Head of House – Aston

Welcome to Term 2.

Congratulations to Emma Bower  (Aston Year 9, Best Accompanist) for her thorough preparation and beautiful performance at the 2019 Music Festival. Further congratulations to Akshara Yogesvaran (Aston Year 11, Conductor) for leading the House in a calm and effective manner throughout rehearsals in Term 1. The joy and enthusiasm of students was evident in their ‘angelic Aston’ performance on the night.

We have continued our focus on the ‘10 keys to happier living’ in 2019. Positive psychology expert, Vanessa King has researched evidence-based actions to increase happiness and improve wellbeing. The fundamental principles are:

  • Giving: do things for others
  • Relating: connect with people
  • Exercising: take care of your body
  • Awareness: live life mindfully
  • Trying out: keep learning new things
  • Direction: have goals to look forward to
  • Resilience: find ways to bounce back
  • Emotions: look for what’s good
  • Acceptance: be comfortable with who you are
  • Meaning: be part of something bigger

Aston House have been focusing on awareness’ (living life mindfully) in 2019. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of teaching mindfulness to students. Through mindfulness education, students can develop a lifelong capacity for greater self-awareness, concentration, patience and resilience (Zenner et al. 2014).

The core practice of mindfulness involves consciously paying non-judgemental attention to our thoughts, emotions and experiences.

The way most people start to develop and then nurture their capacity to be mindful is through the practice of meditation. This means regularly setting aside an amount of time to intentionally focus our attention on something particular (such as our breath, body or sounds). This week, Years 9-11 experienced a targeted meditation technique known as the ‘body scan’. In their 30 minute body scan (presented by the ‘Calm’ app), students identified what they were feeling, where they were feeling it, and learnt to release the stress in their body and mind. I spoke to Molly Carter (Year 11) immediately after the meditation session and she shared, “I feel so relaxed. It allowed me to take a step back from everything. I also feel revitalised after the 30 minute body scan.”

Another form of stress alleviation and maintaining ‘flow’ is ‘mindful colouring’. The act of colouring has an ability to create a calming or meditative state and it is linked to reduced activity in the amygdala (the section of the brain that is activated in situations where you feel stressed). Just like meditating, colouring in allows people to focus their attention and be ‘in the moment’. This week, Years 7-9 took time to unplug from their devices as they focused on the present and coloured an intricate mandala. Yasmin Khursigara (Year 9) shared, “We had a chance to relax and focus on the colouring in. It helped to clear my mind. I would do mindful colouring in my own time as it’s fun and relaxing. You don’t have to stress about other things.”

In my Conversations with Year 12 this year, many students have commented on the difficulty they encounter when trying to switch off and get rest each evening. The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated as it builds our immune system, strengthens our memory and ability to learn, and regulates our emotions. Being mindfully aware has been associated with better sleep quality and it can help students develop a regular bedtime routine. Today, I introduced Year 12 students to Sleep stories. Sleep stories are ‘soothing tales that mix music, sound and voices to help you drift into dreamland’ (created by the ‘Calm’ app). Year 12 took a calming journey through the lavender fields and sleepy villages of Provence in ‘Blue Gold’ (narrated by Stephen Fry). There are a range of free sleep stories available for students to access through YouTube to help them wind down in readiness for sleep.

Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.

Mother Teresa

We can all get caught up ruminating on worries or catastrophising about what might happen, making us less happy. However, regularly practising mindfulness can help us manage our emotions, be kinder towards ourselves and others, contribute to happier relationships and help us to be clearer about our values. We will continue to focus on teaching simple mindfulness techniques to students in 2019. I hope that students can start to integrate the techniques that they are being taught in their own time outside of school.

I wish to thank the Aston Advisors, Tutors and Assistant Tutors for their kind and generous support of our students. Their warm and caring approach helps students reflect on their progress and set realistic goals for continued growth. We wish Mrs Rhone well as she commences her maternity leave in Week 7.

 

Related reading:

  • ABC (2019), Mindfully
  • Calm (2019), ‘Calm – take a deep breath’ YouTube videos. 
  • King, V. (2016), 10 Keys to Happier Living, Headline Publishing Group, London, UK.
  • Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz, S. and Walach, H. (2014), Mindfulness-based interventions in schools – a systematic review and meta-analysis, Frontiers in Psychology.

 

Mrs Divya Stanger

Head of Aston House