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Goldie Hawn: How your Wise Owl helps your kids (and you!) find resilience and well-being

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

Goldie Hawn is amazing. Ever entertaining, still able to laugh at herself, and a bright light in the world, she and her MindUP children’s foundation have partnered with research scientists, psychologists, and educators worldwide for almost 20 years to teach the skills and knowledge that kids need to help promote positive mental health, resilience, and overall well-being. The non-profit's teachings are thoughtful, research-based, simple, and impactful. Initially designed for teachers and educators to integrate the benefits of mindfulness into the classroom, MindUP is now collaborating with the mindfulness and meditation app Insight Timer to make MindUP’s Brain Breaks free and easily accessible to all kids -- anytime, anywhere in the world. These Brain Breaks are without a doubt perfect tools for adults to try as well! Key Parts Of The Brain: Wise Owl, Barking Dog, And Elephant What we love about Goldie and the MindUP organization is their ability to present complex neurobiological principles in simple terms so that it’s understandable for even the youngest kids. It’s also super helpful for the rest of us who are without an extensive background in neuroscience. So why learn about the brain? Biological and chemical processes in the brain intertwine with our nervous system to impact our cognition, behavior, and well-being. Specifically, if the different parts of our brain are integrated and functioning well, we are in a much better position to think, learn new things, problem solve, respond well to difficult situations, and connect with others.

  • Barking Dog (Amygdala): The human brain is hardwired for survival, which means it's doing its valuable job of constantly looking for threats and danger in our environment in order to protect us and keep us safe. The part of the brain responsible for this is called the amygdala. MindUP refers to the amygdala as the Barking Dog -- always on alert and letting us know if something is wrong. So it's an important job. However, in our modern world there are so many perceived threats and chronic stressors in our everyday lives that our brains are frequently overactive and constantly on high alert, which causes us to overreact and feel overwhelmed. Our dog is constantly barking. In this high-alert state, we literally don’t have access to all the benefits of our Wise Owl part of the brain.

  • Wise Owl (Prefrontal Cortex): When we can learn to befriend and calm our amygdala/Barking Dog, we create space for our prefrontal cortex's Wise Owl to emerge. When the prefrontal cortex is activated and in charge, we are in our optimal state of functioning and well-being. When we are in this wiser part of our brain, we can think more clearly, our emotions are regulated, we can choose our actions, our social engagement system is online, and we are feeling good.

  • Elephant (Hippocampus): Our Wise Owl is the part of our brain that sends messages and connects to the hippocampus (the Elephant). Our amygdala/Barking dog makes it difficult to access the hippocampus, which is responsible for storing and retrieving memories. Without such access, learning and retaining new information is challenging.

Goldie’s MindUP Partners With Insight Timer To Offer Free Brain Breaks For Kids

Four different Brain Break exercises are now available for free on the Insight Timer app and website to help calm the Barking Dog part of your brain and allow the Wise Owl to emerge. The first activity, Keep Your MindUP For Your Brain (6 min), introduces the concepts of the Wise Owl, Barking Dog, and Elephant and includes a short, guided mindful breathing exercise that people can do when they feel upset, distressed, or angry.

The other exercises, Keep Your MindUP With Kindness (4 min), Gratitude (3 min), and 3 Good Things (3 min), are strategies that are also designed to help our brains calm the over-active amygdala’s Barking Dog and move into the more balanced Wise Owl’s prefrontal cortex. These easy practices are fun for kids to do, and can serve as an invaluable support for parents and educators interested in integrating simple and impactful mindful awareness practices into home and school life to enhance children’s well-being during this challenging school year. The Brain Break audio exercises on Insight Timer are also available in Spanish, Portuguese, and French, with more languages to come soon.

The Benefits Are Not Just For Kids!

We’ve found that although designed for children, MindUP's Brain Break exercises are a powerful opportunity to be as life-changing a practice for adults as they are for kids. When we as parents find our own Wise Owl part of the brain, we too can focus and problem-solve better, we are better able to deal with our own feelings of fear and anxiety, we are more resilient, we have greater capacity for empathy, and our social relationships are enhanced, as is our capacity for joy. In time and with practice, these breathing, gratitude, and kindness breaks can change the neural pathways and stress chemicals in our brains for greater physical and emotional health and well-being. And when we as parents are able to practice finding our own Wise Owl brain, it has a profound ripple effect on our own kids, families, and communities.

Hopefully you and your kids have a chance to try them out, now that for the first time ever they are free and so easy to find on Insight Timer! Meret Founder, Wise Wellness Toolkit

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