Gratitude: Overlooked Blessings

Lesson Introduction & Overview

This short lesson is aimed at helping young people develop an attitude of gratitude. Research shows that gratitude helps people be happier and deal with stress better.

Activity

Talk with the youth about how being grateful for the things in their lives can help increase their happiness and decrease stress.

Ask them what they think it means to be grateful. They might say that it means thankful, appreciating what they have, or feeling pleased or content. If no youth offer ideas, prompt them with these ideas or your own.

But feeling grateful isn’t always easy and isn’t something that everyone does naturally. It’s pretty easy to compare yourself to those around you and wish you had what they had, or to focus on the challenges and frustrations in your lives.

Being grateful is a muscle you can build. Just like you learn or develop a new skill or strength through practice, you can improve your attitude of gratitude by working on it a little bit each day.

Ask young people to think about these perspectives:

  • Do you know how many people in the world today have clean drinking water?

Give youth a chance to respond. Then talk about that there are more than six million people in the world who don’t have clean water for drinking, cooking, or cleaning themselves. Many people who don’t have these things end up getting sick because of it.

  • How many people do you think have access to a working toilet?

More than 1/3 of people living in the world today don’t have access to a working toilet? Talk about what people might do if they don’t have a working toilet. Some of these people have to use a hole in the ground. Others use an outhouse or something similar.

Sometimes we get so used to things that help keep us comfortable, safe and healthy, that we forgot to be grateful for them. These things are overlooked blessings.

Together as a class, make a list of overlooked blessings…things that you take for granted but for which, when you stop and think, you are grateful.

Post the list somewhere where everyone can see it regularly as a reminder.

Do a guided gratitude meditation together: http://www.changetochill.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Change_to_Chill_Gratitude.mp3

Distribute the Three Good Things worksheet. Encourage young people to continue to build their “gratitude muscles” by using the worksheet to help remind them of the good things in their lives.

Conclusion

Keep the list up for as long as seems helpful. Consider also sharing the ideas through social media or school or community resources.

Additional Instructor Resources

Additional information about gratitude: http://www.changetochill.org/how-can-i/gratitude/

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in EnglishSpanish, Somali and Hmong so that families can practice gratitude at home.

The Power of Meditation

Lesson Introduction & Overview

This short lesson is aimed at encouraging youth to think positively about meditation and other relaxation activities, and help reduce the stigma around mental health self-care.

Activity

Let young people know that they will be trying a short meditation today. Meditation is a strategy for reducing stress and promoting mental wellness. Ask the group what stereotypes they can think of about meditation, either positive or negative.

Introduce the idea of stigma:

  1. Stigma is a mark of shame that sets an individual or a group apart. It’s a label, a stereotype, a pre-judgment before getting to really know a person and the details of his or her situation. Sometimes, negative stereotypes lead to stigma.
  2. Stigma leads people to reject, avoid, or fear those they perceive as different. You’ve all seen stigma in action and probably experienced it yourselves as well.

Talk about types of stigma.

Ask students to talk about different types of stigma. Can they think of any examples of stigma based on negative stereotypes?

There is definitely some stigma in U.S. culture about people who have stress and related problems such as anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions. People may make jokes such as “forgetting to take your meds.”

These negative judgments can carry over to the things people do to take care of their mental well-being. Some people practice meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Other people think those things are silly or weird. Talk with youth about whether they or anyone they know does any of these things, and whether in their experiences there is stigma about them.

The truth is that these kinds of practices, what’s sometimes known as mindfulness, are really awesome for overall health, and can help with many things beyond just promoting mental wellness, including doing well in school, sports and music. They can also help you feel good about yourself, and even lead you to better relationships with friends and family.

Ask if anyone in the group knows any breathing exercises or yoga poses or other things related to meditation, mindfulness, and mental wellness. If young people have things they want to share, let them demonstrate or lead the group.

Introduce the Head to Toe meditation. Encourage young people to set aside any pre-existing judgements they might have and just give it a try.

Meditate with the group (you can play the audio or read the script yourself).

