Positive Psychology in Schools

Positive Psychology, a relatively new field, looks specifically at what makes humans flourish and how best to nurture their unique strengths of character to support them to reach their full potential.

For many years schools around the world have been criticised for identifying and remediating students’ weaknesses while neglecting the identifying and nurturing of their unique strengths, resulting in a missed opportunity to build self esteem and creative thinking skills.

Positive psychology in schools know as ‘positive education’, was pioneered by Dr. Martin Seligman, the professor of psychology from the University of Pennsylvania (U.S) and his colleagues. See Dr. Seligman discuss Positive Education in the short video clip below

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igpqyuw6GLw?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

Positive Education in Australia has gained a fair amount of exposure due to the Geelong Grammar Program where positive psychology is taught to students in all year groups. This program supports students to understand and develop their unique character strengths, practice gratitude, optimism and build mental resilience.

To watch how Positive Education has impacted the students at Geelong Grammar click the short video clip below.

[vimeo 99798574 w=640 h=360]

Mindfulness in Schools

In recent years, a gentle revolution has begun in schools around the world involving the teaching and practicing of mindfulness. These skills undeniably support students to improve concentration, reduce stress, build empathy and cope better with challenging thoughts and feelings.

Students who are better equiped to cope, self soothe and concentrate greatly improve the classroom learning environment and are able take these new skills out of the classroom to support them in their home lives.

So what exactly are mindfulness skills?

Mindfulness skills are a set of mind-skills, that focus particularly on building and practicing awareness of what can be sensed in the present moment. Like any skill, mindfulness is strengthened by regular practice and with time students are able greatly improve their concentration on any task or lesson, whilst being able to filter out distractions.

When difficult thoughts or challenging emotions arise, students are taught to self soothe, create space and think before they respond. In-turn, decreasing emotional turbulence that can lead to poor judgement and behaviour.

How are these skills taught to school students?

Mindfulness skills are best taught to students using a range of experiential activities including awareness exercises that are practiced both sitting and lying down, debriefing with other students and as a classroom style discussion, watching short clips and undertaking quizzes and worksheets.

One of the very first skills of taught is mindful breathing. Students are taught to breathe in a way that is proven to engage the parasympathetic nervous system which is the bodies in-built soothing and calming response. They are taught to use the breath like an anchor which keeps the mind focused on the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future.

Mindfulness skills are best taught in a secular manner, in a way that does not attempt to impose or depose any religious or spiritual belief systems. This includes ensuring that symbols, rituals or artefacts such as the use of particular hand or body gestures or using religious props are not a part of the learning material or practice. Rather, these skills should be taught to students in a way that is consistent with current scientific understandings of human psychology and behaviour.

What are the research findings into mindfulness in schools programs from around the world?

While the research into the effectiveness of mindfulness training with adolescents is not yet as comprehensive as the research that has been done with adults, a range of studies have been released in the past six years that show some promising results.

In 2013, a U.S based ‘mindful schools program’ evaluated the more than 400 hundred primary school students. They found a significant improvement in the four areas studied; Self control, concentration, classroom participation and respect for others. This was tested directly after the completion of the program and again seven weeks later which showed that students maintained these improvements well after the program finished.

Another 2013 study, looked at the perceptions of the benefits of learning mindfulness by at-risk high school students. These students attended high school in a low-income, rural area and participated in thirty minute guided sessions, at least twice per week for eight weeks. Students were asked what changes they had noticed since beginning the mindfulness practice. The major finding was that a majority of students indicated a remarkable positive change in their ability to manage stress levels.

A german study, published in 2016 looked at both the impact of students and teachers, learning and implementing mindfulness training in the school environment. The results concluded significant improvements in students; self reported stress levels, self regulation, self efficacy, and interpersonal problems. Furthermore teachers were also found to have medium improvements specifically in the areas of anxiety levels and emotional regulation. To read more about this study click HERE

More recently a UK study published in 2018, studied the effect of mindfulness training on senior high school students. After eight weeks of mindfulness practice, significant increases in self reported well-being were recorded along with an increased awareness of ‘socially relevant stimuli’ which the researchers conclude may decrease vulnerability to depression. To read more about this study click HERE 

Why I am SO inspired to do this work – My Story

I was only in primary school when I had my first thoughts of ending my life. I remember the overwhelming feeling of doom, the fear, the anxiety and the thought that nothing would ever be the same.

