Madeira welcomed clinical social worker Jennifer Weaver as our All School Meeting speaker this morning. Ms. Weaver spoke with the students about the concept of “mindfulness,” and how cultivating the ability to be mindful in daily life can help people manage anxiety, recognize and accept how they are feeling, and ultimately change the way our brains work. Being mindful can help one keep her brain’s prefrontal cortex “switched on” in times of stress so that she can think more clearly, rather than accessing the “fight or flight” reflex.
Ms. Weaver asked the students to participate in some exercises to illustrate her points, such as trying to say the alphabet while writing down sequential numbers simultaneously. One student said she found a way to systemize the writing while her brain concentrated on the speaking portion. This was called “compartmentalizing,” according to Ms. Weaver. The activity that had the strongest reaction from students was the lollipop exchange. As girls entered the auditorium, they were each given a small lollipop to hold during the assembly. At one point Ms. Weaver asked them to imagine unwrapping it and eating it (without actually doing so). Then the girls were asked to give their lollipop to the person on their right. The buzz of reactions was varied: happy, not so happy, really annoyed with the speaker, angry, surprised, disappointed, etc. The intent was to encourage the students to mindfully accept how they felt about their initial expectations going unmet, and to accept the change.
Our speaker also illustrated the various parts of the brain and how chemicals in the body result in feelings, which prompt actions. She also said that mindfulness practice builds neurological integration. “While meditation is a great way to train to be mindful, it is not [the definition of] mindfulness,” Ms. Weaver said. “Meditation is more like a training program for your brain.” She went on to explain that it is one tool to help in becoming more mindful, but not required for engaging in a daily mindfulness practice.
As part of our ongoing health and wellness program, throughout the year Madeira students will be introduced to various mindfulness techniques this year in their respective advisory groups.
Jennifer Weaver is a clinical social worker (licensed in Virginia and Maryland), registered play therapist-supervisor, and graduate school faculty member with over 16 years of experience in psychotherapy and counseling. Along with her therapy and supervision practice, she has been a member of the adjunct faculty at Catholic University of America since 2001, teaching master’s courses in therapeutic work with children, adolescents, and young adults. For more about Ms. Weaver visit www.weaverandassociates.net.