Give people a few minutes to just rest and relax after the meditation. Then pull the group back together and ask:

  • What did you think of that short meditation experience?
  • What did you like about it? What did you not like about it?
  • Do you think regular meditation like this could be helpful to you or to someone else in your life? Why or why not?

Finally, thank the group for being part of reducing stigma about mental wellness and taking care of themselves. Encourage them to keep doing that because it’s good for them and for other people they care about.

Conclusion

If your group does well with this, consider trying some of the other meditations available on Change to Chill, perhaps including a regular time during the week for a short meditation or other mindfulness practice.

Additional Instructor Resources

Additional videos:

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in EnglishSpanish, Somali and Hmong so that families can practice meditation at home.

Gratefuls and Grumbles: Helping Kids Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

Lesson Introduction & Overview

Emerging research shows many powerful benefits of approaching life with an attitude of gratitude. The benefits of being grateful can include mental wellness, school success, generosity, and even physical health. An attitude of gratitude isn’t something that people are born with or not; very young children can begin to learn skills and practices that will help them move through life with an appreciative mindset, even when dealing with challenges. This lesson focuses on teaching young children about the concept of gratitude and some ways they can start to incorporate gratitude practices into their lives.

Activity

Gratefuls and Grumbles Circle

Gather young people in circle. Explain that you are going to spend a little time thinking about gratitude. Ask if any of them know that word and what it means. If they don’t, tell them that being grateful or feeling gratitude means being thankful. Ask what they think of when they hear the word thankful or thanks. Give them a few minutes to talk about what it means.

Share with the young people that every day you personally have things in your life that make you feel gratitude, or thankful. Give an example from today.

Then explain that every day you also have things that happen that feel hard, that make you grumble. Ask if they know the word grumble. Talk for a few minutes about some examples of grumbles, ranging from small irritations to bigger worries or troubles. Give a few examples.

Then explain the activity: Each person in the circle is going to have a chance to share with the group one GRATEFUL and one GRUMBLE. You can say something like, “When it’s your turn, say your name. Then say, ‘One thing I am grateful for today is _________, and one thing that makes me grumble today is, ___________.” Give your own example using your name and a grateful and a grumble you shared earlier.

Begin the activity. Younger children may have a hard time with this. Be patient and coach them through it. Remember that you are teaching them a process. It’s okay if they stumble.

At the end, thank everyone for participating. Explain that even when we can’t make the grumbles go away, thinking about things we’re grateful for can help us feel better.

Gratitude Breathing: 

Once everyone has shared, transition into a breathing exercise that focuses on gratitude. You can explain it like this:

Choose a way to sit that’s comfortable for you. You can be on chair, cross-legged, or on your heels. Place your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in for four counts. Then breathe out through your nose for four counts. Keep your lips closed and just let the air move through your nose. Feel the rise and fall of your chest and belly.”

You can use a Hoberman sphere to demonstrate to the young people what their chests and bellies will be doing when they breathe in and out.

Once they have the idea of how to do the breathing, ask them to think of some of the things they said they are grateful for during each inhale and exhale. They may even get a few more ideas as they go through the process.

Continue this deep belly gratitude breathing for a few minutes. Let them know it’s okay to close their eyes if they want to.

Pay It Forward: 

Draw young people’s attention back to you. Ask if anyone thought during their breathing of a person for whom they are grateful.  Explain that it’s important to let other people know when we’re grateful for them or for things they do. It makes them feel good, it makes us feel good, and it makes the world a better place when people show appreciation for one another. Pick one person in your school, organization or community who you want to show gratitude for as a group. You can pre-select this person, or use a group process. On the flip chart or butcher paper, write, “Thank you, _______________, for ___________________.  We are grateful for you! Or choose a message of your own. Then invite each young person to use the paints to leave a handprint on the paper. Once the paint is dry you can deliver the “Gratitude card” to the recipient.

 

Conclusion

Like physical fitness, gratitude is something that has to be built and maintained. Fortunately, also like fitness, it’s something everyone can work on, no matter where they are starting. Different practices work more or less for different people. The activities in this lesson are just a few examples. The parent newsletter has additional ideas. Consider making gratitude practice a regular part of your classroom or group and see what happens!

