All around the country, schools are once again in session. For many communities, virtual school has become a reality, accompanied by a challenging learning curve for both parents and students. Greater screen time, mastering a new schedule, managing technology issues, and longing for face-to-face connection with friends are just a few of the impacts of virtual learning inducing stress on young minds.
Embedding mindful moments into daily routine has never been more essential in supporting our children’s mental wellness. Finding a few minutes to sit, breath, and relax can be a great way to decompress and bond as a family while mitigating the mental—and even physical—effects of long days of screen-centric learning. The following are five ways to use mindful moments throughout a virtual school day.
1. Visualization at the Beginning of the Day
The power of visualization is not a secret. Using it in the morning to envision positive outcomes can foster intention, purpose, and confidence. Leading by example, parents can show kids how to manifest a positive outlook even before their feet hit the ground in the morning. Start with a few deep breaths and proceed with slow visualization of each phase of the day. Kids can be encouraged to try the exercise as they wake up, or families can do it together at the breakfast table and make it a topic of daily breakfast conversation.
2. Emptying Thoughts Before Class
Hitting the reset button is also a helpful way to begin a new experience with a fresh perspective and renewed energy. Before each class begins, take a minute to sit in a quiet space, ideally away from an open computer. With eyes closes and palms up or resting on the belly, focus on the feeling of the air flowing in and out of the nose. With each inhale, observe any thoughts that arise without judgement. (One might visualize collecting these thoughts in a cup as a cup would hold water). With an extended exhale, gently release each thought with soft smile. (Visualize slowly emptying the cup as the breath exits the belly, chest, and mouth). Actively set an intention to clear the mind and relax the body with the final few deep breaths. Now enjoy starting class with a clear mind.
3. A Positive Affirmation Before a Test
For older students, tests and presentations are still a consideration and are likely to become more challenging with the element of virtual learning. Mindful breathing and positive affirmations can be effective techniques to invoke patience, focus, and confidence. Begin with a few breaths, this time sitting in the place where the test or presentation will take place. Ideally with eyes closed, imagine the mind becoming sharper and the body becoming more relaxed with each breath. With the next few breaths, silently repeat, “I am calm, I am ready, and I can do this.” Each repetition inspires composure and courage. Then, finish with a few peaceful breaths to relax the body and mind. Visualization can also be used with cadenced breathing to envision the challenge, the actions, and the positive outcome.
4. Mindful Movements and Fresh Air
This may be the most important mindful moment of the day—taking a break from the computer to engage in mindful movement like yoga or even dancing. At least once a day, mindful movement should also be paired with an opportunity to get outside. The re-energizing effects of fresh air cannot be overstated, especially for children with boundless energy. Taking 15-minute breaks between classes to walk outside and enjoy the sun, air, and sounds of nature should be a priority not a luxury. It can also be a great way for families to bond and have fun during the day. A slow, mindful walk is one option, where attention is individually paid to all five senses to take in the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of the outdoors, and even the taste of fresh air. Grounding with bare feet in the grass or soil is also one of the best ways to push the reset button. Studies show the effects of grounding— or “earthing” as it is also known—can improve health, focus, and sleep and even encourage calm.
5. Sharing Gratitude at the End of the Day
A mindful day isn’t complete without taking a moment to show gratitude for day’s experiences. This is another exercise that families can enjoy together; many choosing to share stories of gratitude at the dinner table. Another good option is to find a comfortable meditation position in bed and, with closed eyes and focused breath, to visualize the events of the day and give thanks along the way. This is essentially the review of the morning visualization routine.
With just a few weeks of mindful moments built into a daily virtual learning routine, children can learn how to empower themselves with conscious breathing, visualization, mindful movement, and moments of gratitude. The effects can be life changing and the bonding unforgettable.