by Dee Slattery, Counselor and Academic Advisor/PSHE
As a new counselor at YIS, I was delighted to see the strategic plan included wellness as a key area of focus, as this is a passion of mine. So what exactly is wellness and why do we consider it so important? It is about being aware of, and looking after, several aspects of your health in the following areas: physical, social, emotional, spiritual, financial, environmental, and work/school purpose. Ask yourself how consciously you focus on each of these areas in your life, in order to be the best, most well, version of you. In the busyness of life, we can all do more to enhance our wellness, and consequently our level of happiness and contentment in life. Perhaps this week you can give yourself the present of some personal time to act on your wellness and self-care.
One of the areas of wellness counselors at YIS are incorporating into sessions with students is mindfulness, as a tool to help them reduce the rise in stress and anxiety felt by so many teens today. This is the process of consciously being in the present moment, by maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment. The key part of mindfulness is allowing unconditional acceptance, meaning we acknowledge our thoughts and feelings without judgement, or belief that there is a right or wrong way to think or feel. Sounds easy right? Well it can be, but just like our muscles need training to become stronger in sports, our brain needs practice and training to reap the benefits of mindfulness. These so called benefits are scientifically proven, so it's worth putting the brain into mindful training. Research tells us that mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety levels, improve general health, improve learning capacity, and boost resilience. Pretty amazing benefits from the simple act of being present in the moment. In grade 9 wellness last week students were given the outline of a human body and were to color it in based on how their body was feeling in that moment. They closed their eyes, conducted a simple body-scan, and then chose the colors to represent the feelings they had in the various parts of their body. Putting your feelings onto paper can help reveal emotions and areas of your mind, heart and body that require focus, that you may not have been aware of until that moment.
Students used colors to reveal different feelings in their body
Color therapy resources help students manage emotions
On a daily basis we are bombarded with theories, practices, and methodologies both old and new that will help us be the best version of ourselves, and mindfulness is but one. What I like about mindfulness is that it is backed by research and does not require extra time, just conscious training until it becomes a natural part of one's daily routine. Here's a simple way to start, that may even make you smile due to its random nature. Ask yourself this question when you are next in the shower, "Am I really in the shower?". This somewhat silly question is designed to see if you are in the present moment, or if in fact your body is in the shower, but your mind is already in your 10am meeting, or period 4 class. Just like in every other part of your day, try to be in the present moment. Be in the shower. Be in the conversation with your parent or child. Be in the moment of walking through the park taking in the change of seasons and the beauty nature brings us. Be in the moment right now to think about your wellness. What can you do to live your best life?
Articles about the research on mindfulness can be found at the links below.
Article from Harvard Gazette
Article from The Centre for Mindfulness Studies
Article from Psychology Today