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English and Spanish so that families can practice an attitude of gratitude at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

An Attitude of Gratitude

Additional Instructor Resources

Picky Eating

Lesson Overview

Picky eating often occurs at ages 3 to 5. At this age, children like to explore food rather than eat to it. Usually it is a phase that children go through and then grow out of over time. Children often refuse foods because of color or texture. Teaching them to explore foods and describe the flavors, smells and textures instead of just using words like; “like or dislike” can help improve their willingness to try new things over time.

Introduction

Children don’t always take to new foods easily or right away. Here are some tips that can help a child learn to like new foods. 

  • Offer new foods many times displayed or prepared differently. It may take up to a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food.
  • Small portions = big benefits. Let children try small portions of new foods that you enjoy. Give them a small taste at first and be patient.
  • Be a good role model by trying new foods yourself. Describe tastes, textures and smells.
  • Offer only one new food at a time. Serve something that you know the child likes along with the new food. Offering too many new foods all at once can be overwhelming.
  • Offer new foods first, at the beginning of a meal, when everyone is the hungriest.
  • Serve food plain if that is important to the child. For example, instead of a macaroni casserole, try meatballs, pasta and a vegetable. Also, to keep different foods separated, try plates with sections. For some children the opposite works and serving a new food mixed in with a familiar item is helpful. Get to know the child’s preferences.

Source: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers-picky-eating

Activity

  1. Before this session, buy a variety of fruits and vegetables, including some you think young people may have never tried before. Clean and prepare them and bring them with you to the session. Have enough so that each young person can try at least two things.
  2. Before bringing out the food ask young people to tell you their favorite foods.
  3. On a white board or flip chart make a list that includes at least one thing that everyone says they like, leaving space under each one for an additional list of words
  4. Then, one item at a time, ask young people to describe those foods. Encourage them to use words that describe flavor (sweet, spicy, bitter, salty, sour, tangy) and feel or texture (soft, hard, chewy, watery, dry). Write down what they say under each food item.
  5. Bring out the fruits and vegetables you’ve prepared. Encourage each young person to choose two items they’ve never had before (more if you have enough). Ask them to wait before tasting until everyone has theirs.
  6. Encourage youth to try one of their foods. After a few minutes, invite them to describe to you and to the rest of the group the flavor and the texture instead of if they liked it or not.
  7. Make a new list of words or add to your first list. It doesn’t matter if they describe different foods at different times. The idea isn’t to develop one list to describe each food. It is to help youth think of and learn many different ways to describe foods other than just whether they like something or not. This may help them learn to appreciate and even enjoy a variety of flavors and textures.

Conclusion

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish and encourage young people to surprise their families at the next meal they share by using one or more of the words you talked about and learned today to describe taste, texture or smell.

Additional Instructor Resources

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers-picky-eating

Phrases that HELP and HINDER

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Six tips to help picky eaters learn to like new foods

Your Happy Heart

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand why it’s important to exercise for a healthy heart. Through a series of active movements, the youth will learn how the heart functions and why a strong heart is more effective at circulating oxygen throughout your body.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about the heart. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

Aerobic means “with oxygen”.

Endurance means how well you are able breathe, take air into your lungs, and use the air throughout your whole body.

Heart rate is the number of times your heart beats each minute. This amount will increase when you are active.

Air has oxygen in it. When you breathe and expand your lungs, the oxygen goes into your lungs. After that, it makes its way into your bloodstream where your heart then pumps it to every part of your body.

When you become physically active, your muscles call for more oxygen, so you start to breathe faster and your heart rate increases to meet the demand of oxygen that your muscles need. The more oxygen your body gets the more energy you will have. The more you are able to get physically active, the stronger your heart will be.

Introduction

Provide young people information on the positive health benefits of physical activity.
Exercise:

  1. Helps your body maintain overall good health.
  2. Helps build and maintain healthy and strong bones and muscles.
  3. Increases flexibility and aerobic endurance.

Ask young people for more ideas on the benefits of being physically active. Other tips the instructor may want to add:

  • have a leaner body because exercise helps build muscle
  • decrease chance of becoming unhealthy
  • have a better outlook on life.

