Of the twenty years I’ve worked my resilience movement program in schools, I have noticed a dramatic increase in anxiety in the past ten years, considerably in children starting as low as grade 1. I’ve discovered more than ever how powerful movement is in rewiring the brain after
deeply noticing some patterns where anxiety roots from and diving into neuroscience research.
The knowledge we have about the brain we have today can give us great hope for mental health issues such as a rise in anxiety and depression. The brain CAN be rewired and young people can find wholeness and health.
The secret ingredient to the program I have developed over the past 20 years is connection among students while moving. There are plenty of benefits to movement alone, but when you add a community aspect to movement, this is where brain rewiring goes to a whole new level.
We teach students the art of “vibing”. Vibing in the urban dictionary means “to agree”. This is just an urban way of describing attuement. Attunement is crucial for the rewiring of the brain. In the “Neurobiology of We”, Daniel Siegel describes how when one person attunes to the mind of another, it can take old patterns of wiring in the brain and create new connections.
To use vibing as an example: We ask students to partner up and copy the moves of the their partner. When they “agree” with the move of their partner by copying them, this neurobiology of “we” creates new brain circutry that is more positive. Positive mirroring and being received positively by another does wonders for brain and mental health! This moves an individual from being isolated, not necessarily physically but mentally and emotionally, to feeling SEEN. This has enormous impact on a person’s mental health.
I have personally seen children and youth who were incredibly withdrawn at the beginning of class completely open themselves in our class to find more courage to be seen and to express themselves than they ever felt possible. It’s powerful to watch. Not only does the program impact the individual, but as we move from vibing with partners to groups of 4, 8, 16 and eventually a circle with the entire class, a community spirit begins to form, solidifying belonging which is foundational for mental health.
I will never forget a student named John who came to our workshop. He was withdrawn and experienced the impacts of being bullied at his school. His home life was hard and he had a hard time keeping up with his academics. From all angles, John constantly felt like he was a failure. In the workshop he asked specifically not to be asked to go into the middle of the circle, which of course I assured him he wouldn’t have to do unless he chose to. When the circle formed at the end of our session, the most remarkable thing happened to John. Everyone was feeling the safety and belonging our program naturally delivers. John jumped right into the middle of the circle as everyone cheered loudly for him. After I asked John, “What made you change your mind to go into the circle?” His reply moved me. What he said shows the power attunement, or as we say “vibing agreement”, has over mental limitations. He replied, “When I heard my class cheer for me I just felt so FREE!”
Isn’t that what every student longs for? To feel FREE? Free to be seen and known by others and to be free from the torment of shameful thoughts that they are not enough. Anxiety is often only shame in disguise: “I am not enough to handle this situation.” Movement and activities that create attunement and a community spirit can do wonders for your class.
I do workshops with teachers on how to facilitate this if you are interested. We also can visit your school with our program. You can find out more at movementwithamessage.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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