With school starting in-person this year during a global pandemic, youth are stressed, parents are stressed, and teachers are stressed. I think it is fair to say that just about everyone is stressed. Mindfulness tools can be a great way to unburden ourselves from the stresses we feel, not only from a pandemic, but from everyday life as well.
Mindfulness as described by Jon Kabat Zinn is, “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, and nonjudgementally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” Ultimately, mindfulness is a mental state of being aware and present.
It includes being aware of what is within ourselves and around us. Through this awareness we can experience life without defining certain moments as good or bad, but rather, living contently with the present. Mindfulness has the potential to allow openness to try new experiences and strengthen certain characteristics within ourselves such as resilience, creativity, compassion, and gratitude.
Stress reduction is only one of the ways that mindfulness can improve our health, but it can be quite literally, a mind massage. Mindfulness assists in healthy brain function, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala regions:
- Our prefrontal cortex is the region that control impulses.
- The hippocampus houses our memories and learning abilities.
- And the amygdala is where we process and regulate our emotions.
Additionally, practicing mindfulness has also shown to reduce anxiety symptoms, lower blood pressure, and reduce socio-emotional issues.
4-H offers a mindfulness program to practice different activities to promote mindfulness in our youth. We offer the “Mindful Me” curriculum for youth ages 5 to 8 years old with basic concepts of mindfulness. Older youth, ages 10 to 18 years old may practice mindfulness through the GEM program. GEM stands for GET Experience in Mindfulness. It offers a series of stress management techniques to promote awareness and acceptance of oneself. Sample activities may include:
- Giving presence
- Finding the quiet
- Mindful mapping
4-H youth do not have to be the only ones practicing mindfulness through these programs. Here are some tips to incorporate mindfulness into club meetings, classroom lessons, and workshop activities. Start small, with just 5-10 minutes at the beginning of a meeting or lesson activity. Other suggestions include to start practicing in an educational setting might be setting intentions/goals for that activity, yoga movement breaks, breathing exercises, or short walks.
For more information on the Broward County Extension 4-H Youth Development Program or if you are interested in learning more about our mindfulness program, please visit Broward 4-H Youth Development – UF/IFAS Extension (ufl.edu)
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