Before this time I was a truely happy child, connected deeply to my authentic self, without a problem in the world. Life was a beautiful playground.

I was ten years old and had recently moved schools. My parents where beginning to fight at home and little did I know, would soon seperate. I was finding it really hard to adjust to this big school after the first few years in a small school where I was liked by students and teachers, doing well academically and excelling at sports.

Adapting to this new school was the biggest challenge I had faced this far, and I wasn’t equiped to cope with it. I was only ten and I didn’t have any experience of adversity, of challenges or of the voice inside my head that said ‘ you’re not good enough’.

Over the years this voice became stronger and my marks at school began to drop. I wasn’t taking home a fistful of blue ribbons from any sports carnivals or even making the school sports teams. My self worth was low, my mental chatter was negative and I was beginning to meet the black dog more and more frequently.

This pattern continued into high school. By this time my parents had split up and my father had moved out. My mother decided it was time for a new start for me and my two younger brothers and so we moved houses, and I began high school in a new area, by the beach.

The first few months of high school were challenging as I tried hard to assimilate into this new school and surfy way of life. It wasn’t long before I did what any human does when they are faced with difficult times. I started to use my strengths in new ways, to get what I wanted and what I needed most – to be seen.

Ever since I can remember I was good at talking, at articulating what I wanted to say and not being scared of speaking up. I didn’t know at the time that this strength or this story would go on to greatly shape my life, my career and my offering to others.

So I used my strengths, I started speaking up. I became the class clown, the smart arse and every teachers worst nightmare and it worked! I got respect from my peers, made friends with the cool kids and was finally being seen.

But it wasn’t all roses. My grades were dropping, I was on a behaviour management program and I began being horrible to other students and throwing my new found power around. The black dog came to meet me more and more frequently.

I was finally being seen but I had lost touch with my personal values. I was letting my struggle guide my behaviour rather than my personal values. I was so disconnected to my authentic self,  I didn’t really know who I was.

I got through high school, just. Many suspensions and threats of expulsion but I somehow got through. I remember clearly telling a teacher of mine that I didn’t need an ATAR as I was never going to university, she smiled and me and said okay Jakob, we will see about that.

The years after high school were difficult times as I navigated  my place in the world as an adult. I was drawn to jobs where I could use my speaking and connection building skills, though I never felt truely satisfied. I clearly remember the existential dilemmas I faced with using my greatest asset to rob people blind in a commission based sales role.

I decided it was time to study at university and after some introspection and a good push in the right direction from my Mum, I enrolled to begin my degree in applied social science.

When my first romantic relationship broke down, the black dog came to visit and brought with him something new. I started to experience unhelpful and repetitive, destructive thoughts that I just couldn’t shake. I couldn’t concentrate in class or with friends and family, these thoughts were getting louder, stronger and more intrusive.

Life was once again pointing me in the right direction, but I just didn’t know it as yet.

That term we began looking at a range of psychological techniques including mindfulness based cognitive therapy, which appeared at the perfect time. I started practicing mindfulness as much as possible and reading everything I could on the subject. I finally began to have some relief from my mind. The unhelpful thoughts began to have less impact on me and slowly dissipated. I could concentrate again and for the first time since I was ten my on and off struggle with depression began to come less and less frequently.

This mindfulness stuff really worked for me, and so I started attending workshops and trainings and started doing yoga. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could.

In my final year at university I specialised in life coaching, and was introduced to Positive Psychology, the study of what makes humans flourish. I undertook a range of exercises that helped me to understand my unique strengths and values and see how these impacted my journey and how I could use these to become my best possible self.

The Mindful Coach was born shortly after university and I began helping young people and adults using the skills and techniques of mindfulness and positive psychology.

My journey from aged ten to the present has been an amazing road of ups, downs and learnings. I can see my path so clearly now and how and why every little thing that happened has got me to where I am.

Today I stand confidently and look at my future and know that I want to help people to connect with their authentic selves, to learn mindfulness skills and to use their personal strengths and values to guide them towards their highest potential.

