Sunday, November 10, 2019

5 Improvisational Mindfulness Activities for Academic Classes

Photo by mostafa meraji on Unsplash

Guest post by Ira Rabois

One way to increase student engagement and decrease anxiety in the classroom is to combine mindfulness and improvisational theatre exercises to teach subject matter. Improvisation develops a sense of trust in self and others, as well as whole-body thinking and awareness. It is also fun. 

Improvisational mindfulness activities can be used in most academic subjects. Personally, I have used them in English, Social Studies and Social Science classes. My colleagues have used them to teach foreign languages. They can also be used by teacher trainers to show how to present material in a lively way, relate compassionately with students, and face challenging situations with empathy and clarity.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Conscious Stories Teach Mindfulness and Connection

Andrew Newman is the author of an award-winning series of Conscious Stories for children, including The Elephant Who Tried to Tiptoe, The Boy Who Searched for Silence and The Hug Who Got Stuck. A native of South Africa, Andrew now lives and works in the United States, where he regularly visits schools and libraries to share his stories with children aged 4-10.

In this interview, Andrew shares his thoughts on mindfulness, positive self-talk, and spirituality with Catharine Hannay, editor and publisher of

Catharine: In your TED Talk, you explain how a frightening nighttime experience as a five-year-old eventually led to your work helping parents and children use the last twenty minutes of the day to foster a feeling of safety, love, and belonging. Why is this type of bedtime ritual so important, and how is it connected to mindfulness?

Andrew: Think of that moment that the kids leave your classroom for break and you lift your head for the first time in an hour, sigh deeply, and say something to yourself like “that went better than expected” or “Wow, that class did not go well.” This is your reflective moment of integration. It is a chance to reconnect to self, reset and review. 

The last 20 minutes of the day is like this for kids. It’s a time the body relaxes and the mind naturally reviews the day.

How you feel when you go to sleep is how you feel when you wake up. Kids need help to integrate the experiences of their day and ‘make sense’ of their world.  

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Mindfulness, SEL, and Teacher Self-Care

Season Mussey, EdD. is the founder of Kaya Teacher Project, which focuses on supporting educators through professional development and personal wellness. She is the author of Mindfulness in the Classroom: Mindful Principles for Social and Emotional Learning.

In this interview, Season shares her thoughts on mindfulness, SEL, and teacher self-care with Catharine Hannay, editor and publisher of

Catharine: The breath is a common anchor, or point of focus, of many mindfulness practices. As a yoga teacher and former biology teacher, could you explain the physiological benefits of consciously focusing on our breathing?

Season: Absolutely. Conscious breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is known as the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system. The results include heart rate slowing, muscles relaxing, and more blood-flow and oxygen available to vital organs. 

Activation of the PNS through slow, deep, rhythmic breathing initiates a response that is the direct opposite of the body’s response to stress (increased heart rate, tense muscles, constricted blood vessels, and less oxygen to some organs). 

And, let’s face it, who doesn’t need LESS stress? Right?

Catharine: I'm sure every teacher reading this would like less stress

Realistic self-care is one of the core themes here at Mindful Teachers, so I was interested to see that you offer a class on “Finding the ‘Perfect’ Life/Work Balance.” Of course, it’s never really going to be perfect, but what does optimal life/work balance look like to you?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

7 Gratitude Practices, for Teachers and Students

Photo by Řaj Vaishnaw from Pexels

by Season Mussey, EdD, from the book Mindfulness in the Classroom: Mindful Principles for Social and Emotional Learning

Gratitude is a mental act, or a habit of mind. Once a habit is formed, it is simple to continue the behavior. There are some easy tasks that you can do daily that build the habit of gratitude.

When you exercise your gratitude habits daily, you are making deposits into a "thank" account. You are building a base of positive affirmations and affiliations that you can draw upon later when you need to remember what is good in your life. If you have an accumulation of positive memories and thoughts, it may help you regulate your emotions on days when you feel blue.

