5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness this Summer

Summer Mindfulness

5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness this Summer

The Summer holidays gives great teachers like you an opportunity to enjoy the (hopefully) sunny weather, reflect on the previous term and to look forward to the next Academic Year. But whilst it can be tempting to pack as much as possible into your break, especially if you have kids of your own to entertain, taking time to concentrate on yourself is incredibly important.

Mindfulness is now generally accepted and proven as a useful technique to develop to reduce stress levels in our minds and bodies. Continual stress releases are harmful to our bodies and minds. Unfortunately, one in four of us could suffer from mental ill health in our lifetime, and with increased workloads and pressure on teachers, these issues can often be exacerbated by our jobs. Summer is the perfect time to take a step back and practice some mindfulness to make sure that you are feeling relaxed and ready to get back into the classroom when the new School Year begins.

Take a look through our top five ways to practice mindfulness this Summer, and see if there are any that may work for you. Many of these can be adapted into family activities so that you can help your children and partners to become more mindful too. If you have any tried and tested mindfulness activities that you would like to share with us, please do so in the comments section below.

Morning Pages

Morning pages is a writing exercise that helps you to empty your mind first thing in the morning before you start your day. There is no wrong way to do morning pages. You can use it to describe your wildest dreams, an angry tirade against an acquaintance, or your deepest fears and petty worries. Whilst your subject is free for you to choose, the method’s creator, Julia Cameron, is quite strict about how you do it.

Your morning pages must be done as soon as you wake up before the day starts to interfere with your thought processes. You must write in longhand and try to fill in about 3 pages of lined A4 paper. Crucially, your morning pages are private, even if it means destroying them after writing them every day! You can do so or they need to be a safe and secure place.

Enjoy Queuing Up

A long queue, whether in a shop, at the airport or in traffic, can make the calmest of us get angry. We’re programmed ourselves to do as much as we can in as short a time as possible, so being forced to slow down by factors beyond our control can be frustrating. But instead of becoming tense, why not take this opportunity to practice a little bit of mindfulness?

Instead of focusing on getting to the front of the queue, accept that there is nothing that you can do to change the situation and bring your attention to the present moment. Become conscious of your body, its posture and how it is feeling. Take note of your environment and the people around you. Take some deep mindful breaths and release any tension from your body and mind.

Mindful Eating

Eating has become an activity that we often do at the same time as something else, maybe marking some work, during a lunchtime staff meeting, watching TV, feeding our children or answering emails. Most of us eat without mindfulness every day, eating just to satisfy our tummies before moving on to ‘more important’ tasks. Learning mindful eating brings us back into the present moment, freeing us to enjoy our eating experience. It aids good digestion and uptake of nutrients.

To practice mindful eating, sit quietly without any distractions, move your marking out of the way, turn off the TV, your laptop and your phone. Reflect for a minute on how your food came to be on your plate. Where did it come from? Who worked to bring it to you? What did it need to grow? Give your meal or snack your complete attention. What colour is it? How does it feel in your hand or move around your plate? What does it smell like? Once you have answered these questions, take a bite of your food and examine the sensation of chewing and swallowing. Read a more in-depth article on mindful eating here.

Five Senses Exercise

Like the queuing exercise, this activity can be done during your normal day whenever you get a few minutes to reflect on yourself and your surroundings. Focusing on your five senses is a great way to quickly become more mindful and bring yourself back to the present moment.

Focus your awareness on each of your five senses in the following order:

  1. Notice five things that you can see. Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Choose something that you wouldn’t normally notice, like a shadow or litter or flaking paintwork.
  2. Notice four things that you can feel. Bring your awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your clothing, the breeze in your hair or the surface of the table you are leaning on.
  3. Notice three things you can hear. Take a moment to listen and note three things that you can hear in the background that you may not usually pay attention to. Are the birds singing? Is the washing machine whirring? Can you hear traffic?
  4. Notice two things you can smell. Breathe deeply and notice smells that you usually filter out, whether pleasant or unpleasant. Can you smell food, freshly cut grass or washing powder?
  5. Notice one thing that you can taste. Take a sip of your tea, a bite of a biscuit or chew a piece of gum.

Mindful Appreciation

All that you need to do for this exercise is to notice five things in your day that usually go unnoticed and unappreciated, these can be objects or people. Use a notebook to take a note of them throughout the day.

The point of the exercise is to appreciate seemingly insignificant things in our lives that support our existence but rarely get a second thought. This helps bring our minds back to the present with an awareness of our bodies and has been proven to reduce stress levels and the release of harmful hormones into our bloodstream. When you have your list, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know how these things/processes came to exist and how they really work?
  • Have you ever acknowledged how they benefit your life?
  • What would life be like without these things?
  • Have you ever noticed their more intricate details?

We hope that these activities help you to become more prepared for the new School Year. Enjoy your (mindful) Summer Break.

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