So here is my mission to myself, to others and to the world: facilitate, help and support others to connect deeply to themselves, their bodies and their minds. In order for them to become mindfully aware of all aspects of themselves so that they can cope better with life’s ups and downs, suffer less, care more about themselves, others and the environment.

I deeply believe this learning begins with practicing awareness skills, knowing and using your unique character strengths and choosing behaviour that is grounded in your personal values.

These learnings have been the most pivotal, influential steps in my personal development and my aim is to support as many humans as possible along this journey.

My hope is that by supporting young adults in the development of new coping skills and a personal framework of strengths and values, it will make navigating these challenging years little easier, happier and more rewarding for the young people who get the opportunity to undertake my coaching or school programs.

 

Life Coaching Workshops @ The Plant Room Manly

The Mindful Coach, Jakob Casella, is running a brand new series of workshops this May and every participant receives a one on one life coaching session upon completion of the program.

You will learn a range of techniques drawn from some of the most powerful life coaching and psychotherapy models including positive psychology, ACT, narrative therapy and solution focused therapy.

Jakob has hand picked a range of easy to learn techniques, skills and self assessment tools that promote introspection, growth, psychological resilience and increase wellbeing.

This workshop runs over two consecutive weeks, one hour each Wednesday evening, in this time you will get to assess different aspects of your life and choose an area of focus for your life coaching phone session.

In this session you will work closely with Jakob to set a goal,  strategise and uncover blind spots. Jakob will gently challenge you to dive deeper and begin taking committed action to achieve your goals.

If this sounds like you, jump onto lifecoachingworkshops.eventbrite.com.au

Tickets are limited. Early bird tickets are available until the end of April at $105 + B.F

Plant Room Manly, is a fantastic new space filled with exotic plants and unique design pieces. This space with be transformed into a zen-jungle classroom for the Life Coaching workshops this May, 2017

Follow Plant Room

Instagram instagram.com/the_plantroom/

&

Facebook facebook.com/theplantroom001/

Improve your concentration, lower your stress levels and manage those unhelpful thoughts and feelings…

Learn the skills of mindfulness meditation in 2 x 60 minute workshops

After successful workshops in February, Manly based life coach, Jakob Casella is running another two part ‘learn to meditate’ series this April.

This short course includes:

* 2 x 60 minute group workshops @ the amazing Plant Room, Manly

* All course materials

* Guided group meditations and skills building excercises

* Tea and light snacks

7-8pm Wednesday 5th & 12th of April 2017

$69 + B.F

Book your tickets @ https://learntomeditate2095.eventbrite.com.au

The Venue:

The Plant Room Manly, is a fantastic new space filled with exotic plants and unique design pieces. This space with be transformed into a zen-jungle classroom for the very first Manly Mindfulness Workshops for 2017.

Follow The Plant Room

Instagram instagram.com/the_plantroom/

&

Facebook facebook.com/theplantroom001/

 

 

 

Mindfulness is just the beginning…

Learning mindfulness skills is the first step to becoming aware of your conditioned thought and behaviour patterns. With awareness comes a new found level of control over your actions and with this you can begin to live a truly authentic, conscious life.

Becoming conscious, aware and awake

Learning the skills of mindfulness meditation can begin the process awareness of what was previously unconscious. With regular practice these skills allow you to notice the gap between thoughts, feelings, urges and behaviour.

You can notice what you are thinking, feeling and doing in any given moment. If  you are beginning to feel stressed, anxious or uncomfortable. You can do something about it, before the downward spiral begins.

You will begin to notice the birds singing, the wind against your skin and the sun shining on your face. You consciously choose to smile at the inextricable link you have with life that is all around us. That is us.

Noticing conditioned thought patterns that influence behaviour

You will notice the voice of your ego, and when it begins to judge, compare, criticise and analyse.

You will notice your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes, and how they shape your behaviour.

You might even notice that some of your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes are no longer aligned with your values. They may be old, conditioned patterns of thought that no longer serve you. Now every time these begin to play out, you can catch yourself, then choose how you truly want to react, respond and behave.

Noticing these thought patterns won’t necessarily stop them from happening or make them disappear overnight, however, they will begin to have less impact on your life.

