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Mindful Breathing Basics

Practicing mindful breathing for a few minutes every day gives you an evidenced based tool to help you eliminate stress and stay focused on tasks. The exercises we will practice  can be used regularly in classrooms and personal mindful breathing practices at home! Follow these tips to help you during your mindful breathing practice: 

  1. Put everything else aside. Everything you have to do will still be there at the end of your practice. Take a break from your phone, your work, your to-do lists, and maybe even the people around you. It might help to move to a quieter place. 
  1. Get comfy. Move to the edge of your chair or sit on a cushion on the floor.  Keep your back upright, but not too stiff. Place your hands palms down on your legs or however most comfortable. Try to relax your jaw and forehead. 
  1. Set a timer. Try to do breathing exercises for 3-5 minutes as you’re first learning. If that seems too long, try 2 minutes at first.
  1. Eyes open or closed? It’s your choice. Notice which one makes it easier for you to stay focused. If you keep your eyes open, try to focus on just one object without looking around.
  1. Try to focus fully on your breathing. Starting out, just feel the flow of breath — in, out — whatever feels natural to you. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. Maybe it’s in your belly, maybe in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of your breath, one breath at a time.
  1. Be kind to your wandering mind. Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things and be 17 thoughts in before you even notice. If this happens, don’t get grumpy, its normal. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently bring your attention back to your inhales and exhales.
  1. Close with kindness. I always like to close with a good arms overhead stretch, a soft smile, and a gentle sigh 

That’s it! That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible again the next day.


Find Some Stillness.

“Maybe sometimes we should just sit, and in the sitting understand that life speaks in stillness and therefore on occasion we would be wise to join it there.”

Craig D. Lounsbrough

Our minds want to confuse us and make everything more complicated than what it really is. We constantly feel like we have to make to-do lists, and complete priorities. It’s why our brain will not easily settle down to do a simple task. The most difficult and simultaneously the simplest task we can undertake is to pay attention, to listen, and to observe. The most beneficial thing we can do for our mind is enter into that space of stillness, that perceptual, sensing side of our brain; yet, this is what we resist more than anything! We must take time to intentionally drop out of the planning, conceptual brain and into the present moment. We must make the conscious, on purpose decision to practice doing this even knowing that our brain will fight us. When I say our brain will fight us, I mean that it might call forth emotions of panic, anxiety, worry, thoughts of time-wasting, to-do lists, the past, the future–anything but the right now. 

Fight back. 

Your brain is in charge of your thoughts, but you are in charge of your brain–Don’t forget that. 

Before beginning the day, take five or ten minutes (maybe less if this seems daunting) to just sit in the quiet stillness. Don’t worry about what needs to get done. I always say if it needs to get done, it will get done. You do not need to prove to yourself that you are busy by making a list. Just be. Everything you are pushing aside to have these few minutes will be there at the end of your practice. Just for now, enjoy these moments that belong only to you.

I Feel…Name it to Tame it.

Emotions are an essential part of who we are, but they can be messy, complicated, and downright confusing sometimes. Knowing how to name them and talk about them with your students (and yourself!) — is a key part of helping your students develop their social and emotional health.

But why do we need to name them?!

The answer is that naming our emotions tends to diffuse their intensity and lessen the burden they create. The psychologist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.” … Sharing what we are really, deep-down feeling in simple terms helps us to better contain and manage even the most difficult emotions.

Use the sheet below to help you and your students name your emotions. You guys, there are more than just 3 emotions! It’s so easy to say, “I’m happy,” “I’m sad”, or “I’m Angry!” Well, are you really? Or are you something else–let’s get to the bottom of your happiness, sadness, and anger.

If you’re a teacher and you hate my face or you have your own bitmoji plastered all over your classroom, shoot me a message or hit up my TpT account to download your own editable version!

Week 1: Why Mindfulness?