Activity: About Your Heart

Now let’s take a closer look at the human heart and how it ties to overall health and physical fitness. When we become physically active, our muscles call for more oxygen, so we start to breathe faster and our heart rate increases to meet the demand of oxygen that our muscles need. The more oxygen your body gets the more energy you will have.

Do a quick activity that demonstrates how to increase the amount of oxygen in the body. Instruct young people to do the following:

  1. Sit up tall with both legs relaxed. Rest your hands in your lap. Do not cross your ankles or legs.
  2. Take slow deep breaths as you expand your lungs, slowly exhale, or breathe out.

Inform young people that breathing like this helps your body build up its supply of oxygen. When you are getting physical activity, the pace of your breathing will increase because your muscles need more oxygen to work harder. After you play tag, for example, it may take a little while to “catch your breath,” or for your breathing to come back to normal. At this time you may have a hard time taking in slow, deep breaths.

Then explore the heart’s role in helping you get enough oxygen throughout your body. Instruct them further:

  1. Make a fist and squeeze your bicep muscle, then relax. (For very young children, show the move as they may not know what a bicep is.)
  2. Now flex your quadriceps (the thigh muscles), then relax.
  3. Finally, flex your “heart.” Pause while the youth wiggle and shift their bodies in an attempt to flex their hearts.

Inform young people that the heart while the heart is a muscle, it’s not one we can flex when we tell ourselves to do so. We need physical activity to get the heart muscle to flex and get a good workout. Ask the youth what they could do to get their hearts flexing and pumping faster. If prompts are needed state a few examples – ride our bikes, play a game of tag, etc.

Activity: Exercise for a Healthy Heart

Lead the youth in one or more of these activities that teach young people ways to strengthen their hearts.

  1. Heart Walk Activity: Pass out a blank piece of paper and pencil to each young person. Have each of them trace their foot prints/shoe prints on the paper – left foot on the front side of the paper and right foot on the back. Brainstorm short and rather simple physical activities the youth can do to get their hearts pumping (e.g., 5 sit ups, 10 jumping jacks, run in place for 10 seconds, 3 push-ups, etc.). Have them each write  a separate activity on each side of their papers in the center of the foot print. They each get to choose what to write and you want to encourage a variety of activities. Move to an open physical fitness space. Have the young people lay their papers down in a pattern on the floor. Space them so there is room  to do each activity before moving on to the next paper and doing the activity written on it. Each young person should visit each paper one time. Once they’ve made it around to each of the footprint stations, have the youth flip the paper over (exposing a new exercise) and lay them back down on the ground and start the rotation over.
  2. Distribute the Happy Heart Coloring Sheet. Tell the young people to color the boy on the bicycle, and that bicycling is a heart healthy activity. Give the youth time to color the sheet.
  3. Strong Heart vs. Weak Heart Activity:
    • For one minute, have each young person squeeze their dominant hand (the hand they write with) into a fist, then relax and stretch out their fingers, as many times as they can. Most of the youth will not even be able to make the full minute.
    • Then have each young person do the same thing with their non-dominant hand, but this time have the youth slow down the fist/stretch. A good way to have them slow down would be to say a three syllable word like elephant (squeeze on ‘el’, release on ‘e’ and stretch on ‘phant’). Each fist/stretch should take about one second.
    • When the minute is up, ask “which hand became tired faster?” Relate the hand activity to the how the heart pumps blood through the body. A weak heart has to pump/beat more times each minute, moving less blood with each beat. While a strong heart can beat fewer times each minute, while pumping out more blood with each beat.