Choosing behaviour aligned with your values whilst letting conditioned thought patterns play out in the background

Being aware of conditioned thought and behaviour patterns is the first step to creating the life you truly want to live. However being aware of these patterns will not necessarily stop them from coming up and trying to take control.

It’s taken weeks, months and years for these patterns to imprint themselves in your life and they are not going to disappear just like that.

Make room for them to be there but choose actions based on what is truly important, deep in your heart. Your unhelpful conditioned thoughts will begin to dissipate and fade away in their own time.

So begin the journey!

Sydney Life Coach, Jakob Casella is running a series of ‘learn to meditate’ workshops at the Plant Room, Manly, NSW.

These workshops will teach you the basics of mindfulness meditation and other psychological tools which will enrich your life and support you to deal with unhelpful thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Click HERE to find out more

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Time Management 101

Are you feeling like there are not enough hours in the day? Is your ‘to do’ list becoming completely overwhelming and unmanageable?  Are you procrastinating and getting next to nothing done?

The following exercise will help you regain control of your time and life!

Remember the 4Ds:
Dump
Defer
Delegate
Do Differently

Dump
What can you dump?  What is not truly important to your goals? Dump it!

Defer
What is not important right now? Defer it, schedule it for later.

Delegate
What can you delegate to somebody else? If someone else can do it ‘well enough’, it’s time to delegate. Can you delegate to someone who has strengths aligned with the task or goal?

Do Differently
If the old way of doing things is sucking up your time, is there a different way you could do it?  Could you use technology to your advantage?  Think outside the box!

The 4D’s can be applied at home, work and to any time management issues that you may be having.

Jakob Casella is a life coach, counsellor and meditation teacher from Manly, NSW Australia. Jakob does home visits, Skype sessions and runs workshops on self improvement and psychological skill building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you ready to learn psychological skills that will improve and enrich your life?

Sydney based life coach, Jakob Casella, is running a two part workshop teaching people the basics of mindfulness meditation.

This short course includes:

* 2 x 60 minute group workshops

* All course materials

* Guided group meditations

* Tea and light snacks

* Live music with guided mediation in the final workshop

7-8pm Wednesday 15th & 22nd of February 2017

$69 + B.F

Book your tickets @ manlymindfulnessworkshops.eventbrite.com.au 

The Venue:

The Plant Room Manly, is a fantastic new space filled with exotic plants and unique design pieces. This space with be transformed into a zen-jungle classroom for the very first Manly Mindfulness Workshops for 2017.

 

 

 

 

Follow The Plant Room on Instagram to see more instagram.com/the_plantroom/

 

 

 

4 common myths about meditation (debunked)

1.Meditation is about stopping thoughts, feelings and memories from coming into your mind

Recent studies have shown that trying to stop, block or push away thoughts, feelings or memories only works temporarily if at all, they often return with extra power and velocity soon after.

Meditation is about noticing that these thoughts feelings or sensations are there but choosing to focus your attention on one or more aspects of the present moment instead.

Examples of these aspects could be sounds, your breathing or sensations in your body. It is the continual task of re-focusing your attention on these aspects of the present moment that allow these uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and memories to dissipate, naturally in their own time.

This can be very difficult initially, however, meditation is a moment by moment experience, even life long mediators have thoughts, feelings and memories that try to distract them.

The difference between a Zen master and a beginner meditator is that the Zen master notices these thoughts, feelings and memories a lot quicker and refocuses on the present moment with minimal fuss or struggle.

2. Meditation might bring up memories or thoughts you don’t really want to think about or feel

Meditation is an observing process not a thinking process. Whilst thoughts often arise including thoughts with visual content like memories the aim is to notice you have gone into thinking and re-focus on observing.

So if memories or thoughts come up, whether they are positive or negative, the first step is to notice that your thinking then re-focus on observing and watch these unhelpful thoughts drift away as you focus on what else is going on in that moment.

3. Meditation is only for people who are stressed or anxious

Mediation is great for distancing oneself from feelings of stress or anxiety however this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Learning and practicing meditation will allow you to be aware of what you are thinking, feeling and doing at any given moment. You will begin to notice conditioned thought and behaviour patterns that stop you from being your best possible self. You will notice when you are triggered by something someone else says or does, which could begin the much needed introspection required to build emotional resilience.

