In advance, gather all of your art supplies and materials.
Gather your group and ask them to grab their choice of craft materials.
Invite your group to sit comfortably and place the materials in front of them (on table or floor.)
Announce that you will soon lead a brief exercise to help them relax and connect to their breath.
Follow the guidelines for Mindful Breathing and read the ‘Equal Counts Breath’ script.
As you guide your group through the script, invite them to use their creative tool of choice to draw and paint their breath on paper.
For example, as they inhale they may choose to draw an upward motion on their paper and with each exhale, they may draw a downward motion.
When ready, gently invite your group back to be present in the room.
Next, invite each person to experiment further with one or more independent rounds of breathing, each time intending to express their breathing pattern on paper.
Allow up to 30 minutes for your group to complete these creations.
When ready, invite group members to share their final projects with others in a group discussion or with partners.
How To Play Narrative
Getting familiar with your own breathing patterns can help you support your nervous system and stress levels.
Every function in your body depends on proper breathing. If you’re not breathing properly it can affect your nervous system, your immune system, your sleep patterns, your stress levels, and even your digestive system.
When you become aware of the rhythms of your breath, you may be able to notice where you can improve the quality of your breathing so you can enhance overall health and wellbeing.
This activity offers great opportunities for your group to connect to their inner world and the patterns of their breathing through creativity and connection.
In advance, you’ll need to gather a bunch of craft and drawing materials. As your group arrives, ask them to grab what they would like to use to be creative and then find a space to sit comfortably with these materials in front of them.
The idea of this mindfulness exercise is to help your group really connect with their breathing patterns in a supportive way. It’s also a great opportunity to connect with others and notice the similarities and differences in each other’s experiences.
To prep your group, read the script Equal Counts Breath in the Mindful Breathing activity (see Resources tab.) This is an intentional mindfulness exercise that will set the scene and inspire your group to create amazing expressions of their breath.
As you read the script, invite your group to start drawing on their paper to express how their breath looks like, sounds like and feels like. There is no right or wrong answer.
Once you have guided your group through the mindfulness script, invite them to repeat the exercise on their own several times. With each attempt, instruct them to draw or create a new expression or add to their existing drawings.
This process can be really creative, so allow ample time (up to 30 minutes) for your group to create.
Then, from this point and depending on what you’re trying to get done, you have several options to move forward.
My strongest recommendation is to ask one or more people to share their experiences (and drawings) and describe what they found most interesting about their artwork.
Continue this opportunity for others to share and reflect, or introduce new threads of discussion.
Practical Leadership Tips
It may be helpful to play some soothing music for the breathing exercise and during their creation process.
It is sometimes useful to pause during the creation process to check-in and offer some creative prompts to help them along. For example, you could ask people to consider what colour, shape or size is their breath, or in what way does their breath want to be expressed?
If necessary, be sure to mention that your intention is to create a safe space to relax to help people to put their worries aside for a moment.
Mention to your group that there is no right or wrong way to create their artwork, the goal is to have fun and foster a curious mindset about the effects of breathing and their own personal experience with their unique breathing pattern.
Don’t forget to allow time to invite your group to reflect on what they experienced before and during and after the activity. In a sense, this is like reflecting on your reflection 🙂
You could integrate Drawing Breathe as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand and manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Controlling One’s Emotions
Identifying & Managing Stress
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
As a wonderful mindful activity, this exercise is ideal for exploring the realm of emotional intelligence, particularly as it relates to one’s personal domain. As referenced in the Social-Emotional Learning tab, the creative process may inspire your group to identify and learn more about their individual thoughts and feelings. If you work with young people, it may be useful to help them find the words to describe some of these emotions which they know they are feeling but cannot name, eg sharing a deck of EMOJI Cards can help you with this task.
One of the most powerful tools to help people develop and practice resilience is to introduce them to mindfulness strategies. Being mindful helps to calm the nervous system and manage stress by intentionally focusing on one’s breath.
Question Prompts: Replace the guided mindfulness script with a question or statement such as What does your breathe look like when you’re calm? Or If your breath could talk, what would it say to you?
Tracing Meditation: Once completed, individuals can use a finger to trace their drawing as they practice breathing exercises, as a form of meditation tool.
Drawing Aura: Invite your group to draw their aura or inner emotions including specific experiences. For example, this is what my breath looks like when I’m angry, sad, happy, etc.
Word Shapes: Offer a word or an affirmation, or ask each person to create their own, and then invite everyone to create a shape out of this word or affirmation. For example, the affirmation “I am peaceful” could be written or expressed in the form of an uphill and downhill.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
It may be helpful to create your own artwork first, and then share this digitally in your virtual meeting to support your group’s effort. Then, invite each person to gather and lay their own art materials on the table or desk at which they are stationed. Switching off webcams during the guided mindfulness exercise may be useful, or indeed for the whole creative exercise, before switching them back on to share each person’s artwork with the group.
In a digital sense, you may choose to invite your group to produce their artwork using Zoom annotation or Whiteboard Fox software.
Here are few things to consider when running this activity virtually:
– Ask your group to switch their phones off;
– Use the chatroom to invite group members to share with others what materials they are using, or to respond to other prompts, eg How are you feeling about this project?
– Use breakout rooms to invite sharing in partners or small groups.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Note, as with many experiential activities, it may be helpful in advance to share your experience with creating your own project, and describing what was most interesting/fun for you.
Did you know that our breathing has the ability to transform our health and wellbeing?…
Being able to understand your breathing patterns and what’s going on inside can help you regulate your nervous system, stress levels, and ultimately help you improve your quality of life”. This next exercise will help us understand this in a creative way…
We can sometimes take for granted the power and importance of our breathing patterns because it’s an automatic response. The coolest thing is that our breath reminds us of our natural ability to be resilient and overcome obstacles…
The breath has the ability to keep us focused, present, and calm as long as we pay attention to it and take care of it when we need to. Most of the time, we never even think about our breath, but it will take centre stage in this next activity…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this creative mindfulness activity:
What does the cycle of your breath look and feel like?
What colour did you pick to represent your breath and why?
In regards to your breathing patterns, what image comes to mind that represents it?
In one word, how would you describe your breathing patterns?
What similarities did you notice with your peers?
Were you surprised at what you explored?
How do you feel about what you created?
What sticks out to you the most about your artwork and why?
In what ways can you connect with others’ artwork?
What is your favourite part about your artwork?
Did anything feel hard about creating your artwork?
How do you think this tool can help you in the future?
Is there anything that you’re curious about regarding your breath and your project?
The inspiration for Drawing Breath was sourced from Lisa Hughes, a playmeo team member and experienced creative coaching consultant.