What is Mindfulness?

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It seems like everyone is talking about being mindful these days!  From “how-to” magazine articles to “feel-good” stories on the evening news, mindfulness is generating quite a buzz!  So, what’s it all about?  Is it for me?  Will mindfulness enhance the quality of my life, and can I teach myself how to incorporate the principles?

With all of these questions in mind, I decided look for a clear definition and purpose for mindfulness.  I thought I could do a quick Google search, but I soon discovered there were variations in meaning, depending on each website I visited.  I wasn’t looking for articles that correlated mindfulness with an ancient religious practice or a certain type of clinical therapy.  I was searching for information pertaining to the recently popularized “mindfulness movement.

My online search led me to a plethora of information that took some time to fully digest.  You see, mindfulness is not a technique with step-by-step instructions; it’s a state of mind. 

Mindfulness is a way to purposefully connect to our own lives by cultivating our attention on our thoughts, emotions, or experiences moment-by-moment without passing any kind of judgement.  (Did you get that?)  It means paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally!  You can think of mindfulness as being fully present in the moment. 

While mindfulness might seem simple, it’s not necessarily all that easy to do. We are taught from an early age to develop our capacity to think, but mindfulness centers on developing our capacity of awareness.  It’s not about what you’re paying attention to, it’s about sharpening your focus and training your brain to be more aware.

In a video entitled, “What is Mindfulness?,” Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn points out that as human beings, our brains tend to spend a huge amount of time worrying about the future or reminiscing about the past.  With this preoccupation, the present moment tends to get completely squeezed out! Kabat-Zinn goes on to say that in order to reclaim our lives, we must learn to pay close attention to our mind and body in the “present” without judgement because the “present” is the only time we are truly alive in our bodies and capable of learning, communicating, expressing love, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or touching, etc.! 

As we become more present in our own lives, mindfulness can help us make better decisions and become more engaged in life.  Studies show that mindfulness increases focus, creativity, happiness, and overall health.   It can also help us learn to appreciate the present more fully, which is really all we truly have!  The real work is to make time every day to practice the art of mindfulness.

Here’s a short practice to get you started:

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it’s the perfect time to practice being mindful! Here are a few suggestions to help everyone enjoy a “Mindful Thanksgiving?”:

1. Practice Giving Thanks and Gratitude

Before the traditional prayer or grace is given, take turns finishing this sentence:

“This past year, I have been thankful for _________.”

 

2. Eat Mindfully

Ask guests to take a moment to view the beautiful bounty on the table and enjoy the wonderful smells in the air. Then, encourage everyone to truly taste and savor each bite by eating mindfully.  Express gratitude for those who prepared the meal, as well as those who grew it and the earth from which the food came. 

~Contemplating your food for a few seconds before eating in mindfulness can bring you much happiness.—Thich Nhat Hanh

 

3. Talk—and Listen—Mindfully

Listen mindfully to any conversation during the meal.  Focus on the person speaking and really hear what they are saying instead of assuming you know how the story will end or thinking about what you are going to say in response.  Be aware that the mind tends to hear what it wants to hear rather than what is actually being said. 

 

“Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

                                                                                                            —Mother Teresa.

Comment /Source

Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. 

Boost Your Mood With Gratitude

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Every year, Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends on the first Sunday in November, when clocks are moved back an hour at 2 a.m. local daylight time.  When this happens, It takes our minds and bodies several weeks to adjust to the time change.  On top of that, the early evening darkness can wreak havoc on our overall mood due to a reduction in the amount of sunlight we receive.

Research tells us that 4-6% of the American population will experience the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to the reduction of light.  Another 10 - 20% will experience a mild version of SAD.  Some of the symptoms of this disorder include:  sadness, anxiety, lost interest in usual activities, withdrawal from social activities, inability to concentrate, hopelessness, and despair.  The good news is that these symptoms tend to resolve by spring when sunlight increases.

There’s evidence to support a positive way to combat some of the issues caused by DST and the reduction in sunlight, and it involves writing!

Many mental health experts recommend journal writing as a way to improve our mood and manage symptoms for depression!  Of course, it’s not a cure, but there are plenty of benefits to writing down our thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly.  Journal writing can help us become more self-aware so that we can: (a) manage anxiety, (b) reduce stress, and (c) prioritize problems, fears, and concerns. 

Studies suggest that when you write down a list of positive events (3-5) and why the events made you happy, a person’s overall optimism and happiness tends to increase while self-reported stress levels go down.  Each “Gratitude Journal” entry can also include a picture, which adds bonus points towards increased joy!