Other benefits include:

  • Improving your concentration and focus whilst decreasing procrastination
  • Lifting your energy and vitality for life
  • Improving your ability to listen and communicate when connecting with friends, family and other humans
  • Improved ability to cope with life’s adversities

4. You need to meditate for long periods of time, everyday, to get the benefits

When first learning to meditate you may find it difficult to sit and focus for long periods of time. It’s important to set realistic and achievable goals and always use a stopwatch or timer.

Begin with three minutes a day for a week. If this is easy to achieve then you can slowly add extra time or do twice per day. If this is difficult then try three minutes, three times a week and you can increase it from there.

Mindfulness is a moment by moment experience. Within a three minute meditation you will likely have seconds of complete oneness with the present moment and many seconds of refocusing your mind once you catch it wandering. There’s no need to be frustrated when you catch your mind wandering. Every time you refocus your attention you rewire your brain for resilience and emotional awareness.

Jakob is running a two part workshop to teach the basics of mindfulness mediation at the brand new Plant Room in Manly NSW. For more details or to book yourself a place click the link below.

manlymindfulnessworkshops.eventbrite.com.au

Tickets are $69 + booking fee

Jakob Casella is a Sydney life coach & therapist who uses mindfulness based approaches to help clients improve and enrich their lives. Coaching can be organised in your home or office, face to face or via Skype, For more information click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coaching conversations for New Year’s resolutions

A couple of years ago, three of my close friends and I were sitting on our fold out camp chairs enjoying a few drinks and chatting about the year gone past. It was New Year’s Eve and we were camping a few hours north of Sydney. As the final hours of the year began to linger I had a lightbulb moment, why not run a four-way goal setting conversation with my friends to each set a goal for the new year.

I facilitated and participated in setting one achievable and inspiring goal for the year ahead. All of my friends had different goal areas that they wanted to work on; Lauren wanted to open a small business, Ben wanted to apply for a job with the NSW Firefighters, Larissa a musician wanted to write and record new music and, I wanted to focus on health and exercise.

I used a life coaching method called ‘Solution-Focused Brief Therapy’ and worked through a scaffold for conversation that was simple and easy for my friends to understand. I gently challenged them when I believed richer information could be elicited and I asked the best possible questions to ensure I got the best possible answers. I made sure that each of our goals were not just specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound but also felt inspiring.

I asked questions like; What do you need to achieve? What is happening in this area right now? What could you do to change this?  How and when will you do this? What’s in your way? How will you sustain success? And how will you celebrate your wins?

Once these questions were throughly explored we put our goals in writing. We used the following exercise to cement our goals then read them out to one another to ensure we were held accountable.

The exercise on cementing our goals is done by writing out the following:

Set a realistic time frame – By: The 1st of July this year

What will you do specifically? – I will: Establish the groundwork required to start my own business including buying the domain and business names, create all social media channels and contact at least three suppliers to begin the product design phase.

Make it inspiring to your best possible self- So that: I use my strengths and challenge myself to create something I am truly proud of, so that I follow my dreams and create the life I imagine. 

As 2016 drew to a close I found my three friends and I together again enjoying a drink and the view of Manly beach as the sun set in the sky. I had a a memory of the exercise we did a few years earlier and a big grin began to fill my face.

We had all absolutely smashed the goals we set. Lauren launched her small business and is now selling a collection of unique home decor pieces online. Ben applied for the NSW Firefighters, which is a long and difficult process. He reached the final rounds but was not successful on his first application, however he is keen to apply again in the future. Larissa wrote and recorded a range of music including a five track EP and a number of electronic collaborations. I reached my six month goal related to dietary adjustments and exercise. I used this goal as a building block and have been raising the bar ever since.

Coaching conversations are a fantastic way to explore your new year’s resolutions and set achievable and inspiring goals.

I am offering a special for telephone coaching in the month of January 2017 at a reduced rate of $80 AUD a session. Sessions run for approximately 55 minutes and can be scheduled most afternoons and evenings.

If you are interested in having a coaching conversation via Skype or face2face please get in touch  via email Jakob@themindfulcoach.com.au

Jakob also teaches mediation and is trained in ACT, a mindfulness based cognitive form of psychotherapy. To read more click here