Here are seven gratitude practices to try yourself and with your students.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

How Teens Can Become Upstanders, Not Bystanders or Frenemies

Photo by Pablo Varela on Unsplash 

by Catharine Hannay, adapted from Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness

Be Kind Online 

Teen singer and actress Sabrina Carpenter says, “Using the Internet as a place to attack people, or to share negative opinions of someone, has always been a really strange concept to me.” (Seventeen magazine, Aug/Sep 2018) She tries not to take negative comments about herself seriously, and takes a break from being online if she’s feeling upset. 

There are times when it’s better to just let things go. Other times, you may need to stand up for yourself or someone else. Unfortunately, online bullying is very common.

It’s so easy to make a nasty comment, or to pass on an embarrassing photo or rumor, and it might not feel like it’s really hurting anyone. For that reason, I’m not crazy about the expression “in real life.” What you do online is part of your life, especially if that’s where you spend most of your time and how you do most of your communicating with other people.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Three Ways to Handle Negative Thoughts and Strong Emotions

photo by Callie Morgan on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay, adapted from Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness

It really bothered me when I saw an ad for a mindfulness workshop that was “guaranteed to make you feel happier and more relaxed.” Mindfulness is about awareness. It's not about being in a particular mood all the time.

In fact, something unexpected happened a few weeks after I started practicing mindfulness. I’d been feeling like, “This is great! Everybody should do this! I feel so much better!” Until suddenly it didn’t feel so good anymore.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Power of Acceptance

Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

guest post by Logan Thompson, from his book Beyond the Content: Mindfulness as a Test Prep Advantage

Acceptance is an essential ingredient of mindfulness. The present moment is happening. Wishing that it weren't, or denying it, is nonsensical. It's like wishing that it weren't raining while it's raining. Or worse, denying that it's raining while it's raining. When we fight with reality, we lose.

The most common pushback I hear from students is, "How will I ever improve if I just stay complacent with the way things are?" They think that acceptance equates to future resignation. But accepting that this moment is happening doesn't preclude us from trying to shape the next moment. If you want to change a habit or a behavior or a situation, it's even more important to accept the way it is at the moment. We always have to start from where we are.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Jewish Mindfulness Resources, for the Holy Days and Every Day

Image by s2dent from Pixabay

"Judaism is by nature a religion that encourages us to be mindful of what we do each day. When we eat, for example, and say a bracha (prayer), we are supposed to be mindful that the food we are eating is a gift and not something to be taken for granted."

Rabbi Dan Dorsch, "The Value of Mindfulness in Jewish Life"

by Catharine Hannay

With the new year and High Holy Days approaching, this seemed like a good time to do something I've been wanting to do for quite a while: put together a list of resources on Jewish approaches to mindfulness. 

My interest in secular mindfulness actually first came from reading the works of contemporary Buddhist teachers from Jewish backgrounds, including Jack Kornfield and Surya Das.

In the past couple of years, I've been learning about Jewish traditions that provide wonderful opportunities to practice various aspects of mindfulness. For example, 

  • Yom Kippur: focusing on forgiveness and compassion.
  • Sukkot: engaging the senses through the Arba Minimand reflecting on impermanence; and
  • Purim: thinking about our authentic selves and the masks we typically wear.
Here are a variety of articles and videos on integrating mindfulness with Jewish practices and teachings. I hope you find these resources useful, whether you're hoping to learn more about Jewish traditions or looking for ways to integrate your mindfulness practice with your faith. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Can Christians Practice Mindfulness? (That's the Wrong Question.)

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

A couple of years ago I attended a webinar on teaching mindfulness to kids, and the instructor kept telling us: 

Why not? 

"Christians will object."

I found this quite frustrating, since I know Christian mindfulness teachers who do all of those things. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Five Ways to Begin the School Year with Mindfulness and Compassion

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels

guest post by Ira Rabois

For every teacher I know, the end of summer vacation means rising nervous energy, anxiety and excitement. It means getting ready to begin a new experience, with new students and sometimes a new curriculum.
To start the school year, or anything new, it is obvious that we must make plans. We need to determine where we want to go, and what we want to accomplish, in order to fulfill those objectives. But we often ignore the emotional side of getting ourselves ready.

1. Meet Each Moment Mindfully
Take a moment to feel what you feel and notice your thoughts. Only if you notice your thoughts and feelings can you choose how and whether to act on them. Start with understanding what beginning the school year means to you and what you need. Then you can better understand what your students need.