Mindfulness can be a tricky concept for grown up minds to grasp, but students at All Hallows Catholic Primary School Five Dock know it can be as simple as noticing the feeling of your feet resting on the floor, or your body resting on your chair.
Children from every grade have been learning about mindfulness as part of a specialist, weekly program designed to increase resilience by encouraging them to ‘respond not react’ when difficult emotions arise.
‘It’s a spiralling curriculum that we layer on each year,’ said teacher Sarah Forgan. ‘Each new set of skills deepens their understanding of how to manage stress signals, how to manage their own wellbeing, and how to be more present in their daily life.’
While the class sometimes does meditation activities, they largely focus on ways they can be mindful in daily life by noticing what their brain and body are doing.
Small children begin with finger breathing, which encourages them to breathe in time with their hands as they move in a pattern. Older children learn to eat and walk mindfully by focusing on all five senses, and all practice how to cope with negative emotions like anger, sadness and worry.
‘I got a beautiful letter last year from a parent who told me that their daughter was actually doing her finger breathing while she was sitting in the dentist’s chair, and it’s so nice to see it is being practiced in other parts of their life,’ Ms Forgan said.
‘So often in life we’re just ‘go go go’ and we don’t take that opportunity to reflect on what we’re doing.’
Students Antony and Madison said they often use the techniques they learn in their mindfulness lessons as part of their daily life.
‘If we had a test we would try and respond and say ‘ok, I can do this’ rather than react and think ‘oh no, there’s a test’,’ Madison said.
‘You’re not getting scared, you can take deep breaths and go on with it,’ said Anthony. ‘Mindfulness is about staying calm and letting your body just go.’
How to finger breathe:
• Place the pointer finger of one hand on the first finger of the other
• Trace up as you breathe in
• Trace down the other side as you breathe out
• Do the same on the next finger, until you have traced your whole hand
• Close your eyes if that feels comfortable for you