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More national schools opting for meditation time

Aoibheann Gallen

Aoibheann Gallen

PRIMARY school pupils across Donegal aren’t just studying reading, writing and arithmetic anymore. Some are now meditating.
Techniques used to help pupils improve their mental well-being are being introduced in schools from Letterkenny to Lifford, Ardara to Carrigart and all parts in between.
It’s the brain-child of Aoibheann Gallen who runs ReNew You, a mindfulness meditation programme in schools throughout Donegal.
Aoibheann is a native of Ballylast outside Lifford. She spent much of the past two decades working in Kerry but now she’s back home – based in Stranorlar – and is relishing her new job.
“There is a lot of talk about Mindfulness/Meditation – it is the buzz word at present. My programme is different in that the children really do benefit from my tools. I give them a platform to stop and learn unique tools for increased calmness, relaxation and acceptance in a fun and easy to understand manner for children and an easy to understand and engaging manner for teens,” Ms Gallen.
“I go into the schools and sit on the floor with them. What I’m finding is there are a lot of students even at this age, 4-year-olds to 10, 11 and 12-year-olds, who are anxious and nervous and have trouble focusing,” she added.
She is now finding that the students are more self-confident.
“They’re just more aware of themselves and what makes them upset, what makes them nervous, and they have better control now of how to deal with it.”
A recent Australian study found mindfulness can also improve sleep quality and lessen disruptive and bullying behaviour in schools.
“When we were young we played outside and got the chance to read a comic if we were lucky. Nowadays, children has so many opportunities but they’ve also go so many gadgets on their phones that they never really get the chance to stop – to take time – and unfortunately, their anxiety levels increase. If someone’s having a hard time, I can give them the strategies to deal with that,” Ms Gallen said.
“It’s not heavy duty or serious. They’re children and they’re taught these coping techniques in a fun, easy manner,” she added.
“Seeing the relief on their faces once they realise that they can actually take the time to stop in this busy world makes it all worthwhile,” Ms Gallen said.
Within the schools taking part in the ReNew You programme every class is learning how to be more mindful of themselves and others.
“I will be doing work with groups in the near future, so there are other exciting parts of my project to come, which I will bring to fruition shortly,” she said.
Ms Gallen will also be carrying out ‘Summer Meditation Camps’ in various parts of the county while a number of well-known sportspeople are using Ms Gallen’s services.
“I’ve gone back to my roots. It’s great to be back home. I am just so passionate about helping people to be calmer in this ever busy lifestyle,” she said.

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