What if I told you that we can change our school culture and improve the mental well-being of our kids, our staff and our teachers – and that we can start today with very little effort? Would you be interested?
THE SIMPLE THINGS MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
I met a principal recently after I spoke. The principal said, “You know, Jeff – after my announcements, I think I’m going to tell the kids, ‘…and remember: I love you.’”
About a month or two later, kids are telling me on social media that, every single day after the announcements, the principal says – “…and remember: I love you.”
I think that’s awesome. You know as well as anybody knows that many of our kids are coming from broken homes and are not getting what they want and need: relationships, unconditional love, support and validation.
Sometimes as teachers, coaches and administrators, we fill that role by default – and the simple things make the greatest difference in the world. Little things like a smile, a kind gesture or a simple high-five can be just the encouragement a young person needs to get through the day.
So number one is validating your kids and giving them what they need when they come to school every day.
THE POWER OF YOGA
I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been and I’ll tell you why.
That’s right, my friends. And hold on before you go there. It’s not just yoga but everything that comes with it – meditating, breathing and learning to become present. I’ve recently lost 100 pounds, I’m free of diabetes and I’m having more fun than ever.
A big reason for this transformation is my self-care, and self-care is something that corporations are bringing into the workplace and colleges are implementing on campuses. Schools are starting to mandate mental health classes for their students.
Why wait for the Department of Education to mandate new curriculum for us when we can just do it - and, as I said, with very little effort?
Let me explain.
Yoga studios are popping up in every community. They are becoming as common as seeing a Starbucks in town. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation and body treatments like reiki are now part of our mainstream culture.
Yoga is here to stay – along with stretching, breathing and meditation – but I know that sometimes these things get lumped into a category called alternative health practices – as if they are somehow less important to your well-being.
These days, we’re placing a lot of focus on our teens and their overall mental health, so something has got to change around our perception of yoga.
There is growing research to back up yoga’s mental health benefits. Yoga increases body awareness. It relieves stress and reduces muscle tension, strain and inflammation. It sharpens attention and concentration and calms and centers the nervous system. That’s pretty awesome.
We live in hyper-connected world where we are constantly attached to our devices. Schools are scrambling to come up with sensible smartphone policies, but we all know that smartphones are here to stay. Technology is changing, and we have to change with it – but we can’t let technology overshadow our well-being.
Did you know that if you spend more than four or five hours a day on your smartphone, you are 70 percent more likely to have major depression in your life.
We can counter this trend in a positive way.
What if we did just did a few minutes of breathing before class? one minute or two minutes or three minutes of just breathing before class? We learn the practice of Ujjayi - where you inhale through your nose for a count of four and you exhale through your nose for a count of four. What if we just did that?
What if we invited a yoga instructor to school and paid them what a substitute teacher gets for a day? They could do an hour or 45 minutes before school of breathing, meditating and stretching. You could have someone do this during lunch or after school. You could do it in the cafeteria, on the stage, in a classroom or in a hallway that’s away from all the noise.
This is not hard to do. But think about the benefits of 30 minutes or an hour a day of just being present. Breathing. Stretching. No noise. No cell phones. No social media. Wouldn’t that be awesome!
What an outlet! What a gift that we’d be giving to our school community!
Here are the benefits and why I think it’s so important for us to implement in our schools.
Yoga has been shown to enhance our social well-being through a sense of belonging to others. It improves the symptoms of depression, ADD, hyperactivity and sleep disorders.
Think about this: When our youth today are feeling more alone than they have ever felt and they feel that they are a disappointment or a burden – these are symptoms of suicidal ideation.
Also – yoga had been shown to increase the level of an amino acid called Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid – or GABA, which acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. GABA helps to regulate nerve activity, which is especially relevant to people who have anxiety disorders because GABA levels are very low in some of these people.
Yoga improves the mood, behavior and mindfulness of both students and adults.
What about adding yoga classes as a physical education component? It’s been shown to improve workplace well-being and resilience.
A yoga program will improve school culture.
Aren’t we talking about that with our young people – about resilience and grit, being more present and more calm – not reacting but learning to respond effectively? Don’t you think that if we reduce their stress and overall anxiety, we’re probably going to improve relationships and test scores?
Clearly, my friends – mind and body practices like yoga, meditation and deep breathing can reduce stress and improve our stress-related nervous system. It’s the relaxation response that accompanies these mind and body practices that lead to the many improvements to our physical and mental health.
Think about it. This is a game changer. Why aren’t we doing it?
I’d love to chat with you about coming and sharing with you what I do and visiting with your school – speaking with teens, teachers, counselors, parents and community. For more info, go HERE.