Promoting Mindfulness and Self-Care in Schools and Organizations: 123 Wellness
Picture yourself as an airplane pilot. You’re sitting in the cockpit. Your plane is on the runway. You're grounded for the moment until you're given the green light to fly above the clouds. In front of you, there are dozens of switches. Buttons. Levers. Some of them have flashing colors- red- yellow –green- is that mauve?
The buttons in front of you could be intimidating. Very intimidating…..if you are NOT trained how to use levers to help you fly. If you DO know how to use the buttons, levers and read the colors at your disposal, you will take off with ease. Eventually soar. Fly high above the clouds...
In this analogy, the plane is like your body. For your body, there are also certain levers, buttons and colors that can be used to help you take off in life. These buttons and levers often come in the form of emotions. If you (whether you are 3 or 103 years old) know how to use your emotions for your benefit, to promote wellness, your life will take off. You will soar!
Oftentimes, we are not really taught how to deal with stress, process emotions, calm down or increase our energy when appropriate. Thus our plane, our potential, sometimes feels grounded even when we are yearning to take flight. With mindfulness, the non-judgmental attention in the present moment, we are able to give attention to the wisdom that speaks to us through our body's feelings and yes, emotions, on a regular basis. In our high anxiety, high pressured culture, we need systems that support our health. A GPS system for our emotional well-being, if you will. Instead of remaining on emotional auto pilot, we want to take charge of the plane. Become aware of our emotions. Our needs. Our capacity to take FLIGHT!
With this in mind, I created a simple, three-step mindfulness process for teachers, parents, students, schools and organizations called 123 Wellness to take control of their emotional and physical wellbeing. The process is designed to help you increase environmental awareness, self-awareness, emotion regulation and infuse wellness practices into your daily life so that your actual DNA changes. Your parasympathetic nervous system paves the way for calm when you are stressed. Your amygdala is calmed during fight, flight or freeze so that you can take off and fly above the clouds of your life to watch for your feelings and needs from a birds eye view and enter into a wellness practice mindfully.
In the video below that Dr. Jim Walters, who is leading a successful resilience movement at Confluence Charter Schools, artfully put together to showcase the process. Notice how High School and Middle school students are empowered to take the lead with their own wellness and self-care by the end of the video.
As you saw, instead of starting with a wellness practice (like calm breathing, journaling, visualization, yoga, jumping jacks, meditation and more), we start with intentionality with step 1- outward check, by asking: What do I notice in my environment? Am I safe right now?
In step 2, the self-check, we turn our attention to our internal environment by asking: How do I feel right now? Is there anything I need?
These first two steps are key prerequisites- often overlooked as people are prone to “pushing the go button” too early without making sure the runway is ready, so to speak. Some people go their whole lives without really giving themselves the gift of their own attention and develop unhealthy coping mechanisms as a result. We aren't going to be those people because we have a process to understand how we are feeling, what we need and a way to match our feelings and needs with a wellness practice through 123 Wellness. By the time we get to step 3, our wellness practices, we are primed to internalize the benefits of our self-care.
Below, you can see an example of how 123 Wellness has been introduced (by students) to their larger school district as part of a holistic plan to help empower students and and educators as they deal with adversity in healthier ways. In a few short weeks, students have become empowered to cultivate wellness wherever they go. At school. At home. During calm times. During difficult times. 123 Wellness can be used regardless of age, race, gender, socioeconomic status or other differences. Why? Because we all have emotions and are capable of taking care of ourselves with mindful attention. Please see the inspirational video that Dr. Walters created below to chronicle their journey.
123 Wellness is a life skill that can change the trajectory of your flight. Of your life. Are YOU ready to soar and begin cultivating wellness, no matter where you go, in 3 easy steps? A good portion of my work with schools, organizations and even families involves questions like this one. Together, we can catalyze wellness in three simple steps.