

photo courtesy Alicia Brill

Alicia Brill is a mindfulness practitioner and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) educator from the United States. From September 2015-June 2016, she served as an English Language Fellow in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia. In her free time, she likes to practice yoga, meditate, travel, and climb mountains.  She will participate in a 10-day silent meditation retreat before returning to the United States.

You introduced your ESOL students to yoga. How did you tie that in with their language learning? What advice would you give to other language teachers who might want to try yoga and/or mindfulness practices with their students?

I've practiced yoga off and on for around 10 years, but I had never made it a consistent practice. Over the New Year, I attended a yoga and meditation retreat on Lombok Island in Indonesia. The retreat reinvigorated my yoga practice, was my first introduction to meditation, and reenergized my life.

Shortly after the retreat concluded in January, I helped to co-facilitate a pre-service teacher training camp in West Sumatra, Indonesia. The facilitators were asked to lead an “American Moment” activity where we introduced the campers to a particular aspect of life in the United States. 

I decided to teach a yoga class. It was the students’ first experience trying yoga and my first experience teaching yoga. The students were engaged with it, asking a lot of questions (e.g., what is the history of yoga, what’s the meaning of Namaste). They seemed sponge-like in their desire to learn about yoga and Gumby-like in their ability to try unfamiliar poses!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Children's Author Emphasizes Mindfulness and Self-Acceptance

photo courtesy Sarah Kraftchuk

Toronto-based children’s book author Sarah Kraftchuk trained as a mindfulness facilitator with Mindfulness Without Borders and has an M.Sc. in the Neuroscience and Clinical Applications of Mindfulness from King’s College London. 

Teachers ordering books through can get a 15% discount using the code TEACHLOVE.

Your books Love to Be Me!, I Am. Magical Me!, and The Hue in You emphasize self-acceptance. What’s the connection between self-acceptance and mindfulness, and how do your books help kids learn to accept themselves and their moods?

Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention to the present moment in the spirit of kindness, curiosity and non-judgment. The practice of self-acceptance allows us to embrace our whole being and what makes us unique. 

Kids can learn how to explore their inner landscape and to feel all the feelings, as they are. Self-acceptance is an expression of self-love and compassion. 

As kids practice self-compassion and acceptance they may develop skills of mindfulness and compassion to connect with other people and the world around them. In order to accept we must first become aware, so these books provide a space to gently and playfully explore and discover inside.

Based on your studies of the neuroscience of mindfulness, what resources would you recommend that measure the effectiveness of mindfulness and show how mindfulness impacts the brain?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Great Children's Songs about Mindfulness, Self-Acceptance, and Gratitude

Phaitoon for

In the song lists about gratitude, etc., I always try to include at least one song that can be used with younger kids. However, most of the songs are geared more toward adolescents and adults.

So here's a whole list with only songs that are appropriate for children... although they can benefit the rest of us, as well.  (I know several adults who find it really helpful to belly breathe with Elmo!) 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

How Mindfulness Helps Teens and the Adults Who Care about Them

photo courtesy Sam Himelstein

Sam Himelstein, Ph.D., works as a Licensed Psychologist in the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center and is the founder and president of the Center for Adolescent Studies. Dr. Himelstein is the author of A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Working with High-Risk Adolescents and Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents.

How can mindfulness help kids reduce their use of drugs and alcohol?

Mindfulness as a skill can help youth learn to be less impulsive and more self-regulated, and to develop a stronger ability to choose in their lives. The idea is that we’re teaching young people to gain greater autonomy and choicefulness. 

This is an empowered approach, rather than the norm that adolescents meet; adults basically telling them what to do or what not to do: 
i.e., “Don’t do drugs. They’re bad!”
Trying to force youth to change or stop engaging in a behavior by punitive means simply doesn’t work. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Personal Triggers: Recognizing the Causes of Problematic Behavior

image courtesy Sam Himelstein

This activity is adapted from Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents, by Sam Himelstein and Stephen Saul. With the authors’ and publishers’ permission, it’s been expanded to apply to a wider audience. 

Most of us have some type of behavior that’s gotten us into trouble. It could be overeating, drinking too much, using drugs, or responding with anger and aggression. 
Think about what triggers (causes) you to engage in this behavior: 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents (recommended book)
"I ain't gonna lie.  I was supposed to hit the blunt [marijuana]... 'Cause my boy, when we got back to the house, he was out there rolling a blunt.  I ain't gonna lie, once I seen him in the wheelchair, I already knew I was gonna do something; drink, or something... I kinda looked at him, and I took a deep breath, and just calmed down, sat down, and I was like, 'Damn man, it's good to see you.'  But at the same time, I was really thinkin' about the blunt.  He was like, 'You gonna smoke?' I was like, 'Nah, I'm good.'  He was like, 'Fool, since when do you say no?'  I felt more me, doing me.  I'm like, 'Nah I'm good'."

Those are the words of a participant in Sam Himelstein and Stephen Saul's mindfulness-based substance abuse  program, describing how he used techniques from the program when seeing a friend who'd recently become paralyzed due to gun violence.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Eight Principles of Teaching Mindfulness Meditation to Adolescents

photo courtesy Sam Himelstein

These principles are adapted from a longer version in A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Working with High-Risk Adolescents by Sam Himelsteinand are published here with permission from Routledge.

1. Clear Goals
The goal of one session might be to relax, while the goal of another session might be awareness of how emotions manifest in the body.

2. Non-Attachment to Logistics
Closed eyes aren’t necessary to practice “correctly,” and may be resisted because of intense trauma or because of mistrusting other group members.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Working with High-Risk Adolescents (recommended book)

A fifteen-year-old contemplates the meaning of life as most of his friends are either incarcerated or killed. A sixteen-year-old drug dealer fights back tears as he thinks about how his mom would feel if he got shot.  

From the transcripts of client sessions, it’s clear that Sam Himelstein cares deeply about his young clients, and is able to reach kids with court-ordered therapy who  are "used to being pushed around by the system."