Welp, I am starting a weekly installment of “WHY MINDFULNESS?”. You knew it was coming. I am so passionate about teachers who are teaching mindful minutes, or community circles having their own personal practice. There are so many important reasons why. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.

If you haven’t explored your own quiet mind, confronted your own silent demons, or come face to face with your own humanness, it is impossible to guide others in exploring theirs. If you don’t have that intimate understanding of how anger, love, joy, fear, jealousy, greed, sadness, compassion, and contentment can arise, persist, manifest, fade away, and how they work–how can you expect to explain the whole thing to kids in a way that is meaningful and accessible?

So–Let’s dive into week one’s reason to have your own practice as an educator!

1. Mindfulness helps us manage students we find difficult.

If you’re a teacher, you probably have a problem with at least one student who misbehaves in your classroom. Being mindfully aware helps us notice what might be happening within the classroom that is causing them to misbehave. Sometimes, the environment isn’t developmentally appropriate–for example, we can not expect a kindergartener to sit still and listen to you talk for long periods of time. Or perhaps you have one or more kids that have been exposed to trauma. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that littles of trauma tend to be hyper vigilant. Anything could be a threat, which takes a lot of his or her cognitive resources, causing them to learn more slowly. Or maybe they just shut down because they are overly sensitive to environmental changes. 

Mindfulness is a state of non judgemental awareness of what is happening in the present moment. The key word here is ‘non judgemental.’ Just accepting things as they are, in the moment they are happening. When we first begin a mindfulness practice, we often notice just how difficult it can be to not judge. Then it kind of starts to settle when we realize we don’t always have to engage in that judgement–that is when our tendency to judge starts to diminish. 

That terrible habit we have of judging can oftentimes arouse feelings of shame or guilt. Sometimes, and please know this is coming from a place of love, teachers judge their students too harshly and then–without even noticing–we use shame and guilt as a behavior management technique with our students. THIS. DOESN’T. WORK. There is plenty of evidence to support that. Rather than encouraging students to behave, it promotes distrust, resentment, embrasement, and retaliation. 

Knowing how we respond to situations–being familiar with our own deep, dark, dungeon of fear, pain, frustration, discouragement, and irritation–can really help us understand the why behind our kiddo’s behavior.”

Paying attention to how we are feeling in a situation can give us clues as to why a student is behaving the way they are and we are better able to assess the situation from a place of compassion and loving kindness. If we feel threatened, the child is likely trying to gain the power in the situation. If we feel hurt or upset, the behavior is likely revenge. If we feel discouraged or sad for the student, he or she is probably shutting down and/or giving up. If we are feeling bothered or irritated, perhaps the student is trying to gain our attention.

Knowing how we respond to situations–being familiar with our own deep, dark, dungeon of fear, pain, frustration, discouragement, and irritation–can really help us understand the why behind our kiddo’s behavior. And it is only after we find that ‘why’ that we can really begin to help children develop the skills they need to change their behavior.

Mindfulness Resources for Educators

Free App Subscriptions, Research, Articles & More!

This is a compilation of mindfulness resources for educators.
Just like any skill, mindfulness skills take time to develop. There is a reason it is called a practice. If you are going to teach mindfulness, I recommend having your own daily consistent mindfulness/meditation practice at home. The best way to do this is to commit to sitting for 15-30 minutes each day, paying attention to your breath, noticing when your mind starts to wander, and then gently bringing attention back to your breath. If your interested in beginning a practice and sitting and breathing just isn’t working for you, shoot me a message and I will send you my Short Sit practice.

When you are consistent with your own practice, you are better able to model mindfulness and speak from a place of authenticity. As we all know, kids can see right through us, sometimes. If we want them to buy in–we have to believe in what we are selling and use our own products!

