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You might have seen last week’s ‘Horizon’ programme, entitled ‘Can You Change Your Mind?’.  The presenter, Michael Mosley, a habitually neurotic middle-aged man like myself, decided to see if he could achieve a more relaxed outlook .

I was interested to mosleysee what he might try, as I have from time to time had cause  to question the way my  mind works. Do you, like me, sometimes wonder ‘why am I so stressed? Or ‘why can’t I seem to concentrate?’

If your answer is yes, you are not alone, especially if you work in a school.  Working with kids is stressful. However, it’s often other adults that seem to be the cause of our anxiety. Or it’s workload, or pressure to raise standards or some other aspect of the job.

This Horizon programme is just one of a number of recent radio, TV and other publications that discuss an activity that just might help a great many of us if we’re willing to have a go and stick at it.

Michael Mosley tried a twin track approach. On the one hand, he underwent a programme of Cognitive Modification – by looking at faces on a computer screen to train himself to notice the happy faces (at first he had found he was biased to notice those with negative expressions). I can’t vouch for this as I haven’t tried it; what caused me to write this blog was the other strategy he  employed :

Mindfulness meditation.

“Now hold on!” I hear you saying. “Meditation? But I’m not religious, I don’t like hummus, I have no orange clothing and I don’t own any George Harrison albums, this can’t be for me!”

Well, here’s where I disclose to you that I’ve actually been doing this myself for a few weeks. And you know what…it’s really good!

I was a child of the70’s raised with the punk rock mantra ‘never trust a hippy’ and the smell of Patchouli Oil always makes me feel a bit nauseous so I’m definitely not ‘that way inclined’ if you know what I mean. Hell, I thought Pilates was a Greek philosopher! But it’s working for me….

Mosley stuck to a programme of about 10 minutes Mindfulness meditation a day and at the end of six weeks he reported a new, calmer and more positive outlook. He felt happier.

So what is this ‘mindfulness’ then?

Well, it’s really  quite simple. Doing it isn’t the  challenge  – it’s  making yourself stop to do it that’s the toughie!

I sit upright in a chair at a time when I wont be disturbed. I  close my eyes.

Guided by a recorded voice through my headphones, I  focus my attention on my feet, registering any and all sensations that happen to be there.

I don’t try to change anything, I just let my mind focus on that part of me.

Then I move my attention to the legs and then a little later to my midriff and so on up until I reach the top of my head.

Finally for a couple of minutes I focus on my breathing. If any thoughts come to mind I just register where my mind has gone to and gently escort it back to my breathing. I don’t beat myself up that my mind has wandered, I expect it to happen, but by bringing my mind  back to the breathing I am training myself to let the thoughts go.

The overall effect is that, instead of thoughts taking over and gnawing away at me, I am beginningto see them as passing clouds against a blue sky.

Another metaphor that us often used is stepping back behind a waterfall. Instead of drowning in stressful thoughts, we step back and observe them.

I am really only starting out on this journey but I know enough to say “it works”.

In schools many of us are tasked with promoting and teaching SEAL. We’ve signed up to it and we can see the benefits for the pupils. Yet somehow for us, there’s something missing .. and I am starting to think that mindfulness is that extra component. I’ll be doing a lot with this in future months. I’m lucky to have been asked to join the steering group for  a research project that Leeds University is running. the aim is to explore what kind of mindfulness intervention would benefit schools.

It’s great to see ‘Horizon’ and other media mentioning all this. I can it’s doing  me good, at the very least!

Have a great summer















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