I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Mindfulness Work

Two More Books to Share...

If you know me at all, you know I'm reading for my mental health (self-help books and adult fiction and memoirs) as well as for my seventh graders (YA/MG books and nonfiction how-to books). Two books I just finished...

They helped me get through the last two weeks of April and this first week of May. My #OneWord for 2022 is "present," and Fully Present was an audiobook I received free for educators through Libro.fm. I learned through these two books to not judge myself when it comes to slipping up during mindfulness, so I forgave myself for listening to it while doing the dishes... ;) I did stop to take notes when I found a gem I wanted to keep. From this one, I was reminded of the myriad benefits of doing NOTHING for a few minutes each day. This means stopping to focus on my breathing, so I can be more in the moment, and less in the past or worrying about the future.

As for Awakened,* I re-read sections of this. I read the first 50 pages in on sitting, then thought of it during school/work the next day. When I got home, I read them again. This is not something I usually do. The next night, I read them again and then summarized them in my own words. I decided my notes for this one would be summaries first, and then I'd fill it in with specific quotes I wanted to look back on later. Because I'm so invested in making my mind healthier, I have all of my self-help / optimism / mindfulness / joy book notes printed out and put into a binder. Those I actually read again every so often when I need a boost / reminder. I love seeing repeated ideas throughout the binder. One other book that won't be in the binder that I've been reading daily is The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. It's got a lot of the same ideas about how to be mindful, controlling your own thoughts, and not letting influences (from all over) change who you want to be. 

These two books have solidified a few things for me.
  1. It is up to ME how I feel. My thoughts control my feelings. I can take control of my thoughts.
  2. Worries, anxieties, fears ... they're all FUTURE based. When I focus on the present, they go away.
  3. When I ruminate about the past, I make those thoughts worse and more concrete, making them harder to go away. I need to remind myself that the other person involved is most likely NOT thinking of those moments now and it's only hurting me. It could even be hurting my physical health.
  4. Stop and think of each current thought. Does it do you any good? If not, let it go or replace it. Just because it's a thought, doesn't mean it's true, and it doesn't mean it's important right now. Plant the seeds of positive thoughts - you'll reap later what you sow now.
  5. It's going to take a lot of time and practice to change your thinking. All our life we're inundated by images and words that influence us. It's time for me to start taking control of what I want influencing me.
I loved being immersed in the language around mindfulness and controlling my own thoughts. Hearing it from one book, reading it in the other, then following up with a quick meditation that helped me to breathe evenly and put me to sleep each night (the Calm app) really helped some of these ideas stick.

Calm App...

    This tool may still be free to educators, I hope. I'm on a streak right now of about two weeks. I've been hearing the same ideas from the two books in the app (words such as "catastrophize" and ideas such as reframing my thoughts). Just last night, after I'd taken some notes about how our thoughts are seeds, I get this one to listen to before bed:

Online Resources...

        It includes a link to their app: UCLA Mindful
        The questions / process:
  1. What negative thought are you struggling with right now? (You can choose or type an answer.)
  2. What's a recent situation that led to this negative thought?
  3. Select the thinking trap. (I really like this one - it shows possible thinking traps, such as "fortune telling," "overgeneralizing," "negative feeling or emotion," and "all-or-nothing thinking," and these change based on what you've put in for your answer. It suggests what it thinks you're doing. The AI here seems to be spot on - at least the two times I tried it.)
  4. Reframe your thinking. (First it tells you - based on what you chose as the thinking trap - a tip for how to overcome that thinking trap. Then it gives you space to type in your own reframing thoughts, and it also gives you three options it came up with. You can even click "Show more reframes" !!) Once you choose or write one, it asks you to see if you can make it more positive, realistic, or helpful. I changed one word of mine - "can" to "will" - you can see my final reframe in the photo below.)
  5. Evaluate the activity. (You do not need to do this. It's part reflection, part info for the AI, I'll bet. There is another section after that which is an optional survey.)
    1. I filled out the survey and was rewarded with a summary (which I didn't know I was going to get - this is much better than the screenshots I took)! Too bad you have to fill out the survey to get it, but maybe you can just click "next" without filling it out...

        The questions they use on this site are simple - so much so that you don't need the site:
  1. What negative thought are you struggling with?
  2. Where does this negative thought come from?
  3. If your friend was dealing with the same negative thought, what would you say to help them feel more hopeful? (I love this question!)
  4. What do you need to say or do so you can truly believe the more hopeful thought?


Of course, I've read many more books on optimism and joy and how to be happy during the fall and winter of the 2020-2021 school year. My post from June of 2021 about those books is here. What makes these different? The lessons are finally STICKING. I was in class the other day saying in my head, "Dismiss. Distract..." and then I focused on something else instead of that worrying/annoying/not helpful thought. Maybe they're sticking because I've read so many with the same ideas. I'll take it. And I'll probably keep reading more. What I want to do first, however, is to practice meditating for 5-10 min a day without falling asleep to it... Taking 5-10 min out of my day to let negative thoughts appear and then dismiss them can only be beneficial.

I will keep learning and practicing. With time and effort, I can learn to recognize and manage negative thoughts.

*One thing I have to add about Awakened... Page 1 starts on the left side of the book. This was at first a source of aggravation for me. By the time I finished the book, my mindset had shifted. I now wonder what other books start that way?