Mindfulness is about being present and engaged in the moment—paying attention to your thoughts and feelings in a nonreactive and nonjudgmental way. Certainly, it’s not a cure-all for stress or burnout, but it can be quite effective when you consistently practice it. For example, for eight weeks, Kitty Ka Yee Tsang and her colleagues engaged teachers in varied mindfulness activities—body scanning, cognitive exercises, self-reflection, and mindful eating. At the end, participants reported higher levels of life satisfaction, positive emotion, and general health and lower levels of insomnia, stress, and negative emotion.
Understandably, with a busy schedule, it may be challenging to make mindfulness part of your routine. However, with the following easy-to-access apps, you can pause for just a minute or two and self-calm, refuel, and refocus in time for your next class.
Headspace is well-suited for K–12 teachers looking to relax or tune in to their thoughts and emotions. It also provides sleep casts, cognitive focusing activities, and stress-release exercises. There is an accompanying blog (on the app’s website) that supports mental wellness. Writers offer tips for dealing with loneliness, social anxiety, stress, and other depressive states.
Once you download the app, you can select your focus—sleep soundly, reduce stress, eat mindfully, etc.—and activities that are so aligned will be automatically generated. You may opt for one or multiple foci, as I usually do, and find your way to a happier and healthier personal and professional life.
Headspace is currently free for teachers and support staff in the U.S. and several other countries. Otherwise, it has a seven-to-14-day free trial, and then costs $69.99 (annually) for continued access to the complete library.
Of course, if you are looking for something free, there are other apps to explore. I have been fortunate to find a few. They are the ones that follow.
2. Smiling Mind
At the onset of the pandemic, I discovered Smiling Mind and quickly signed up using my existing Facebook account. It offers guided meditations to help one detox (emotionally), channel positive thoughts, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude. There are on-the-go meditations, as well, if you’re walking or on a flight. You can easily reconnect with yourself and the space around you.
I’ve used Smiling Mind to self-soothe right before my classes. I’m usually more lucid, tempered, and empathetic during my sessions, and I can tell that students find me much more amicable and approachable. Often, they will comment, “Miss is in a good mood today.” And it’s true. I usually am.
3. Healthy Minds Program
To get started, you can take the Healthy Minds Program self-assessment to find your wellness baseline. This takes three to five minutes to complete, and it measures your responses to a series of self-focused questions. The results indicate your level of self-awareness and attentiveness, empathy, and compassion. You can also assess your interpersonal skills, self-knowledge, adaptability, value system, and clarity of purpose.
There are meditations in this program for cultivating kindness (toward yourself and others), appreciation, and compassion. Others can assist you with finding greater meaning in life and embodying the values you hold dear. The stress- and overwhelm-relieving activities can help you regain your focus, passion, and enthusiasm, and remain calm when chaos abounds.
Importantly, you can also use the well-being chart on the app to monitor your progress over time. You can see the sessions you’ve completed, the total time spent on the activities, and how aware, connected, insightful, and purpose driven you have become.
4. UCLA Mindful
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Mindful Awareness Research Center has a free mindfulness app, called UCLA Mindful, for Apple and Android users. It has basic and podcast-type wellness meditations. You can choose depending on your need and availability. There are sessions to help you work through difficulties, improve your sleep, and harness positive emotions.
If you wish, you can also register for UCLA’s six-week online classes for more in-depth and comprehensive mindfulness training. Classes look at forgiveness, navigating difficult emotions, reframing obstacles, and practicing self-care. These sessions come at a small charge, but if the basic meditations are sufficient for you, then you can continue to access them for free.
5. Mindfulness Coach
Like the aforementioned apps, Mindfulness Coach has many meditation exercises to help you find your zen. You can set mindfulness goals, maintain a mindfulness log, and track your progress. But the app doesn’t stop there. You can use it to build your expertise in mindfulness. For example, you can learn about the benefits of mindfulness, types of mindfulness, and strategies for cultivating inner calm and peace.
Choose any of the above apps that suit your needs, and start or continue your mindfulness journey. Remember, mindfulness practices can enhance and support your overall health and productivity. Moreover, we are no good to our learners if we don’t take care of our mental, physical, and emotional well-being.