One lesson I include when teaching the Mindful Schools 16-session curriculum is an activity I like to call “Being Your Best Self.” It’s also a great lesson to use for reflection at the beginning or end of the school year, to help kids set clearer intentions about their work and relationships at school and in life.
Age range: All ages
Time: 20 minutes
Tell your students that today we’re going to be using mindfulness to learn how we can bring our best qualities into our lives. Begin with a couple of minutes of mindful breathing, then invite the students to recall a time when they were not their best self, when they made a choice that they regretted. Ask them to pick a word to label what happened, and to notice where in their body they feel this experience. Be sure to leave some space for them to connect somatically with the felt sense of the experience.
Have everyone open their eyes and invite your students to share. Write the title “Not Best Self” on the board, and list beneath it all of the words they chose. Examples include: dishonest, lying, stealing, mean, fighting, etc.
Then, return to stillness with eyes closed. Invite them to recall a time they felt like they were their best self. Have them remember what they said or did, and what it felt like. Again, ask them to choose one word to describe that experience, and then to notice where they feel it in their bodies now.
Open the eyes and share. Gather all of their words and write them on the board under the title “Best Self.” Some examples might be: kind, generous, courageous, helpful, etc.
To finish, compare and contrast the two lists. Discuss what direction our life is headed from both sides. This has been such a meaningful exercise, with stories that always amaze me, from stealing to saving a drowning playmate. Every year after finishing the curriculum I ask kids for their top three favorite lessons. ‘Best Self’ makes the cut every time!
Sally Arnold, RN, BSN, MA, is a mindfulness educator and graduate of the Mindful Schools Year-Long Certification Program. Sally is the founder of Mindful Compass, a company that teaches mindful based curriculum to schools, parents, health professionals and general audiences. Sally has worked extensively with rural schools, mentoring teachers, students and administrators to integrate yearlong, sustainable mindfulness programs in their schools.