How to bring mindful moments into your classroom part 3: writing
This is the third post in a series on how to bring mindful moments into your classroom. Please see this post for the first step towards introducing mindful moments (meditation) and this post for the second (reading).
As I mentioned in both of my previous mindfulness posts, I am not a mindfulness expert. I do not have a special certification in mindful teaching, but I do have 14 years of experience teaching students who struggle with trauma, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and mood disorders. Additionally, not all of the activities I share with my students are specifically mindfulness techniques, but they have all been scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety and stress, and improve quality of life.
Today we are going to look at writing to reduce stress. Just like reading, if a student finds writing particularly difficult or anxiety producing then writing will likely not be their top choice of a Zen Time activity, but I do ask that all students try writing on the day that I introduce it.
As with meditation and reading, I like to share some research to support writing as a relaxation technique. I share with students that researchers have found that expressive writing helps reduce stress and anxiety. For example: a study by researchers at the University of Chicago found that anxious test-takers who wrote briefly about their thoughts and feelings before taking an important exam earned better grades than those who did not.
I also really like the following infographic, but it would need to be broken into chunks if shared in a slide show.
I give students lots of ideas of what to write. I find if I just say, “here’s 10 minutes, use it to write about your feelings,” they look at me like I’m crazy.
Here are some of the types of writing I suggest students choose from to give a try:
- Have a heart-to-heart talk with your inner critic. If he has been telling you all the things you are doing wrong, reply with all the things you are doing right.\
- Pick a single positive word that you want to focus on today – such as joy, gratitude, love or courage. Journal about all the ways you have experienced this word lately and all the ways you want to.
- Think about how you would spend a day doing only the things that make you feel excited, happy, engaged or fulfilled. Free-write a list of everything you would include in this day, from the time you wake up until you go to bed.
- Write a to-do list.
- Write a no-send letter. One of those letters where you say everything you want to, but with no pressure of actually sending the letter.
- Write a poem, story, song, or other creative piece.
- Artistic? Create a word cloud.
Then the most important part, we try it!
I give students 10 minutes to write something of their choice. You must write too! Practice what you preach.
As I mentioned in my first post on mindfulness in the classroom (and will remind of you of again and again) one of the most important aspects of the mindful practice is the debrief. Make sure to talk to your students about how it felt to try writing for relaxation (and each of the techniques as you try them). Ask what they struggled with or what went well.
Make sure to ask how they feel after trying it. Just TALK ABOUT it. Maybe share a little bit about what you wrote and how it made you feel.
My next post will walk you through how to use drawing and coloring for relaxation during Zen Time. After you’ve worked through each of the strategies, your ultimate goal is to be able to provide 10 minutes each class period for students (and you) to use a technique of choice to clear your minds, decrease stress levels, and help you all be more prepared for academics (and life in general).