Mindfulness Improves Immune Function And Decreases Stress

In just 5-10 minutes a day, students and families who listen to the Inner Explorer audio-guided mindfulness program experience less stress and anxiety, improved immune function and resiliency, as well as increased focus! Inner Explorer is a leading provider of mindfulness programming that is evidence-based and designed for use in PK-12th grade classrooms and homes. Audio practices for the examples below can be found at https://innerexplorer.org/compass/family_resources.

5 Ways to Create Calm from Chaos

  1. Staying Present. Focus on your breath to stabilize your attention. As you inhale, feel the movement of your abdomen, as you exhale, notice if the air feels cool or warm as it travels through your nose or mouth. Do this for a few cycles and sense if you feel more relaxed. Mindful breathing calms the body and the anxious mind. Anxiety can overwhelm us with what MIGHT happen. Our brain has a ‘negativity bias’, so we often imagine the worst-case scenario. When we stay in the present, the bias is overcome, and we can better manage the now. By focusing on our senses during everyday activities, from washing our hands, to preparing meals at home and even standing in long lines, we can practice mindfulness and remain calm.
  2. Finding the Good. Challenged with new uncertainties, it’s natural to focus on the bad, the restrictions, the fears. Our current situation necessitates life changes. But we can appreciate the benefits of slowing down and connecting more closely with friends and family, if not in person, through video chats, calls, and even letters. Normalcy has its own chaos, with families often running in many different directions. Instead, take advantage of this gift of time together. While it may seem difficult to appreciate during hardship, research shows that gratitude lifts our spirits and strengthens our ability to cope.
  3. Using the S.T.O.P technique. Stop. Take a breath. Observe. Proceed. Use this technique anytime, anywhere. The pause is powerful. When you find yourself reacting to a person or situation or even your own thoughts, you can use this simple, effective approach to take a pause and move from reactivity to responsiveness. It only takes a minute.     
  4. Practicing Self-Care. The stressors in our lives are growing. Now we have unanticipated health, financial, and logistical concerns that were unimaginable a few weeks ago. It’s important to nourish ourselves physically and emotionally. Ways to practice self-care include getting eight hours of good quality sleep, consuming proper nutrition, exercising and experiencing the outdoors (while still practicing social distancing). Find time to breathe deeply, enjoy your favorite music, and for quiet reflection. Practicing self-care will improve your health and well-being.
  5. Developing a Daily Habit of Mindfulness. There are many books, podcasts and articles about the benefits of mindfulness. Research shows it reduces stress and anxiety, improves immune function and increases attention and performance. The critical element is daily practice, which can be challenging to integrate into an already busy schedule. Yet, during this time of uncertainty, it may be an ideal opportunity to develop the habit and experience the benefits! We invite you to download the Inner Explorer family app, and begin practicing with your children every day, starting with “Day 1” and continuing through “Day 90’ and then repeat. Inner Explorer App

This Is Where We Are

While we’re searching for at home learning solutions and programs, it’s important to remember to still be discerning. We need to ensure that the courses and systems being delivered are reliable and driven by scientific research. Why am I concerned? Because student mental health during this unstable time needs our focus and attention. We need […]

The 5 W’s of Mindfulness

What is Mindfulness? 
Mindfulness means paying attention to what’s happening right now with curiosity and kindness and without judgment. It’s a practice used in medicine, sports, business, the military and schools. Inner Explorer is a non-profit organization that brings daily mindfulness audio practices of five to ten minutes into K-12 classrooms. Based on the acclaimed Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction protocol, Inner Explorer begins with sitting, breathing and sense exercises (sound, touch, taste, smell, and sight). Over one million students have access to the program (in English and Spanish). Inner Explorer recently launched a family app so, during the pandemic, kids in closed schools and districts can practice at home.

Why Now? 
Mindfulness has become increasingly popular in recent years. Every month more than 40 studies are published proving the advantages of mindfulness. During this uncertain time, with an estimated 40 million students learning at home benefits include both reducing stress and improving focus. In fact, ‘readiness to learn’ fostered by mindfulness, is a bigger predictor of academic success than IQ! Mindfulness also helps kids make wise choices; slowing down promotes responding rather than reacting to situations. This results in calmer kids (whether at home or in school). Hearts open when we slow down and pay attention to the present moment which means we are kinder which makes happier homes and communities. Finally, many studies show that mindfulness actually improves immune function, vitally necessary with the Covid-19 crisis affecting our country.

When?     
While in school, the teacher chooses the time to for the classroom to practice. At home, practice can be any time. Mindfulness in the morning sets the tone for a calm and lovely day. And mindfulness exercises before engaging in homework or assignments can improve focus and make the academic work easier to complete. To create the habit of practice, we recommend following a routine. Scheduling a time for the primary program every day ensures better engagement and more success. The daily program is 5 mins for PreK – 1st grade and 10 minutes for older kids (which, after the first five lessons, includes a two-minute period for reflection or journaling). Additional transition practices are 1 – 4 minutes long and can be used anytime.

Where?
Practicing in a quiet a place, with few interruptions is optimal. However, with some families “sheltering in place” and others ordered to “stay at home”- the best place will be whatever space is available. Families might listen to the program together to decrease disruptions. Remember there are no perfect mindfulness practices, interruptions serve as a reminder to return to the breath, and every time we return to the breath, we’re training our brains to re-focus. Since the family app can be used anywhere, some might even practice while in a park or the back yard. The most important element for the best benefits is daily practice, so be flexible with the location.

Who?
The Inner Explorer program includes four age-specific series of 5-10 minute audio-guided practices for different developmental stages: Preschool – 1st grade; 2nd – 4th grades; 5th – 7th grades; 8th – 12th grades. Each level includes 90 sequenced daily practices. The program contextualizes the practices using age-appropriate language and examples. In school the teacher practices with the kids, and we recommend adults at home do too. Google, General Mills, Apple, Procter & Gamble, the Seattle Seahawks, and the U.S. military are a few of the organizations that have embraced mindfulness to enhance performance and productivity. During this time of change and chaos, parents who practice will benefit as much if not more than their kids.

How?
During this extraordinary period of the COVID-19 virus we accelerated our timetable to release an app developed specifically for families. We’re offering full access to our school program through this app at no cost to families until the end of June 2020.

Go to https://innerexplorer.org/compass/family_onboarding for more information.