San Francisco elementary schools practicing mindfulness in the classroom

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Have you ever felt overwhelmed by what's going on around you? The experts say practicing mindfulness can help. It's so effective that 11 public elementary schools in San Francisco are doing it as part of their daily routine.

Andrew Nance asks the kids, "Are you taking deep breaths?"

Nance, who teaches them about the benefits of staying present, knows never to underestimate the power of breathing, especially when it comes to kindergartners.

Here's what they told ABC7's Lyanne Melendez. "When I breathe, it makes my body calm," says kindergartner Ricky Johnson.

"And be strong, be calm and be respectful and be responsible," said Iviona Ball.

"And it helps stay focused," assured Ka 'Mya Harris.

They call it mindfulness, but when you're 6 years old, it's more about keeping your distracted puppy brain focused.

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The "how to" is taught by Nance. Today, Bret Harte Elementary is one of 11 schools in the district that teaches mindfulness. The kids are rewarded with a puppy print.

"Suddenly, you realize your brain has wandered off and your consciousness says brain get back here and you take a breath and you calm that puppy mind and you reconnect with your friend," explained Nance.

Their teacher, Christine Melia, says the kids have changed how they approach one another.

"If they see somebody upset, they say oh, let's do deep breaths together, calm down, take a breath to calm down so they really help each other, they turn to it," said Melia.

They left me with this reminder:

"I breathe through my nose, with this breath my minds goes strong and that's what focus time is all about."

Words to live by.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being aware of where you are, to pay attention of what is going on around you.

When you train your brain to be mindful, you're actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.

Here is a basic technique for you to get started:
1. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck, and back straight but not stiff.
2. Try to put aside all thoughts of the past and the future and stay in the present.
3. Become aware of your breath, focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall, and the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different.
4. Watch every thought come and go, whether it be a worry, fear, anxiety or hope. When thoughts come up in your mind, don't ignore or suppress them but simply note them, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor.
5. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind went off to, without judging, and simply return to your breathing. Remember not to be hard on yourself if this happens.
6. As the time comes to a close, sit for a minute or two, becoming aware of where you are. Get up gradually.
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