If you haven’t explored your own quiet mind, confronted your own silent demons, or come face to face with your own humanness, it is impossible to guide others in exploring theirs. If you don’t have that intimate understanding of how anger, love, joy, fear, jealousy, greed, sadness, compassion, and contentment can arise, persist, manifest, fade away, and how they work–how can you expect to explain the whole thing to kids in a way that is meaningful and accessible?

Anyway–Here are just a few resources to help you on your journey! Feel free to contact me with questions!



Calm–Free Lifetime Subscription

FREE Lifetime Subscription for Teachers (PreK-12). Fill out the form at the link above for a FREE subscription to their site & app.

Headspace–Free Annual Subscription

Headspace recently came out with their own FREE subscription for educators. Click the link to sign up.

Mindful Brain Free Download

Here is The Mindful Brain free download courtesy of Teachers Pay Teachers.

Sustainable Mindfulness

Cultivating Mindfulness for Educators Using Resources From The New York Times

How to Avoid A Poorly Designed School Mindfulness Program — Mindful Magazine

Making Mindfulness Work in Your School — Free webinar from Free Spirit by James Butler

Making the Case for Mindfulness in Your School or District — Free Spirit Publishing blog by James Butler

Mindfulness Book List

An ongoing compilation of mindfulness books for youth and adults.


“Get Your Mind Ready with Mind Yeti”

“Just Breathe”


“Youth Voices”: Mindfulness for Teens

How Mindfulness Empowers Us”: Story of Two Wolves


GoNoodle is for the body and the mind.

Here is a link to a document that lists all the GoNoodle Mindfulness videos sorted by channel and with the length of each video.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

An Edutopia blog written by Elena Aguilar. “Zaretta Hammond’s new book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students, fills a huge gap in my bookshelf. Hoping to get it into your hands and onto your shelves, I decided to do a Q & A with the author.”

Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Article

Nine Ways To Ensure Your Mindfulness Teaching Practice Is Trauma-Informed by Katrina Schwartz is a terrific resource. I highly recommend reading this article and following the advice offered.

Mindful Life Project

Guided Mindfulness Activities in English & Spanish–Great for Secondary.

They also have a free app titled “Mindful Life Project.”

Meeting the Needs of a Stressed Generation

“Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future…” Nelson Mandela spoke those words at a march in Pretoria, South Africa, in November of 1997. Twenty-two years later, those words are just as true. As leaders, teachers, parents and, quite frankly, just humans, it is our duty to lead them towards the acknowledgement of their own great worth. 

Yeah . . . Okay, but what does that mean? That sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Lead them towards the acknowledgement of their own great worthDoesn’t that just make you warm and fuzzy? Probably not. My husband would quote the Grinch here (“Oh. Bleeding hearts of the world unite!”) But if you genuinely care about kids, that’s what you’re ultimately doing, or trying to do (even if you don’t realize it)! You want them to see the potential you see when you look at them. Instead, kids see what people tell them to see. Maybe it’s abusive parents, maybe it’s the media, or worse…social media…*shudders*. Kids have young, malleable minds. They will take on whatever persona you tell them they have. They become so conscious that they will lie to themselves and others just to fit in, until they believe it, or they will be so confused about who they are that they will struggle with their own identity until they have zero self-worth and no clue where they belong in this huge, out-of-control, demanding world.

Sounds dramatic *eyeroll*. It’s not. The stress these kids are facing day in and day out–no matter how trivial it is to you– is real to them. I hear it all the time, “These kids don’t know what real stress is.” Yes, some kids’ stress is minimal, but some kids go through and see more, than the average person does in their whole year, all before you’ve even taken your first sip of coffee for the day.

If you start to read the next paragraph and begin dozing off, scroll ahead to the bullet point portion. Otherwise–keep going, I believe in you!

