by Christine Peace, Behavior Coach
We have previously discussed how to introduce mindfulness to kids and teens. In this article, we are going to examine two specific mindfulness practices that you can use with students, and yourself! First, we will come to our senses.
How often do we forget the familiar scent of home, until we go away for a time? How often do we forget to slow down and really taste the meal before us? Often, we neglect to give sufficient time to fully experience our senses in our day-to-day lives. Thus, this practice, the 5-4-3-2-1 strategy, helps us to reconnect and strengthen our senses when we are feeling dysregulated, allowing us to focus on the present moment. Through specific steps, 5-4-3-2-1 helps you slow down, return to the moment, and be fully present to all your senses. Further, over time and with practice, this can be done independently, without a facilitator leading.
So, what exactly is 5-4-3-2-1? Put simply, you are having yourself or your student share:
· 5 things you can see.
· 4 things you can feel.
· 3 things you can hear.
· 2 things you can smell.
· 1 thing you can taste.
Alternatively, to modify, you can require choosing only one item for each sense, especially for younger children or those with a short attention span. Additionally, this activity can be done as a group, making sure each child has the opportunity to express or write down each item they’ve identified. If done independently, have each student share how they are feeling both before and after the exercise. Lastly, this activity can be combined with our second strategy, Mindful Walking.
If you have the opportunity to get outside, or are transitioning your class from one room to another, an excellent intervention to implement is mindful walking. During this intervention, you have students reflect upon their immediate sensations and experience as they are walking. This allows for them to be fully present in-the-moment, versus distracted by other mental stimuli.
It is necessary to discuss with students or child beforehand that they will be practicing mindful walking. If not, this will add a layer of difficulty in engaging the students in the practice, as they will be distracted before you have even begun. For beginners, you will want to verbally facilitate the walk. Depending on your age group, allot a certain amount of time for each sense before directing them to move onto the next. The more mindfulness practices your group has had, the longer you can spend with each sense.
A possible adjustment, if you have identified a strong leader in your group, can be to have them walk in the front or allow them to facilitate the walk. You also can have students partner up to walk together. This allows them to engage with their peers, without the potential chaos of the entire group shouting out answers. As your group has more practice you can add in Mindful Breathing, which will be discussed in a future article.
These practices are written under the assumption that you are leading a class or are with a group of students. However, mindfulness can be practiced at home too. Whether you are engaging with senses or taking a walk, these practices can benefit your class, your child, and you. Don’t forget, it’s much easier to share a skill if you first are practicing it yourself. Let us know how your 5-4-3-2-1and mindful walking go!
Did you make any other adjustments? What was particularly difficult or fun?