The Royal Blind School in Edinburgh has been using mindfulness to help pupils improve their mental wellbeing
Visual impairment charity, Royal Blind has created a documentary about techniques used by the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh to help pupils deal with the stresses of everyday life.
The school has created a tailored and structured programme for each of its pupils which uses mindfulness to help them relax.
Narrated by drama teacher Aine Murphy, one of the minds behind the new programme alongside mindfulness trainer Stan Godek, it explains how mindfulness has had a "big impact" on the pupils.
“Our pupils have a lot of stresses throughout the day, whether it’s transitioning from one class to another, or whether something unexpected happens or they are worrying about their exams,” she explains.
“Sometimes these stresses get too much to manage, so mindfulness helps our young people to find strategies to be able to deal with that.
“Pupils are a lot more aware of breathing to calm down or using different strategies to calm down in moments of stress.”
Godek, who has authored a book on the topic, Mindfulness Techniques for Children and Young People – a Practical Guide, published by Children in Scotland, based his work with the Royal Blind School last year.
He said: “Changes in the children’s behaviour and learning were sometimes quite dramatic and in other cases occurred slowly, over a lengthy period of time.
“We saw improvements in the children’s understanding of themselves and why they behaved in certain ways; a lessening of anxiety levels; a better understanding of why they got angry about certain things and what to do to change this; improvements in self-esteem; increased understanding of how their behaviour affects other people; increased levels of empathy and compassion for others; an increase in concentration levels, in listening skills and in the ability to pay attention in the classroom.”
Mindfulness is the act of paying more attention to the present moment, to your own thoughts and feelings and your environment in order to improve your mental wellbeing.
At the Royal Blind School, Murphy, Godek and teacher Caren Bryce developed a mindfulness programme with an educational and psychological basis.
Staff introduced materials to exercises, bringing different textures, sounds and smells such as fur, feathers, water, sand, peppermint oil, leaves – even jelly, as an aid to story-telling and as sensory stations for pupils to quietly explore.
The programme also involved Tai Chi, focussing on breathing and controlled movements, outside in the school grounds where possible.
It is now being furthered to develop the students’ sense of empathy and compassion.
Murphy added: “Through working with Stan we’ve realised the importance of look at people’s moods, how they control their emotions, what their emotions are, having power over themselves and also awareness of other young people – empathy.”