Here are a few writing prompts to get started with your own Gratitude Journal.  This idea is rewarding for everyone, so get your students involved too!

  • Write about a time you were grateful for something a loved one did for you.

  • What are three ways to thank someone without saying “thank you”?

  • What is something that makes you unique that you’re grateful for?

  • Look out the window.  What’s something you’re grateful for outside?

  • Think about the work that went into the clothes you wear or the house you live in.

  • If you had to give up all of your possessions but three, which three would you keep and why?

  • Write a thank you note to yourself.

  • Pick a random photo, and write about why you’re grateful for that memory.

  • Write about something you’re looking forward to.

  • Write about something in your life that you have now that you didn’t have a year ago.

  • Reflect on a time you made a mistake and what you learned. What are you grateful for about that learning experience?

  • Think back to the last time you laughed until you cried, and write about it.

  • List three things that made you smile this week.

  • Think about someone who helped shape the person you are today, and write about what they mean to you.

  • Think about a time you were able to help someone else.

  • List three people who helped you through a tough situation.

  • Name someone who did something nice for you unprompted.

Comment /Source

Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. 

Grammar Practice with Thanksgiving Printables

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Many students seem to have a difficult time locating even the most basic parts of speech like the Subject Noun and Verb.  If they’ve had little to no grammar instruction in grades 1-8, it’s no surprise.  With that being said, there is a curriculum that can completely turn a grammar deficit around.  It’s Shurley English.

Shurley English teaches students about the parts of speech and then uses a very unique and effective strategy called the Question and Answer Flow (Q&A Flow) to help students label and classify the role each word plays in a sentence.  Shurley English teachers are given a very specific script to follow to help students learn the Q& A Flow.  Once learned, labeling the parts of speech becomes pretty simple and fun! 

The Q&A Flow helps students master sentence analysis.  As they learn the order of operations, which locates the core parts of the sentence first, other descriptive words in the sentence fall into place.  Repetition of the Q&A Flow allows the brain to make logical sense of how each and every word works together to make a complete thought.  Once students have a solid understanding of how words work together to build sentences, it is easier for them to identify parts of speech outside of the Shurley English curriculum.

Have you ever asked your students to use a newspaper or magazine to highlight adjectives or adverbs?  You may have had the same results as me.  I tried this with 3rd-5th graders, and I admit the results were underwhelming… A more effective and interactive way to help your students practice this same skill is to have a little fun with a Mad Libs!  Mad Libs can easily be turned into a game or into a story-writing activity in your classroom. 

Take a look at this free holiday printable I found online.  It can be used in your classroom by following a few easy steps!

  1. On the board, list the number of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. that are needed to complete the paragraph.

  2. Have students find the appropriate words to go with each part of speech.

  3. Then, hand out the fill-in-the-blank Mad Lib worksheet, and have your students transfer their words to the paragraph.

  4. With a partner or small group, have your students share their creative and maybe even silly Mad Lib paragraph!  

  5. Writing Activity Suggestion:

    a) Have students create their own paragraph about the holidays.

    b) Then, ask them to erase specific parts of speech throughout the paragraph and draw a line to replace the empty space.

    c) Ask them to label the line with the part of speech that is now needed to fill in the blank. 

    d) Next, have students swap papers with a partner and fill in the blanks. 

    e)  Finally, have students read their paragraphs to each other. 

I encourage you to try this fun activity in your classroom.  It’s a sure way to add a little spice to your holiday lessons!

 Source Credit: http://www.scraplifters.com/printable-thanksgiving-mad-libs.html

Source Credit: http://www.scraplifters.com/printable-thanksgiving-mad-libs.html


Comment /Source

Kimberly Crady

Kimberly Crady is an adventurous woman with an immense love for life, learning, and teaching. After teaching in upper elementary classrooms for nearly 10 years, she joined the Shurley Team in 2005.  Kimberly has had the unique experience of teaching Shurley English lessons in all levels, Kindergarten-8th grade and training teachers across the United States.  Kimberly is a National Consultant and SEDA Teacher for Shurley Instructional Materials.

 

Kimberly’s passion for helping people and living a healthy lifestyle has led her to continue her education in the area of Health and Wellness.  She enjoys numerous outdoor activities from hiking and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains to paddle boarding in the ocean; although, these days you can find her practicing hot yoga in a Bikram Yoga studio. She also enjoys traveling abroad, live music, reading, and spending time with her favorite mutt, Lu.  Kimberly’s experience as a Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Teen Life Coach helps support her firm belief in teaching the whole person, especially in the classroom.