Author Q&A: Catharine Hannay Talks Mindfulness for Teachers and Teens
Author Q&A: Catharine Hannay Talks Mindfulness for Teachers and Teens
PUBLISHED: Thursday, October 03, 2019 by Andilynn Feddeler

Mindfulness is about consciously choosing where to focus our attention, and it can help both kids and adults become calmer and kinder to ourselves and others. Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness has 52 activities to help young women practice awareness, compassion, and self-acceptance. Learn more about the book and about the benefits of mindfulness in this interview with the author, Catharine Hannay.
 

Q: Why is mindfulness important? 

A: Today’s kids have never known a world without 24/7 access to information and distraction. Most of us, regardless of our age, are spending more and more of our time online, where our attention is tracked and commodified. 

It’s essential to make conscious decisions about where and how we’re focusing our awareness.

  • Where am I choosing to focus my attention right now?

  • Am I letting myself get distracted, or am I choosing to focus on what’s important to me?

  • Am I getting caught up in criticism, or am I choosing to be compassionate?

 

Q: What are the benefits of mindfulness for teen girls, specifically? 

A: When I surveyed teen girls about how they’ve benefitted from practicing mindfulness, the top three responses were: 

  • feeling less anxious and stressed;

  • increasing their concentration; and 

  • improving their relationships with their friends and family, which was connected to improving their ability to regulate their emotions.

These are ways we can all benefit, but they’re particularly important for teen girls because they’re under so much pressure from all sides. Girls are expected to study hard, excel at their extracurricular activities, and fit into societal norms of looking attractive, while being sweet and nice all the time and navigating a confusing world of frenemies and social media.

That said, there’s a lot of diversity among young women. They have different experiences and perspectives and interests. It’s important for adults to recognize girls’ unique gifts and challenges, and try to support each individual girl in the way that’s most beneficial to her. That’s why I included so many activities in Being You, in the hope that each girl can develop a personal mindfulness practice that’s most beneficial to her. 

 

Q: How did you get started with mindfulness? 

A: My commute included a 15-minute walk to the bus stop, and I spent the whole time ruminating about work. I’d been reading about mindfulness, so I decided to try using those 15 minutes every morning and evening to focus on the present moment. When I started becoming more aware of my surroundings, I realized that I’d been walking past beautiful gardens without even seeing them! Whenever I caught my mind wandering, I’d shift my focus to the colors of the flowers: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or purple. 

I eventually called this “Rainbow Walk,” which is one of the first activities I posted to MindfulTeachers.org. It’s consistently been in the top 10 posts ever since then. I’ve heard from teachers who’ve tried it themselves and with every age group from toddlers to adult learners.

I decided to keep experimenting with different practices and writing about what’s worked for me, in the hope that it would benefit other teachers and their students. 

 

Q: What do you hope readers take away from your work? 

A: The word mindful is thrown around a lot these days, and it isn’t always used accurately. In Being You and at MindfulTeachers.org, I emphasize that: 

  1. Mindfulness is more than just stress reduction. It’s about awareness, not about being relaxed and happy all the time.

  2. Mindfulness is an umbrella term that covers a lot of different practices and perspectives. Everyone shouldn’t necessarily do the same type of meditation, but everyone can benefit from practicing mindfulness. 

 

Catharine Hannay has taught for 20 years and holds master’s degrees in teaching and communications. She is the founder of MindfulTeachers.org, an internationally-respected resource on practicing and teaching mindfulness and compassion.