Conclusion

To conclude the lesson, remind young people that the more you are able to get physically active, the stronger your heart will be.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish so that families can continue discussing heart health and the importance of physical activity at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Stay active to keep your heart healthy

Additional Instructor Resources

The Heart on KidsHealth.org

Splash! Why We Need a Bath

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the reasons that we bathe. The youth will take part in a demonstration that helps them visualize how germs are spread from person to person. Finally, they will practice proper hand-washing with soap.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following notes about cleanliness. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

How often a person should take a bath or shower depends somewhat on individual preference and family and cultural norms. But there are several reasons that it’s important to make sure kids are getting cleaned up on a regular basis, including:

  1. Physical Health—Regular baths or showers with a mild soap, followed by drying with a clean towel, help wash away germs and prevent illness, infection, and other problems.
  2. Mental Health—Taking a bath or shower in the morning can be invigorating and help you wake up; in the evening it can be soothing and help you calm down.
  3. Social Health—Bodies have smells…lots of them. The less often we clean ourselves the more likely we are to develop noticeable odors. Sometimes these can turn people off. The appearance of not being clean can also cause us to feel self-conscious and insecure. Most people don’t need a lot of deodorant, special creams, or perfumes to look, feel, and smell clean as long as they are following a regular cleaning routine.

Introduction

Ask the youth, why is it important for us to keep our bodies clean by taking baths or showers? Most young people will be able to answer this but many children do try to avoid the bath at some point in their lives, so reinforcing the concept is a good idea. Use the information from the Instructor Notes above as appropriate.

Activity: Looking for Germs

Explain to the youth that one very important reason to take a bath or shower is to wash away germs that can make us sick. Tell them they are going to demonstrate how easy it is to pass germs around.

  • Explain that germs are a lot like glitter in that they get on everything we touch or that touches us. That’s why it’s so important to wash ourselves at the end of a day or a time we’ve been very active or gotten dirty.
  • Give each young person a small amount of petroleum jelly to rub on their hands.
  • Then sprinkle their hands with a bit of glitter. Have them shake hands with one another, and touch pieces of paper or other objects that can get a little bit glittery. (Caution…this can get MESSY!)
  • Once the youth have experienced how easy it is to spread germs (by touching other objects) instruct them to wash their hands thoroughly to remove all glitter.
  • To assure proper hand-washing, we need to rub all surfaces of our hands using soap and clean running water to make a lather. Rub hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Once everyone has had a chance to wash their hands, ask the youth about their experience and note that a quick rinse doesn’t remove glitter or germs.

Activity: Hand Washing

  • Teach young people a song to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush.” The words are, “This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands; this is the way we wash our hands, to make sure they get clean”.
  • Explain that this song can help you make sure you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Using a clock or timer, see how long it takes you to sing the song. For example, if it takes 10 seconds to sing the verse, young people can sing it twice through so that they know that they have washed their hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Have the young people each practice washing their hands while singing the song.
  • If time permits, ask for suggestions of other verses and mime them as a class. They might suggest, for example, “This is the way we wash our hair”.

Conclusion

At the end of the session you can reiterate that while bathing and washing are personal things and everyone gets to make their own choices about them, there are good reasons to have a regular routine, and that it especially impacts others around us if we don’t keep our hands clean. Check out our Starter Kit program and find all of your classroom lessons for kids in one place.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish so that families can continue the conversation about healthy washing habits.

How Hungry Am I?

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people think about the ways their bodies give them signals telling them when they need to eat. They will use a worksheet to track their hunger before and after a snack and learn that tracking your hunger can keep you from overeating.

Introduction

Ask the youth, what does a baby do when it is hungry? Usually he or she cries or whimpers. A dog might do the same thing…bark or whine to let us know it’s time to eat.

Inform the youth that our bodies let us know in much the same way when we are starting to feel hungry. How? Maybe our stomach growls, we get a headache, we become cranky or irritable, or feel tired or weak. It takes about 10-15 minutes once we have started eating for our bodies to notice the change. The feeling of fullness is the result of your brain reacting to chemicals and hormones that are released when you eat. Your brain can take up to 20 minutes to register these chemicals before you are signaled you are getting full. Therefore, it’s important to eat slowly enough to give ourselves time to adjust. Our bodies send signals that we’ve had enough, like our belly actually feeling a bit more filled up. If we eat too much too fast we can’t notice those cues until it is too late and we feel extremely full and uncomfortable.

Here’s a simple way to gauge before, during and after eating what state we’re in:

😐 = Pretty hungry, my stomach feels empty

🙂 = Just right! Not too hungry or too full; satisfied

🙁 = Too full, I ate too much

This language of hunger is different from the cravings we feel when we smell our favorite food or see something delicious looking in a magazine. That’s our thoughts telling us, “Wow…I sure would like to taste that,” no matter whether our body is hungry or not.

