“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”
20 – 30 minutes
- Coping Skills
- Positive Intentions
While the word power phrase may seem downright odd to some, the use of repetitive phrases can be found in almost any culture throughout history and in modern society. From ancient Vedic and Eastern traditions to Catholicism, Judaism,¹ African tribes, and Native American ceremonies ̶ all have instinctively built traditions around the intrinsically powerful practice of repeating a word or phrase over and over. Athletes and children unknowingly create their own power phrases as simple as, “I can do this.” Even music and singing can be considered a form of power phrase.
The simple utility of a power phrase is as a focusing tool to help your mind escape from its continual flow of thoughts. By repeating a phrase many times we can more readily drop into an awareness of the present moment. By imbuing the phrase with a positive intention we also capitalize on the well-documented effect of positive thoughts and visualization. In choosing a word or phrase that is nonsensical there is the additional benefit of activating regions of our brain associated more with direct experience than verbal processing.
Numerous medical and scientific studies have found the use of repetitive phrases to be associated with physical and psychological benefits such as: decreases in heart rate, respirations, anxiety, stress, insomnia, unwanted thoughts and anger, along with increases in quality of life and overall well-being. 1,2,3
As with all mindfulness lessons, students will respond to your level of comfort and enthusiasm around the subject. Using words like “secret power phrase” will generate a lot of excitement and buy-in for your students. You are encouraged to fully participate in the lesson along with the students and practice your own “power phrase.”
- Power Phrase
- Vowels and Consonants
Materials & Preparation
- Paper and Pencil.
- Chime or bell with a soft ring.
- Prior to teaching this lesson, experiment with the use of power phrase in your life. Try it for 10 minutes, an hour, a day, or as long as you like and note the effects.
Building Background Knowledge & Concept Modeling (I Do)
Teaching Note: This lesson lends itself to having great connections to any cultural or historical units. Try to time this lesson with a historical unit to provide greater context for students. For example, if you are teaching a unit on Native Americans you can talk about how Native Americans used chanting during their ceremonies and link this lesson with video or audio tracks to help students feel that they are connected to a larger tradition.
1. “Today we are going to learn a new form of mindfulness called power phrase. Power Phrase just means repeating a phrase over and over again many times silently in our mind. For example, we could say, ‘I can do this. I can do this. I can do this’ repeatedly to help ourselves get ready for a big test or soccer game. You may also know about people from many different cultures and belief systems who repeat words and phrases over and over.”
“These are all examples of power phrases, and they help us to focus our attention so we feel less stressed. Just like paying attention to our breath during mindful breathing or paying attention to our food during mindful eating, we concentrate all of our attention on a specific phrase when we use power phrases.”
2. Check for understanding: “What is a power phrase? What would an example of a power phrase be?” Pause for discussion.
3. “That’s right! A power phrase can be any word or saying that we repeat to help us feel better. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a real word. You are going to create your own power phrase today. It is a secret saying that only you know and that you can use to help yourself calm down and feel better.”
4. Here are some guidelines for creating your own personal power phrase:
a. Choose something that is not a real word.
b. Choose something that is easy to say and easy to remember.
c. Limit your power phrase to 1-2 words.
d. Set an intention or meaning for your power phrase.
Guided Practice (We do)
- “Now it’s finally time to make your power phrase. Let’s take this step by step.”Step 1: “Find your mindful body.”Coach students through mindful body as needed.
“Begin to focus your attention on your breathing to quiet your mind.”
Guide your class through at least three mindful breaths together.Step 2: “Decide on a positive intention for a power phrase. An intention is different than a goal because it is not focused on a specific achievement; rather it focuses on a way of being. Think of what you feel you need most in life right now and set an intention to help you.”Some examples of positive intentions are:I am strong.
I am at peace.
I am healthy.
My thoughts are kind.
My mind is calm.
I can achieve what I set my mind to.
I am a successful student.Step 3: “Write your one-sentence intention on your paper.”
Step 4: “With your intention in mind, it is time to create your power phrase. First, decide if your power phrase will be one or two words. Then, keeping your intention in mind, begin to select a few sounds from the following list that you like.”
“These are all sounds that are found in everyday language, but will be combined in ways that are not actual words.”
Teaching Note: This chart is copied on a full page below for easy projection or handouts.
Notice the literacy connection to vowels and consonants. This list is certainly not comprehensive. Students are invited to be creative and combine vowels and consonants in any order they like. Use this list as a starting point.
ing ah ee ahm ang wo ot ek hum gah ra im an sh da yo na ch oo ti
Step 5: “Once you have selected between 1-5 sounds, use your paper to combine your sounds to create your own words. These words will be your power phrase.”
Reinforcing Lesson Concepts (You Do)
- “Write down your power phrase and keep it in a safe place. Now let’s practice using it.”a. “Find your mindful body again and take some centering breaths.”
b. “Close your eyes and begin to silently repeat your power phrase in your head.”
c. “Repeat your power phrase slowly and thoughtfully, paying attention to the sound of each word and focusing all of your attention on repeating your power phrase.” Demonstrate a slow, steady cadence out loud. For example, ing… (2-3 seconds)…ing… (2-3 seconds)…ing….etc.
d. “As you begin to notice thoughts and emotions, just let them be and return your attention to your power phrase.”
e. “Repeat your power phrase silently in your mind for one minute while you focus on the intention of your power phrase. I’ll set the timer, so when you hear the chime you can stop. Take a deep breath and begin.”7. Great job! Open your eyes and bring your attention back into the room.”
8. Questions for discussion:
· “What did you notice?”
· “How did it feel?”
· “Was it weird? Easy? Hard?”
· “Did anyone notice any changes in their body or their emotions?”
· “How can a power phrase help you achieve your goals?”
· “When could you use your power phrase?”
Ask for examples from students, but be sure to emphasize it can be used to help calm down during stressful moments e.g., arguments, tests, conflicts, challenges, and can also be used even when they are calm as ‘practice’ for those situations.
Evidence of Concept Attainment
Reflect on it
- “What is the difference between an intention and a goal?”
- “What are some examples of power phrases you see in everyday life?”
- “How can we use the cognitive triad to explain, scientifically, how power phrases can change our life?” (Hint: Power phrases shape our thoughts and our thoughts in turn affect our behavior and emotions).
- “When can you use a power phrase?”
- Write 1-3 paragraphs describing how you decided on your intention, how your power phrase is related to your intention, and how you think your power phrase can help you.
- Add “power phrase” to your list of cool-down strategies in the take-a-break-space.
- Set aside a few minutes each day specifically for practicing power phrases.
- Have students draw and decorate their power phrases as an art project.
- Post positive quotes and sayings in the hallways and have students take a “power phrase tour.”
- Consider announcing a “power phrase of the day” for a week – something simple like “Be kind,” etc.
- Bernardi Luciano, Sleight Peter, BandinelliGabriele, Cencetti Simone, Fattorini Lamberto,Wdowczyc-Szulc Johanna et al. Effect of rosary prayer and yoga mantras on autonomic cardiovascular rhythms: comparative study BMJ2001; 323 :1446
- Bormann, J., Oman, D., Becker, S., Gershwin, M., & Kelly, A. (2006, March 1). Mantra repetition for stress management in veterans and employees: A critical incident study. Retrieved July 1, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16499671?dopt=AbstractPlus
- ‘The Untapped Power and Benefit of Having a Mantra. (n.d.). Retrieved July 1, 2015, http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/07/02/28/the-untapped-power-and-benefit-of-having-a-mantra.htm