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Mesmerising to look at, but also a great way for kids to practise mindfulness and mindful exploration.
It's important to let kids know that sometimes we fall into anxious feelings very quickly and we may not have been able to 'catch' our unhelpful thoughts and change them in time. This is where we can use another strategy we learnt, to calm the amygdala first.
I've used glitter bottles in my classroom (during our mindfulness activities) to help my students understand how our thoughts, feelings and actions are all linked.
We had a different colour of glitter for thoughts, a colour for feelings and a colour for behaviours.
We talked about a normal situation such as running late for school. Every time we had different thoughts, feelings or did different things (actions), we gave the bottle a quick shake. Eventually the bottle was very blurred/shaken up.
We talked about how we can make the bottle clear again.
We came to the conclusion that it needed to be STILL.
This was a perfect example for the students of how WE also need to be STILL at times, in order to see things more clearly.
Glitter bottles are an excellent analogy for the thoughts/feelings/behaviours and how these constantly occurring can cause our vision to become cloudy, hence needing to take a moment to be still and mindful.
To make a glitter bottle in two simple steps:
1. Collect a plastic water bottle and add water and glitter
2. Add about a tablespoon sized blob of clear glue. This adds some weight to the glitter and density to the water so that the glitter doesn't all float and it moves through the water more slowly!
Glitter bottles can also be a useful timer for a few mindful breathing moments for a child. Shaking the bottle then taking the time to watch it and practice mindful breathing while the glitter settles is a great calm down strategy.
So says Jodi Piercey, Deputy Principal at Lake Gwelup Primary School, who in her 30 years of teaching has seen the number of anxious students rise sharply in recent years.
According to a nationwide survey in 2015, Young Minds Matter, anxiety disorders are experienced by one in seven adolescents. The survey, in collaboration with the University of Western Australia and Roy Morgan Research, showed anxiety can impact negatively on relationships, physical health, social inclusion and academic performance.
The science also points to prevention and early intervention.
Mindful Meditation Australia (MMA) piloted an intervention emotional wellbeing program during term 3 this year at Lake Gwelup Primary School. Called Mindful Me, the six-week program offers supportive small group sessions for students with mild anxiety.
The program aligns with the school’s business plan priorities to foster greater mental health and wellbeing in their students, as well as the Department of Education’s strategic focus areas.
If you think Mindful Me is just about breathing techniques and quiet contemplation; think again.
There is an intentional emphasis on textbook learning, as well as extra activities to foster a greater understanding of the brain and the development of self-regulation. Each 45 minute session touches upon the MMA curriculum and covers aspects such as:
Mindful Me teaches kids the basics of brain science and how parts of their brain links to their emotions. The program aims to educate them on why and how these feelings occur.
They can then apply this understanding to navigate their big emotions, fears and anxieties at school and at home. The kids are taught that, with practise, permanent structural changes will happen in the brain and sustain these benefits.
Jodi says they have intervention groups at the school for literacy and numeracy for those kids struggling, but it was time to put an intervention group in place for children with anxiety.
“For whatever reason, children are anxious little beings these days and it’s really impacting on their learning.
Once we joined forces with MMA, the opportunities for our school have been tremendous. It’s been an incredible partnership and the parents’ feedback has been amazing.”
Mindful Me has already brought enormous benefits to students that there are now plans to continue the program in 2022. “The skill of being present in the moment - and being able to calm yourself - is one of those skills that is in your toolkit for life,” says Jodi.
Lake Gwelup now has a dedicated mindfulness space for programs like Mindful Me. Classroom teachers identify students as those who would get the most out of early intervention and benefit from a tailored approach to brain education and techniques for mindfulness. Just as some students need extra support in mathematics or reading, there are students who require a little extra when it comes to teaching and learning around regulation, mental health, and emotions. Year 6 student Neve participated in the pilot program in term three, having experienced severe anxiety and panic attacks.
“The mindfulness - especially the [Dan Siegal hand-brain] model - really helped me with my anxiety. I feel like Mindful Me is a really good program for me and other kids like me.”
Katie Rose, Program Developer of Mindful Me and Senior Classroom Teacher at Lake Gwelup Primary School acknowledges that mental health is at a crisis point - with teens and adolescents in particular.