Being hungry is different from craving and we can teach ourselves to better listen to our bodies to know the difference.

Activity

  1. Ask the young people to make a fist. Tell them that their stomachs are about the same size as their fist.
  2. Ask the following questions to further explore the topic of hunger:
    • How would your stomach feel if you put too much food in – two or three times the size of your fist? (Sore, bloated, sticking out)
    • How would your stomach feel if you didn’t put enough food in or if you missed having a meal or a snack? (Pain, rumbling)
    • Would it feel this way if you saw a piece of cake on the counter that you thought looked really delicious? Or if you smelled your favorite meal cooking? (You might feel these things for a short while when you are having a craving, but if you take a few minutes to pay attention they will go away. A craving won’t make you feel hunger that lasts.)
    • What if you put just the right amount of food in your stomach— about the same amount as your fist? How would it feel? (Content, not stuffed, good, nice, satisfied)
  3. Let’s enjoy a snack in an amount that is a little bit smaller than our fists, or the size of our stomachs, but let’s first think about how hungry we actually are so that we don’t eat too much and get those uncomfortable feelings.
  4. Pass out the Kids Hunger Tracker worksheet. Ask the youth to fill in the first line, writing down today’s date and then drawing the appropriate face in the “Before the Meal” column.
  5. Then pass out the snack. Encourage young people to eat slowly and chew the food well. Have them notice the flavor and taste and how their bodies feel. Encourage them to stop when they feel satisfied regardless of whether the food is gone.
  6. After the snack, have them complete the final column on the worksheet.

Conclusion

Encourage young people to use the worksheet over the next several days to track their hunger and see what they notice. The more they practice this mindful approach, the more attuned they will become to their bodies’ food needs.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

‘Tis the season to take note of your hunger cues

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing the ways that young people know they are hungry and when they have eaten enough.

Guided Imagery for Younger Children

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the negative effects of tension and stress, and how guided imagery can help you relax. The facilitator will lead young people in a guided imagery exercise.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about guided imagery. This can be shared with young people during your discussions.

What is guided imagery? How can guided imagery be helpful to us? How do you do it?

Guided imagery is a simple, powerful technique that can have many health-related physical and emotional benefits. It can help people feel less nervous or upset, be less bothered by pain, or achieve a goal such as an athletic or academic achievement. Through guided imagery you can learn to use your imagination to “create the state you want,” meaning that you can actually change how you are feeling and what you are focused on. Even very young children can begin to learn this skill by linking images in their minds with feelings and experiences.

Introduction

This introduction demonstrates the negative effects tension and stress can have on our bodies. The next activity teaches youth how to reduce stress and tension through guided imagery.

  1. Use a rubber band to help describe to young people how much it can hurt us to be stretched and stressed too far or for too long.  Stretch the rubber as far as it will go and point out that if we keep it in this position too long it will snap. Explain that the same thing is true for humans, we need to be able to relax, calm, down, and get rid of our tension in order to be well.
  2. Have the youth flex as many muscles in their bodies as they can and then have them hold the tense, tightened position for several seconds. As they are doing so, ask how long they think they can keep it up? Will they be OK if they have to be this tense all day? Point out that sometimes our minds are tense like that and we don’t know how to let them go.

Activity: Guided Imagery

This activity teaches youth how to reduce stress and tension through guided imagery. Introduce guided imagery by explaining that it’s a way you can make pictures in your mind that can help you feel calm and relaxed. Then lead them through this simple guided imagery process.

