To all the educators out there, congratulations on finishing another school year! After a year dedicated to nurturing the development of your students or staff, you finally have some time to focus on your own well-being.

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Happiness Breaks, the newest podcast at the Greater Good Science Center, are one of our favorite ways that educators can decompress, revitalize, and renew their “teacher’s heart.”

Each brief recording offers a research-based practice for cultivating self-compassion, resilience to stress, and moments of joy and inspiration. While you’ll probably think about how these practices can benefit your students or staff next fall, we hope you take the time this summer to nurture your own well-being first. Remember the oxygen mask!

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Here are five of our favorite Happiness Breaks for educators.

Making Space for You (6 minutes)

Things in the classroom don’t always go as planned. Lessons don’t land, students are disengaged, parents make unrealistic demands, and we make mistakes. Try this guided contemplation with Alex Elle to let go of self-judgment and approach your struggles with more compassion. These types of mindful experiences have been found to regulate the heart rate, reduce inflammation caused by stress, and improve sleep. What better way to start the summer?

Embodying Resilience (10 minutes)

Teaching requires a lot of immediate, often intense, decision making. We rarely have the luxury of time during our workdays to weigh things thoughtfully. This can keep our nervous systems in a constant state of high arousal. Over time, this flurry of activity and engagement can wear us down and lead to burnout. Try this beautiful meditation guided by Prentice Hemphill to turn down the volume and enter into a state of resilience.

Sketching Serenity (9 minutes)

As teachers, we spend a lot of time in our heads: planning, evaluating, and pondering how best to meet our students’ needs. We write lesson plans, fill out report cards, and communicate with parents and guardians, to name a few. Try this guided drawing practice with Chris Murchison to activate different areas of your brain and possibly enter into a state of flow, found to increase emotional regulation, happiness, and creativity. No artistic talent required!

Savoring Silence (10 minutes)

Schools and classrooms can be quite noisy. While this hum of student engagement is necessary and worthwhile, our minds and bodies also need moments of silence for our well-being. Even two minutes of silence can lower our blood pressure and restore our equilibrium. Try this evocative practice with Tricia Hersey, founder of the Nap Ministry, to experience an appreciation of silence and its restorative powers. Let us rest.

Noticing Nature (7 minutes)

School’s out! No need to spend most of our waking hours inside. During the summer, we have more opportunities to slow down and immerse ourselves in nature. Even spending little bursts of time in whatever natural environment is accessible has numerous benefits for our well-being. Find a favorite place in the natural world and try this immersive practice with Dacher Keltner to help you pay attention to nature and experience positive emotions like awe and inspiration, a sense of interconnectedness, and reduced feelings of isolation and loneliness. 

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Hopefully, when your summer break ends, these practices will have nurtured your well-being, recharged your batteries, and inspired you to bring your best self to your students, your colleagues, and the communities you serve for another year.

When you are ready to turn your attention back to planning for the new year, you’ll find a treasure trove of school-based practices for you and your students at Greater Good in Education. If you try any of the practices, please feel free to contact us—we would love your feedback.

Best wishes for a happy, restful, and rejuvenating summer!

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