by Kim Rensch
I’m a big fan of Good Morning America. This is important because watching the show led me to the book that I hope to someday look back on and think, “That was the book that saved my sanity.”
If you’re like me (Heaven help you if you are), you’re an educator who throws all you have and then some into your career. You are never quite able to turn off your teacher mind. There’s always something to reflect on, ruminate over, worry about, and stress upon.
If awards were given out for Worrywart of the Year or Ruminator in a Leading Role, I would be on the short list of top nominees. That’s why, for our recent holiday break, I forced myself to pull my nose out of the teaching books and open my eyes to something that might help quiet my busy mind.
Months ago, Good Morning America Weekend anchor Dan Harris promoted his new book, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story, on the show. He claimed that finding meditation helped him cope with the stress that came with his job, costs nothing, and can be impactful in short amounts of time.
Sign me up.
10% Happier came in a pile of teaching books; I had e-tossed it into my shopping cart during one of my digital shopping trips to Amazon.com. It sat in a pile of teaching books for a few weeks, crushed under the weight of my career expectations, until the holidays rolled around and brought a respite from school work.
Meditation, says Harris, suffers from a PR problem. It is not tied to any religion, it does not require contorting one’s body into weird pretzel shapes, and there is no need to chant “ommmmm” while wondering if your granola is GMO-free. All it requires is a short amount of time to sit comfortably (back straight) and focus on the breath. When other thoughts pop up, simply give them a label (impatience, work) and refocus thoughts on breathing. Now, I’m not sure what makes this game of mental whack-a-mole a stress-reducer, but there is science to back up its effectiveness. Harris covers that in his book, too.
While I normally do not make New Year’s resolutions, 10% Happier inspired me to give meditation a try in 2016. I’m starting small—five minutes a day—and plan to extend those minutes over time. My hope is to look back on 2016 as the year I trained my brain to better handle the stressors of the education profession. That Worrywart of the Year trophy would only gather dust and take up space anyway.
I hope all teachers will find something this year that makes them 10% happier. Give yourself permission to set aside the work and preserve your sanity. If you wait until summer to find it, it just might be lost forever.