“We hope that by offering something now and helping these kids work through their feelings, we can minimise the possibility of bigger problems down the track.”
Katie is also the Mindfulness Curriculum Leader at the primary school, and in 2019 was appointed the whole school leader of Positive Behaviour Support after running mindfulness daily for her students for many years.
“I’ve had incredible feedback from the children and parents about how well they were understanding the content, and how they could independently apply those tools and strategies in different strategies.”
In her many years of studying the effects of mindfulness and meditation on children, Katie has observed a profound impact on students who tend to suffer from anxiety or chronic ‘over-thinking’.
“Through personal experience, I have found that the earlier we can identify and understand these feelings in our bodies, the better equipped we are to manage these before they become overwhelming.
As the saying goes; knowledge is power!
Katie has also been advancing her knowledge and skills by delivering training to schools, workplaces and families.
“I have a passion for education and the importance of imparting knowledge to young people on how and why their brains work in specific ways that may cause feelings of anxiety, worry or depression.”
MMA General Manager Bruce Moorman believes Mindful Me provides tools that kids can apply to everyday situations that might normally make them anxious.
“What excites us about these programs is that they allow us to work together with kids, parents and teachers. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of.”
Through programs like Mindful Education, Mindful Families and Mindful Me, MMA has made a difference to the lives of over 17,000 children, through 3,700 educators completing our training. Keen to chat more about bringing the Mindful Me program to your school? Get in touch with MMA here
There was a time when I was stupidly busy. 80 hours per week, anaesthetising patients, and leading DonateLife in Western Australia. I barely had time for my target of 400km per week, riding my bike.
It’s amazing how easy it is to fall into crazy work-life balances, and I know now that my family wondered where it would all end.
I only ever used to stop to catch my breath at the top of King’s Park during a 5 am ‘hills- session’, or to grab another espresso between operations at 8 pm later that same day.
How often do any of us turn to new ideas, new experiences, when we are fully occupied by the life that we already lead.
It was never going to last, and I wasn’t looking for a solution.
I didn’t see the crash coming.
On the 16th of September 2018, a near-fatal cycling accident, head-on into a lamppost at 65 km/h, ended the life that I knew. I broke my neck, my back, my face and was left with brain injuries that changed who I was.
I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t focus, couldn’t control my emotions. Trying to tame the turmoil inside me left me mentally shot. I might be so exhausted that I couldn’t find my way home from yet another hospital appointment.
My mind would run amok with ideas, emotions, until it overheated and shut down.
I knew that I was supposed to take breaks, rest regularly. I already knew from painful experience, that once my brain fatigued, it might take a whole day before I could just understand the TV or be sociable with my family.
“Take breaks”? Yeah right!! Who even does that?
Who steps off life’s hectic platform, just to take a moment of peace? My unrelenting drive and resilience had been my armour, my superpower and yet now, it was my Achilles heel.
I needed new ideas about how to re-focus, accept my limitations, and find peace.
The best idea I ever had, after another crippling brain shutdown, was to sign up for a breakfast seminar hosted by Mindful Meditation Australia (MMA). I figured it would at least be a good feed and decent coffee. I hoped that I might meet interesting people to talk to.
All the above was true.
I concentrated as best I could to the seminar’s conversation, and met the boss, Brayden for coffee the next day. He was disarmingly calm and relaxed. Not my kind of guy really. But he did offer some wisdom and hope.
We shared ideas about mental and emotional well-being. He offered ideas upon techniques that might help me, as they have helped MMA’s school kids and health workers alike.
I have relished the peace and tranquillity that I found in those excellent sessions. Sure, it’s not a miracle cure for me. My brain has rewired as best it can, but I will always need my own place to rest and take a deep breath.
Meditation and mindfulness have helped me to restart a new life and I would thoroughly recommend others attend a session and give it a go.
I can’t say what it might offer you, since each of us is so wonderfully different. I can only say that it has helped me rediscover myself.
I’m not sure what ‘ambassador’ really means. I’m not very good at meditation and I still rage against my own limitations. But I also find times of calm, empathy, and peace.
I like that place.
Give it a go.
Take a deep breath now and relax into it.