Eline Snel

Therapist and mindfulness teacher

"Mindfulness teaches children to relax and think".

Her method, known as the frog method, is already applied in schools in several countries.

Every person has a feeling like hunger or thirst that lets them find a way to deal with their emotions, worries and other similar feelings. These internal obstacles impede the learning process. This is one of the analogies I use in class. When we are very anxious and confused, our mind reflects this and prevents us from seeing things clearly. We have to wait until the dust has settled, and what happens next is that everything becomes clear, so you can make decisions.

Mindfulness is not like a magic wand that makes everything OK, but it helps you to learn how to take the rough with the smooth. It teaches you to relax your mind before tackling difficult situations so you're conscious of what you're doing while you're doing it. So you're aware of what you're thinking and feeling while you're thinking and feeling it. Everyone can be mindful, as it's associated with something that's within us all, rather than with expectations or unachievable situations. However, we lose this talent because of our fast-paced lifestyle. So, mindfulness can be very important for both children and adults.

It is very useful to gather all your worries together in one place so you can deal with them. Breathing helps you do this. When children learn to be aware of the thoughts they want to react to immediately, they can also learn to stop. They learn to stop and think, to resist the temptation to react impulsively, to stop talking to the person next to or behind them.

We teach them that we all have something in common with frogs. What do you see when you look at a frog? Can you see how it breathes? You can see how it's tummy rises and falls. Children can quickly identify what they have in common with a frog, as they can see this movement. They can see that the frog is sitting still and, rather than being in a trance, is highly alert to its surroundings, so that when a fly approaches, it catches it.

What children learn about breathing is that when you focus on the movements you make during respiration, it's really difficult to think about your worries at the same time. In fact, it's impossible. Our brains are not designed to focus on two things at the same time. When children learn to pay attention to their breathing, they realize that they don't have to think about their worries all the time, even though they're still there and the situation hasn't changed. Some children with ADHD feel less insecure when they get used to being aware of their thoughts, emotions and what their body feels like and when they learn that, just like a frog, they don't have to react to everything.

When a teacher is present, children will become more involved with every question or action, as they will reflect what the teacher does. Being present is a basic component of mindfulness, and when a teacher is present, the children will be too. When you train to be a teacher of mindfulness using the frog method (for example), you learn to be able to teach a class what you've experienced before, such as learning to care for yourself and look after your inner world.

When you are able to accept your inner world and understand it a bit better, you will be much more successful in the external world. When school principals see and understand this, they realize how important it is for children to learn these skills from when they are very small so they can deal with stress, cope with adversity and handle the problems they will face in life; so they will naturally float rather than drown.

Find out more about Eline Snel

Eline Snel is a Dutch therapist and one of Europe's leading authorities on how to apply mindfulness in school. She is the author of the books 'Attention works' and the bestseller 'Sitting still like a frog'. Her method is based on respiration and relaxation and is applied in schools throughout much of the world.
Can mindfulness improve education?

Mindfulness is not a panacea, and it's not a magic wand that can solve all schools' problems. However, one of the main things it teaches is compassion and self-compassion. Self-compassion involves giving yourself a break and not always having to be the one who deals with a situation. You don't have to be strong all the time.

"I would like say to anyone who works in a school that you don't have to spend a lot of time teaching children to be aware. It's just a question of doing one thing at a time and enjoying life".

See the full video here.