  1. Find a comfortable position. You can sit or lie down.. Notice how you are feeling right now… your body and your mind.
  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let the air out through your mouth.
  3. Take another breath, and feel your whole body getting calm as you breathe out.
  4. Continue to breathe slowly and gently.
  5. Breathe in relaxation….. and breathe out any worries….. breathe in calm…. and let all your worries go as you breathe out….
  6. Now imagine in your mind a place where you feel totally comfortable and happy. This might be a favorite place you have been, or somewhere you have seen, or it might be completely made up. It’s up to you.
  7. Picture a place where you feel happy and calm.
  8. Start to add details now: What do you see there? What do you hear? How does this wonderful, calm, happy place smell?
  9. Imagine how your body feels. You are comfortable, enjoying the nice temperature….happy being still and relaxed or doing whatever enjoyable activities you participate in here.
  10. Enjoy the way you feel in this safe place.
  11. You feel calm and safe here.
  12. Remain in your place while you practice being calm and relaxed.
  13. Again notice the environment around you in this place. Take some moments to just enjoy it and be here. Soon, it will be time to leave, but know that you can return here in your imagination any time to relax, feel calm, and feel comfortable and safe.
  14. In a moment I will count to three. You can become more awake and energized  on the count of three.One… take a deep, cleansing breath in… and breathe out slowly.
    Two… take another deep breath…. and breathe out…
    Three…. you are feeling calm, confident, and refreshed.

Conclusion

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes directions for guided imagery, so that families can practice “creating the state they want” at home. Learn more about Health Powered Kids and how we provide exercises and lessons for young people.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

In the know on guided imagery

Additional Instructor Resources

Visualizing Your Special Place

It’s All in the Breathing

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the link between their breathing and how they feel. The youth will practice focused breathing techniques to help their bodies and minds relax. Optional activities allow young people to further explore mindful breathing.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following notes about mindful breathing. This information can be shared with young people during your discussions.

How you breathe can make a difference in how you feel. When you are stressed, nervous, frightened, worried or angry, you may notice that your breathing gets low and fast. Your breath will come from higher up in your chest when you are upset. In calmer times, your breathing will be slower and deeper. Your breath will come more from your stomach and underneath your ribs.

You can learn to slow down your breathing, making each breath longer and deeper. This will calm the rest of your body and your mind. If you practice doing this you can become good at staying calm or return to feeling calm quickly in very stressful situations.

Introduction

Ask the youth this question: How are our bodies and our minds connected? Be patient if it takes a while for them to start answering. Younger people may have much simpler answers. You may want to start with an example of kicking a ball: If we want to kick a ball our minds have to send a signal to our legs telling them what to do. Young people may also be able to understand things like:

    • Our brains are inside our heads so our skulls can protect them.
    • If we think (or believe) we can do something we are more likely to be able to do it.
    • If we are worried or upset or unhappy our bodies might feel sick or tired or uncomfortable.
    • If our bodies are sick or hurt or very tired it might make us feel unhappy or frustrated.

Activity: Focused Breathing

Explain that breathing well is good for our bodies and can help us change negative things happening in our minds to more positive. In other words, we can learn ways to use our bodies to help us feel better in our minds.

  1. Ask the youth to get into a comfortable position. Explain that you are going to practice a type of breathing they can use any time they want or need to calm themselves down. Ask them to be quiet during the exercise. Then lead them through the following steps. For younger people you may want to simplify the instructions by jumping right to Step 2.
  2. Pay attention to your body. What are you feeling in your body? What are your different senses noticing: smells, sounds, sights, tastes? Are you comfortable? If you aren’t comfortable adjust your body so that you are.
  3. Notice what’s happening with your breathing? Is it fast? Slow? Moving through your nose or your mouth? Is there a noise when you breathe in or breathe out? Don’t try to change it…just notice.
  4. Practice a type of a breathing that can help ease your mind and calm your body: Begin breathing in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth. Breathe in twice as long as you breathe out (try counting to two as you breathe in and count to four as you breathe out). Keep breathing like this for several minutes.
  5. Now talk with the youth about the breathing they just did: What do you notice now after a few minutes of breathing like that? How do you feel? What do you see, smell, hear, taste? What is on your mind? What was that like to focus on your breathing?

Optional Activities

If time allows, try these breathing exercises with your class or group.

