Girls' School Adopts Mindfulness

June 12, 2014 at 3:50 PM

'A large part of everyday is not lived consciously.’ - Virginia Woolf

Saint Kentigern Girls’ School is the first all-girls school in New Zealand to introduce a mindfulness programme for its senior girls in Years 7 & 8. The internationally run school programme, ‘.b’ [pronounced dot-be] stands for ‘Stop, Breathe and Be’ and teaches the girls what mindfulness is and how to practise this in their daily lives.

In a time where technology urges and allows us to quickly bypass our life experiences with instant online sharing, .b is all about embracing to be fully present in the moment, as this is it.

Being mindful is not about what has happened or what might happen, but it trains us to respond skilfully to whatever is happening right now, be that good or bad. It calls for us to slow down and direct our attention to our life experiences as they are unfolding, moment by moment.

The nine lesson programme is led by the only mindfulness teacher trained to teach .b in New Zealand, Dr Nick Penney, and began in Term 2. It was initiated by the Girls’ School Principal, Dr Sandra Hastie after hearing Dr Penney speak on the subject at an Independent Schools Conference.

Dr Hastie says at the most simple level, .b is an awareness raising exercise to give the Year 7 and 8 students a taste of mindfulness so that they know about it, and hopefully they can see the benefits of using the tools throughout their life to deal with stress and anxiety.

She says the Girls’ School is excited about the introduction of this programme into their school and believes that it will make a difference to the students by equipping them with the necessary tools to handle the increasing pressures that they face as they transition into young women.

The benefits are said to be enhanced physical and mental wellbeing by increasing your ability to relax, improve your self-esteem, and give you more energy and enthusiasm for life.

For the students, having an awareness of their mind and how it works can help give them the ability to deal with interruptions in and out of the classroom, resulting in being calmer and more focused. Overall this can provide the opportunity for improved performance, self-regulation and management.

The Year 7 and 8 students each have a weekly one hour session with Dr Penney onsite at the Girls’ School. The classroom sessions are fully interactive and involve a combination of breathing exercises, class engagement through feedback and video clips.

Additionally, staff at the girls school have undertaken professional development with Dr Penney on how to use the tools of mindfulness and have reported the benefits that this approach has given them in their own everyday lives.

As an option, Dr Penney also offers the students home practice exercises. Set to daily sound files, these include self-reflective tasks such as breath counting, anchoring attention into bodily sensations, sitting like a statue and observing their thoughts.  

Dr Penney says the reason why mindfulness is important is because stress levels in society are running at an all-time high. He believes the art of this practice is likely to shape society over the next ten years.

‘The tools from the lessons will help the girls cope with stress and anxiety later in their teen and adult years, and will also teach them how to take control over whatever is happening in their life,’ he says.  

He also says that resilience levels in young people have dropped.

‘Resilience is the ability to bounce back when things go badly, and mindfulness can help to strengthen this part of the brain,’ he says.

In conjunction with teaching the Mindfulness in Schools Project for children, Dr Penney also facilitates a mindfulness programme for adults, some of who are parents of the girls. He says when both parents and children are active in practising mindfulness, the parents are able to reinforce the skills they have learnt with their children.

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