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Pause, breathe, smile - Providing tools to deal with life’s ups and downs

SELF-awareness, mindfulness, resilience, relief from stress and healthy minds are growing in Tairawhiti.

Those newly-found attributes are the notable changes that have taken place with Kaiti School students — and others around the country — taking part in the Pause Breathe Smile (PBS) mind health programmme.

Kaiti School teacher Sara Gaertner is an enthusiastic advocate of the Southern Cross social responsibility programme that reaches 46,000 students across 187 Kiwi schools through more than 3000 teachers.

PBS is designed to equip children, aged five to 12, with tools to manage the ups and downs of life and so set them up for a healthy future.

The programme uses techniques such as mindfulness and meditation and over eight courses includes lessons on regulating and managing emotions, self-awareness skills and positive relationships.

PBS co-founder Grant Rix said he had heard from a principal “who spent all of their time writing up reports on altercations between students and now they haven’t filed a report since beginning PBS”.

He defines mindfulness as the act of being fully present to life in each moment, physically and mentally within and around us.

Ms Gaertner refers to it as the inner world and the outer world.

The two core components of mindfulness are intentionally paying attention to the present moment in doing this in a way that is largely non-judgemental.

Mr Rix says its about being “able to cut through negative forms of mind-wandering and to bring our attention back to the body, which is always in the here and now”.

Ms Gaertner said the students, as a result of PBS, felt a sense of peace and calm.

They were able to make positive decisions and become responsive rather than reactive.

Ms Gaertner originally worked with her students five years ago using meditation, yoga and self-reflection.

It was a new experience for the students but all of them, including the boys, became keen participants.

School principal Billie-Jean Potaka Ayton was impressed by the impact of the programme and, being aware of PBS, spoke to Ms Gaertner about bringing it to Kaiti School.

The programme was brought to the school the following year, with teachers undergoing training at a PBS workshop.

The free PBS programme is provided by Southern Cross, working with the Pause Breathe Smile Trust and The Mental Health Foundation, and is available to all primary and intermediate schools in the country.

HAPPY IN THEIR WORK: Kaiti School students RJ Miller (left) and Lehgend Paul and teacher Sara Gaertner are all keen participants in and supporters of the Pause Breathe Smile mind health programme. Picture by Liam Clayton