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Mindfulness is proving key in the lives of young people

CHILDREN and young people across Donegal who have been taking part in a groundbreaking mindfulness programme have been speaking about how it has proven to be key in helping them cope in an ever demanding world. 
 
ReNew You is a six-week mindfulness, relaxation and life skills programme by founder, Aoibheann Gallen. It allows participants to relax their minds, to stop, have a rest and take in the world around them. 
 
The Stranorlar-based mindfulness expert developed a follow-on digital app for primary school aged children last year. It’s the first of its kind in Ireland and contains unique meditation sessions and tools to help children to continue the practice in school with their teacher, once the ReNew You programme is completed. A teen app has been recorded in London. 
 
The Donegal News visited Dooish National School to speak with Mrs Mary McDevitt’s sixth class pupils, who are four weeks into their six-week programme.
 
When we arrived, the pupils were doing mindful movement and relaxation.
 
Not only has the programme been helping them to make strides in their personal lives, but also on the sporting field as Dooish National School, had, just days before, won the county soccer final in St Patrick’s Park, Drumkeen. They beat St Eunan’s National School, Raphoe,  3-1 in the match to be crowned Letterkenny Cup champions. 
 
Pupils, Peter Sweeney, Jack McNulty, Jake Doherty, all aged 11, and Mathew McGeehan and Jarrod Arenhold, both aged 12, told of how the 45-minute weekly programme has helped them to relax and focus.
 
“We practised meditation on the bus on the way to the match. It really helped give us focus and it we worked better as part of a team and face our opponents with more confidence,” they said. 
 
Shannon Friel, Michelle Elliott and Megan Doherty, all aged 12, said taking part in the programme has helped them sleep better and focus more. They said they use mindfulness at home.
 
They spoke about pressures, social media and about how the programme has helped them to treat themselves with more kindness and of how it has armed them to deal with strong emotions. 
 
“It’s  nice to do something else other than always being on social media. We would definitely recommend the programme to other people our age,” they said. 
 
Class teacher Mrs McDevitt said the pupils have really been really engaged during the sessions. 
 
“They have really been enjoying the sessions and it is lovely for them to have this opportunity in school. It’s good to see them bringing what they are learning into practise as well.” 
 
Aoibheann has just completed a six-week course with teenagers from Lifford Youth Reach. They spoke about how they too have found it a great help. 
 
“This programme is absolutely amazing. It has benefited me as a person when I use Aoibheann’s techniques, it really helps me through the day. ReNew You helps me to deal with my problems and stress,” said Shania. 
 
Catriona said the programme opened her mind to new things.
 
“It helps me to stay positive and deal with emotions and I feel better about myself.”
 
For Shakira, the six-week mindfulness programme has helped her to deal with stress in so many different ways.
 
“It also helps me to be more mindful of things and open-minded,” she said. 
 
Latisha said the programme has encouraged her to think about things in a different way. 
 
“It has helped me to deal with strong emotions,” she said. 
 
For Rachel, learning how to deal with everyday thoughts has been hugely beneficial. 
 
“My mind and body feel relaxed during the ReNew You programme and when I practice meditation.” 

A group of young women from Lifford Youth Reach who attended Aoibheann Gallen’s ReNew You mindfulness classes.

 
Aoibheann, who facilitates ReNew You sessions across the Northwest, said the programme has had a profound impact on its latest participants. 
 
“To see the hugely positive benefits is the reason I do what I do. The transition I see in the pupils and young people when they feel safe to go to their calm place inside is incredible.
They are practising tools which are helping to instil confidence in themselves, which helps them build a better state of mind. It makes them happier and it’s definitely a tool for today’s busy and hectic world. 
 
“I’m sure at the very start they might have thought, ‘what is this all about?’,  but they have really taken to it. They have also come out of themselves  and they have really evolved. Parental feedback has also been very positive.” 
 
More information on ReNew You can be found via Facebook: @ReNewYouMindfulnessMeditation, Instagram: renewyou_official_insta and on Twitter: @ReNewYou7
 

Aoibheann Gallen, ReNew you with Dooish National School pupils.

 
AMBER BARRETT: AMBASSADOR, RENEW YOU
Inspirational Milford woman, Amber Barrett is Ambassador for Renew You. 
 
The Ireland International, who plays for German club FC Koln, said she was delighted to take up the important role.
 
A former Donegal GAA star, the 23-year-old played for Peamount United in Dublin for five years while studying in Maynooth College.
 
She said practising mindfulness through ReNew You programme helped her in the transition to playing professionally. 
 
“A year and a half ago my former teacher in Milford, Margaret O’Connor, had been working with Aoibheann, who had been looking for an ambassador for her programme.  I had a good relationship with Margaret when I was in school and Margaret suggested to Aoibheann that we should meet. 
 
“I had a one to one with Aoibheann and from the moment I sat down with her I felt better.  She gave me a mindfulness session that day, giving me close access to the programme and it was tremendous for her to do that,” said Amber.
 
Amber said the programme has been “a great benefit” both on the sporting field and personally. 
 
“I use the ReNew You programme three to four times a week for 10 to 15 minutes. It lets me shut off and it gives me focus. It has helped me since I’ve moved to Koln Football Club to professional football. 
 
“I am new to this environment and this is where Renew You has been good for me. It can be a lonely time and there are times I question what I am doing,  but the programme has kept me on point.”
 
Amber said she believes mindfulness is crucial for young people. 
 
“I consider myself mentally strong. Everyone has bad days, but now with this tool I am more able to deal with them. It has helped me be better equipped to deal with situations on the playing field which can be  a place of high pressure.
 
“Kids as young as 11 and 12 are under pressure and this can lead to more exposure to mental health issues at a young age. ReNew You ensures that things don’t manifest.”
Amber said she is looking forward to returning home for Christmas. 
 
“I have only been home to Donegal once since I moved to Germany, but this time two weeks I will be home back in Donegal to see my family, and I am sure my mammy will have some chores for me to do.” 
 

ReNew You Ambassador, Amber Barrett.

Aoibheann Gallen, ReNew You, with pupils, Megan Doherty, Shannon Friel and Michelle Elliott.

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