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7 Easy Steps to Personalized Mindfulness

By Nick Mosca, M.Div.
Featured on LearningPersonalized.com

Mindfulness involves easing into the present moment and choosing to respond to whatever arises with as much compassion as possible. It’s important to remember that mindfulness is a process — and it takes practice. But it’s worth it. The more tuned into the present we are, the richer our lives become.

Personalized learning both jumpstarts and revitalizes mindfulness practices for adults and children alike. It achieves this by offering the freedom to choose how we want to return to the present whenever our awareness wanders off into the past or the future.

We are often told to count our breath, watch thoughts float by like clouds, or some variation of these exercises in order to become more mindful. And this works for some people. Yet kids (and easily bored adults like me) often find such one-size-fits-all imagery mismatched with our unique preferences and learning styles. As a result, we may find a thousand excuses to do something else – anything else – but mindfulness practices.

In light of this, I’ve developed and use the following seven easy steps when conducting personalized mindfulness sessions. These steps have made mindfulness practices relevant to hundreds of administrators, teachers, parents, and students – all while harnessing their intrinsic motivation.

Step 1: Allow Participants to Voice Their Stress

My clients often carry their stress around like heavy weights strapped to their minds and bodies. After all, administrators are responsible for the optimal performance of hundreds of students and teachers – alongside budget constraints. In addition, teachers face increasing numbers of students with a diversity of learning styles and behavioral issues – on top of endless grading and professional evaluations.

For their part, parents must constantly juggle the stresses of work and home life – not to mention the many responsibilities of their children. Students, meanwhile, must navigate their rapidly changing bodies with academic and extracurricular performance, demanding adults, and social anxiety. Whew.

Many people don’t always name all the stress that bogs them down. Yet, as we’ll see in the steps that follow, owning it is the first personalized mindful step toward disowning it.

Step 2: Understand How Stress Relates to Mindfulness

The great news is we are not our stress. We are far more than it. There is a gap between stress and our response to it. In that gap is where personalized mindfulness comes in to play.

Step 3: Appreciate the Multiple Benefits of Mindfulness

The benefits of mindfulness are as diverse as those who practice it. Overall, these benefits can address many of the stresses that were voiced in the first step. Here are some of the more common ones:

  • An enhanced ability to attune to the present needs of ourselves and others
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Real-time awareness of emotional reactions/patterns
  • The ability to proactively regulate how we respond to stress
  • Greater enthusiasm for life, family, friends, and even work
  • Overall stress reduction
  • Community-building via enriched communication among administrators, teachers, parents, and students
  • In addition to the above, there are numerous academic and scientific articles that underscore the benefits of mindfulness in education

For Administrators and Teachers:

The American Psychological Association’s “Mindfulness Training and Reductions in Teacher Stress and Burnout: Results From Two Randomized, Waitlist-Control Field Trials.”

For Parents:

The Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review’s “A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent-Child Relationships and Prevention Research.”

Step 4: Take a Brief Self-Inventory

Personalized mindfulness is based on a concept called “skillful means,” or using our abilities and interests to redirect back to the present with a non-judgmental attitude.

To gauge which skillful means might work best, it is first helpful to take a brief survey like the one below:

  1. If you could only have three superpowers, what would they be?
  2. List three of your favorite fun activities.
  3. What are your genuine interests? (academic, vocational, extracurricular, etc…) List as many as you want.
  4. What are your three favorite senses?
  5. Complete the questionnaire located at the following website at literacyworks.com

Based on the results of the questionnaire, answer the following questions:

  1. What are your optimal learning styles? (give the top two results from your assessment)
  2. What are your optimal learning environments?
  3. Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?

Step 5: Look for a Main Pattern

To help participants discover a main pattern amidst their self-inventories, I share how many of my responses could somehow be traced to sound. For instance, one of the things I do for fun is attend live music events, a genuine interest of mine is piano playing, and, to top it all off, my optimal learning style is musical in nature.

Step 6: Choosing Our Own Paths to Mindfulness

This individualized mindfulness method has instilled an intrinsic motivation to meditate – and not just during designated meditation times. I now find mindfulness spilling over into all aspects of my life. When I’m stressing, the sound of a passing car might gently guide me back to the present where I can find some refuge.

I encourage administrators, teachers, parents, and students to uncover the unique skillful means that works best for them. Practically any life-giving sensation or activity has the potential to bring you back to the moment – from mindful eating to dancing. Experiment with what works best for you!

Step 7: Revel in Your Personalized Approach

Schedule at least 20 intentional minutes a day when you use your unique skillful means to stay as present as possible. These 20 minutes need not be consecutive. In fact, I often focus on the sounds of a different five-minute song at four varying times throughout the day.

Closing Thoughts

Mindfulness is too beneficial to be discounted as another annoying thing on our already busy to-do lists. Through these seven steps, we can harness the power of personalized learning to become more mindful. As a result, we just might begin to practice not because we have to, but because we want to.

* * *

Nick is a Unity Wellness Group Mindfulness Educator.  Drawing on over ten years of experience, Nick’s professional development courses, webinars, and presentations have enabled hundreds of clients to align mindfulness practices with their skills and interests. Nick holds a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University where he won The Billings Prize for inspiring behavioral change through positive humor. He is an avid speaker and writer through The Atlantic, WABC Radio, Yale University, Psychology Today, New York University, The Milken Scholars Program, Share Fair Nation, The HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, The George Jackson Academy, Toastmasters International, and as the Research Chairman for The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor.

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