Children and adolescents face an alarming number of pressures at school, home, and from their own peers. Childhood stress is definitely on the rise; there are academic pressures, domestic problems, financial issues, family illness, or, quite frankly, just living in a culture that values product over process. It is crucial these students learn stress management skills for both now and as they move into adulthood. Stay with me! The skills learned from a mindfulness curriculum can make all the difference in students’ lives. Research suggests that the benefits of adopting a mindfulness based curriculum for classrooms are profoundly transformative because students learn to focus their attention, become less reactive, and learn to be more compassionate with themselves and others–ultimately leading students to a more engaging and fulfilling life of lower stress and anxiety.

Are you ready for the next couple of sentences?

Hold on, sit down.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund (2010), 

  • once every second, a child is suspended; 
  • every eleven seconds, a high school student drops out; 
  • every twenty seconds, a student is corporally punished;
  • every three hours, a child or teen is killed by a firearm; 
  • every five hours, a child or teen commits suicide; 
  • and every six hours, a child or teen dies of abuse or neglect.

No . . . Seriously.

These statistics are alarming, and they hurt my heart.

Parents. Teachers. And schools. Must. Do. Better.

Students are not being given adequate resources to help alleviate the stress of their everyday life. Although mindfulness cannot stop these events from happening, it can help in students’ abilities to cope with the stressors of life.

Regardless of class, educational opportunities, or race, a substantial number of students are being labeled as ADHD, depressed, anxious, obese, having addictive personalities, and taking part in other self-mutilating or destructive behaviors, including suicide. 

More often than not, negative responses to stress are: unconscious, impulsive and automatic responses born out of anger, anxiety, or sometimes, simply, boredom.

Students’ ability to think before they act is limited. Mindfulness can be the preventative measure schools need to assist in creating the space between impulse and action. 

Mindfulness-based curricula can teach far more than focusing attention and emotional impulse control; students can also develop compassion for themselves and their peers. By better understanding how their mind works, students can recognize those same emotions in their peers and have a greater sense of empathy for their troubles.

Mindfulness can teach compassion. Students are taught just how powerful self-talk really is. By learning to pay attention when their mind starts to think negative thoughts and redirecting those thoughts into positive ideas, students can learn they must be kind to others, but also compassionate with themselves. How often do we hear kids say things about themselves that they would never say to a friend?! Mindfulness can teach students to retrain their brain so they can notice when that negative self talk creeps in.

Here it comes . . . You knew I was going to mention it.

Diagnosis for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children is on the rise. *Gasp* (Don’t look at me like that)

Now, I’m not all essential oils and meditations, there are certainly situations that call for medicating students with this particular diagnosis; however, paying attention is something that can be taught, and amplified with the right skills. It takes practice. There have already been several successful trials in which medication doses were lowered, or even completely removed! There was a study in 2008 in which mindful awareness practices were offered to a mixed group of adults and adolescents with ADHD, findings included improvements in self-reported ADHD symptoms, anxiety, depressive symptoms, and working memory. 

In a controlled study by M. Napoli, in 2005, 194 first, second, and third graders who participated in a twice a week mindfulness and relaxation program showed increases in their ability to pay attention, and in their social skills; while at the same time displaying decreases in test anxiety and ADHD behaviors (Note: Decreased ADHD behaviors essentially mean an increase in executive function.) 

The results speak for themselves. Although more research is needed to definitively say mindfulness increases a student’s ability to focus, one thing is for certain — it cannot hurt. 

Aside from teaching students to focus their attention, teaching mindfulness in schools also trains children and adolescents how to be less reactive. With training, students are better able to regulate their emotions — to take that pause before reacting and find out the why behind their, often destructive, outbursts. Emotional regulation uses strategies to guide anxiety, worry, distress so as to harness those feelings and achieve specific goals in life, and in the classroom. Troubles with emotion regulation are a core reason for many adolescent emotional and behavioral issues, including depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders, and drug/alcohol use and abuse.

I mean, if these are all facts proven by research, then it would make sense to act now in the name of preventative measures. Right? Right.

Teaching emotional regulation in schools should be a systemic response to a nationwide mental health epidemic among the youth of this nation.