A recent neuroscientific article was published in the New York Times entitled, “Post-Prozac Nation.” It offered more evidence that clarified yet again the importance of doing just one thing. In order to regulate emotions to remain in the optimum zone of arousal necessary for success, there is only one most essential action to take: inaction. Sitting in stillness for as long as we can changes the brain in ways that are critical to the improvements we need to see in education and parenting RIGHT NOW. Sitting in stillness – in a mindful way – is medicine to the brain because it is the opposite experience – the antidote – to the stressful “doing, doing, doing” that we engage in now. Our constant and rather mindless “doing” is causing our brain-body to degenerate, quite literally. Our current way of life is producing a degree of stress and thereby cortisol that is causing the significant loss of neurons and neural pathways in the parts of our brain that regulate emotion. Eventually, when stress is constant, as it is for all of us today, including our children, the brain-body shuts down and causes the apathy we see all around us, especially in our schools.
A prolific amount of neuroscience continues to arrive at the same finding: the only way to increase the self-regulation necessary for success in any endeavor, academic, social, or behavioral, is to experience self-regulation. We build back neurons and neural pathways for any behavior when we engage in the behavior. When we mindfully (with sensory awareness) sit in stillness and allow our brain-body to settle, neurons for that more peaceful, calm experience fire and form neural circuitry that makes self-regulation of emotion more and more possible. More self-regulation means more self-discipline, and more self-discipline means more success. Please know that if you want to see improvements in your children, in your students, and in your life, creating more self-regulatory capacity in YOU is what will lead to the change you want to see.
Ways to practice sitting still in a mindful way can include yoga or meditation but they don’t have to. If you are interested in either of those approaches please visit www.getsomeheadspace.com and www.tricycle.com or learn more about the science behind the importance of these approaches in schools and at home at www.edutopia.org and www.rickhanson.net. If you’re like me, however, and yoga and meditation seem intimidating or too time-consuming, simply do my “60 seconds” every chance you get, while taking a shower, driving your car, or standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. We can all afford to steal 60 seconds to give our brain-body what it needs. I have written about my “60 seconds” many times – it is part of my soon-to-be-released K-12 curriculum entitled, “Brain Charge: Sensory Awareness for Student Achievement.” The tool is also included with my blog each time it’s sent out, I just haven’t called it that until recently. Simply, feel your feet on the ground – really notice they are flat on the ground. Take in the sensory support of whatever is around you – the chair you’re sitting in or the sun warming your face. Breathe in through your nose, and imagine being in nature or with your pet. These simple four steps/tools soon become a single gestalt that becomes more automatic with practice. I know I’ve said these words before, the powerful words of Mahatma Gandhi, but they are becoming more and more true for me everyday, as I study the neuroscience and better myself as a mother and educator: If we want to SEE a change in the educational system, in our students, in our children, we have to BE the change we’re longing for. When WE self-regulate OUR emotions, when we learn and use the tools for ourselves, when we model and teach them to our students and children, they follow our lead and the change we want to see is ours.