  • Mindful Breathing: Breathing is an automatic reflex. You don’t even have to think about it–it just happens! But being aware of your breath can help you feel more relaxed.  An easy way to be more mindful is thinking about when you smell your favorite scent.  Smelling is actually taking in a deep breath on purpose. Ask the youth to close their eyes and imagine smelling their favorite scent. Have them breathe in for the count of two and breathe out for the count of four.
  • Birthday Balloons and Candles: Sit with your legs crossed (feet flat on floor if you are sitting in a chair) and your back straight. Breathe in deeply through your nose, filling your lungs like a balloon. Imagine seeing your birthday cake with all of its bright candles. Blow them out by breathing out strongly through your mouth.
  • Breathe In, Bubbles Out!: Take a deep breath in through your nose. Fill your lungs full of air! Hold your breath for 1 to 2 seconds. Put the bubble wand up by your mouth and blow! Repeat 3 to 5 times, trying to blow more bubbles each time. After the exercise, ask the youth where in their bodies do they feel the stress or anxiety being released.

Conclusion

Remind young people that if they ever feel like they need to calm down, focused or mindful breathing is something they can do anywhere, at any time, and no one will even know that they are doing it.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, including additional mindful breathing activities, so that families can continue discussing ways to manage stress at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

ChangeToChill.org from Allina Health

For other ideas about how to help kids management stress see these two books:

Fighting Invisible Tigers: Stress Management for Teens by Earl Hipp (Free Spirit Publishing, 2008)
The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens by Gina M. Biegel (New Harbinger Publications Inc., 2009)

Safe and Fun, In the Sun!

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand how to keep their skin safe in the sun. The youth will identify signs of melanoma and take note of any moles to watch on their own bodies.

Introduction

Start by telling the youth that everybody needs some exposure to the sun.  It is our body’s main source of Vitamin D which makes our bones stronger and healthier by absorbing calcium. Most people do not need a lot of sun exposure to get the vitamin D that they need, in fact too much unprotected sun exposure can cause damage to the skin, eyes, and even cause skin cancer.

There are many ways to prevent these dangers.

  • Young people should wear a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher while in the sun.
  • They should also be especially careful from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun is the strongest.
  • It is important that sunscreen is reapplied often, especially after getting the skin wet.
  • It may be helpful to wear long sleeves and a hat to protect the skin from overexposure.
  • Tell the youth that wearing sunglasses with 100% UV (ultraviolet) protection while outside will help protect their eyes from being damaged by the sun.
  • Remind the  young people that their skin can get burned even on cloudy days so make sure to be careful if spending time outside.

If the skin does burn, there are some things you can do to make it feel better.

  • Take a cool bath.
  • Apply pure aloe vera gel to any part of the skin that is sunburned.
  • Use a moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin to treat itching.

Activity: Body Map

  1. Hand out some laminated photos with different types of skin cancer for the class to pass around.  Tell them that a lot of skin cancers show up in moles. Teach them about the ABCDE’s of a mole (see right). Visit What Does Melanoma Look Like? for more information.
  2. See if the youth  can find any moles on their arms or legs. Have them inspect the mole using the ABCDE’s for skin cancer.
  3. Have each young person make a skin map of their bodies:
    • Hand out a copy of the body ‘map’ using the template provided.
    • Have each young person look at their arms, hands and neck and fill in any moles, birthmarks or freckles they have, onto the body “map.”

ABCDE’s of a Mole

  • A = Is it asymmetric or irregular in shape?
  • B = Does it have a border that is ragged or notched as healthy moles generally don’t.
  • C = Is it a funny color (red, black, mixture of colors)?
  • D = Is it larger in diameter than a pencil eraser?
  • E = Is it evolving or getting bigger? Any change in shape, color, elevation or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting is a danger sign.

Conclusion

Each young person should bring the body ‘map’ home to have the rest of the body completed with the help of a parent. Tell the youth that they can look back to the body ‘map’ if they see any new or changing spots.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which includes tips for keeping skin safe in the sun and instructions for watching the ABCDE’s of moles.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

Summer sun protection

Sun protection – we’ve got you covered

Additional Instructor Resources

Sunwise for Kids computer games by EPA.gov

Books:

What Are These Spots On My Skin by Scott Naughton
Skin Sense: A Story about Sun Safety for Young Children by Lori Lehrer-Glickman