To return to what we were saying in yesterday’s blog, “10 Mindful Minutes” by Goldie Hawn with Wendy Holden is a book that ought to be read by every parent and every teacher. The Hawn Foundation’s MindUP curriculum ought to be considered by every school as a necessary part of what the school does.
In order to convince readers of the 3Di blog to buy or borrow a copy of this book we’ll quote here several key sentences and paragraphs from the book:
Introduction: One Mother’s Journey to Mindfulness
I realised I had to become the role model I wanted for my children. I had to be brave and look at myself truthfully.
In order to educate the whole child, we are bringing what we call “the fourth R” to education after reading, writing, and arithmetic – and that is reflection. And as Dr Dan Siegel says in his foreword to this book, “reflection is no longer a luxury but necessary for our survival.”
In short lesson extensions that serve to enhance the learning experience, children are encouraged to do the following:
* Learn how their brains react to emotions, so that they can bring themselves back to a neutral point
* Take daily “brain breaks” and focus on breathing
* Practice mindful sensing – exploring sight, taste, smell, hearing and motion
* Consider the differences between optimism and pessimism
* Learn to savour happiness
* Engage in practical problem-solving and critical thinking
* Learn perspective and how to view differing results
* Focus on compassion and empathy
* Discover the importance of generosity and a sense of social responsibility
* Perform random acts of kindness
A majority of children in one study reported that what they loved the most about MindUP was that it helped them learn how to make themselves happy.
Here are some of the findings from the study:
* Better reading scores
* Less absenteeism
* A 25 percent reduction in aggression in the playground
* Better attention and more concentration
* Better interpersonal relationships
* Improved ability to manage stress
* A 63% rise in optimism among participants.
It seems research has found that children who were involved in these programmes were more engaged in their learning, suffered less from depression, and had a greater ability to control their emotions. Their test scores in academic subjects were also higher. Their fellow students rated them as being kinder, more trustworthy, more helpful, better liked and less likely to break rules or start fights. Mindful practices were shown to stimulate the part of the brain responsible for good judgement and decision making. Pupils also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
“Stress interferes with memory. When we can lower our cortisol levels, we are able to concentrate more and have greater powers of recall. When a child’s brain is frenzied or stressed, it is very difficult for him or her to learn or retain information. When a child is full of enthusiasm and inspired by wonder, it’s a beautiful seeding ground for learning.”
It seems the children who took part in MindUP also took the practices home to teach their families, and were known to make remarks such as, “Mum, take a deep breath, relax, do your mindful breathing, and maybe you won’t say so many bad words.” Parents apparently asked the teachers, “How can we become calmer? Can we also learn to be less reactive?”
3Di agrees completely with Goldie Hawn that, “A peaceful, happy child is the first step toward a peaceful, happy world.”
“My mission is one mother’s attempt to foster happiness, success, and emotional literacy in those who will inherit our world with all its beauty and flaws. By fostering the same in ourselves, we can lead by the example of our own joyfulness and peace of mind.”
The teaching profession, of course, ought also to be full of joyfulness and peace of mind, and it’s up to the profession to ask itself whether this is really the case, or whether it’s full of stress, anxiety and pressure to raise academic results at the cost of the real wellbeing of pupils and teachers alike. If this latter situation is the norm, why do we tolerate it?
Needless to say, in most countries around the world there is no tradition of putting personal, social, emotional and spiritual development ahead of all else, let alone encouraging greater autonomy in pupils, a love of learning for its own sake, and learning based on creativity and active learning through first-hand experience and pupil collaboration instead of competition.
Goldie Hawn’s book, it seems to us, insists that we stop putting the cart before the horse in our frenzied attempts to raise measureable ‘academic’ attainment – i.e. scores in timed tests and exams.
A few final quotes from the book:
I longed to show children everywhere how to rediscover their natural joy, understand the value of their emotions, and learn to feel empathy for others.
We chose to focus on schools because these are the places where children spend most of their young lives. By creating a community in the classroom, especially for those without a lot of support at home, we hoped to provide a safe haven imbued with optimism and joy.
The essense of MindUP is that children learn the simple biology of their own brains. They learn how the emotional part of the brain can hijack the more clear-thinking areas that keep us calm and focused. Discovering the mechanics of the brain helps children understand where their emotions come from. It allows them to become more self-aware and empowers them to manage and reduce their own stress. It effectively puts them in control of the way they respond to the outside world.
[In a month and a year in which there are continuing reports of children stabbing each other to death in our cities, this is surely worth considering.]
“Once they have grasped brain basics, they are taught how their thoughts and feelings affect their behaviour. They discover the effects breathing has on the brain. They are taught how to appreciate the sensory aspects of their lives and what responses they evoke. Finally, they explore their emotional states and are taught social and interpersonal skills. In a way, MindUP tends to children’s souls.”
Let’s hope that a movement of parents and teachers working together can demand that every school becomes ‘a safe haven imbued with optimism and joy’.
Here’s what other reviewers have said about “10 Mindful Minutes“:
“This is a remarkable book. It is full of wisdom for us all – parents and other care givers – inviting us to taste mindfulness for ourselves. Here is a chance not to be missed: to learn from the inside how mindfulness can help us to see clearly and respond wisely to the emotional and developmental needs of our children . . . giving back to your children their childhood, while they still have a chance to live it.” – Mark Williams, Director, University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre.
“Goldie Hawn is arguably the most influential happiness expert of our time . . . she radiates it in her family and through the work of her foundation. This book artfully blends the latest science and easy how-to advice . . . it’s an engaging must-read for every parent interested in raising a focused, balanced and happy child.” – Dan Buettner
“The kids just got it right away, and seemed hungry for something that would help them manage the stresses in their life.” – Dr Kimberly Schonert-Reichl.
“GoldieHawn has given us a beautiful guide to one of our most important roles – raising healthy, joyful and resilient children.” – Greg Hicks, bestselling author.