5 tips for mindful living

Running a session on mindfulness for a group of 25 supply teachers recently, we talked about the importance of looking after yourself in order for you to look after others. 

I asked if any of them were selfish and all except for three said that they definitely were not.  When I asked what being selfish meant to them, they responded by saying that they spent their day making sure that their students got the best out of the lesson or lecture,  made sure that their paperwork was in order, which they felt meant putting others first in their teaching and also in their home life.  

Does that sound familiar to you?

We think of the word selfish as being a negative thing, but  taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of others.

I’d like to share five tips for mindful living with you and hope you can try them and recognise that being selfish is OK.

1. Spend some quiet time, every day

Allow yourself some quiet time to yourself at least once a day. Just having five minutes with your own thoughts can make the world of difference.

2. Connect with people

Education staff tell us that they often feel very isolated in their classroom, so try to speak to someone during the day.

Connect with a friend in person or by phone and not talk about work.

3. Learn simple breathing techniques that can help in different situations

See below for details of these techniques.

4. Enjoy the journey

On a larger scale, enjoy the journey that is your life.

On a smaller scale, enjoy the journey to work, make it your time – listen to the radio, sing along to your favourite CD or listen to a talking book. I was once late for a meeting because I wanted to hear the end of a story! But it felt good!

5. See the wonder in the present moment

Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.

Write a To Do list of things you would like to do for yourself today or on the weekend, instead of one where it is only about work.

These are the breathing exercises I promised earlier:-

Learning how to control your breathing can make a huge difference to your reaction in any situation. 

  • When you want to relax – Breathe in for a count of 3 and breath out for a count of 7
  • When you want to become more energised – Breathe in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 3
  • To find more balance – Breathe in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 7

Imagine you’re in the middle of a lesson or lecture and someone makes an offensive remark that causes the rest of the group to laugh and disrupt the session. You may start to clench your fists or feel a tightening in your chest.  Before you know it you’ve reacted badly, in a way that doesn’t help the situation and you spend the rest of the day wondering if you could have handled things differently.  By using breathing techniques to help you relax your reaction is less extreme and literally gives you the space to regroup.

Imagine you’ve been teaching or lecturing all day and you have an important meeting to go to or you have a parents evening to attend.  You can take a few minutes and use the energising breathing technique to prepare yourself for the meeting.

Imagine that you have a lot to do and you don’t know where to start, take some time and use the balance breathing technique to get yourself back on track.

This is a simple exercise to try with a group – Give a few people in the group a toy windmill and ask them to blow on the windmill really hard to make it spin really quickly.  No problem with this!  Then ask them to blow again to make the windmill spin really slowly.  It may sound a bit childish but when I tried this with a group of teaches, everyone wanted to have a try and I only took a few to the session.  Lots of them said that they were going to buy one for themselves on the way home!

You could encourage your students to use these breathing techniques to improve their own wellbeing.   

If you’re happy, you become a happy influence on your students, regardless of their age and they enjoy their learning.  If you’re stressed, students pick up on this and react accordingly.

Sandra Taylor is a qualified Therapeutic Counsellor and Trainer and with a strong background in health and wellbeing. She works with a wide range of staff in schools, FE and HE, at induction of those entering the profession and also those coming to the end of their career.