Mackay: Goldie Hawn inspires the next generation

When the phone rings and the caller is asking for a couple of hours of your time to help with a worthy cause, you have two obvious responses: yes or no.

Unless that call is from the Arizona Foundation for Women, a remarkable organization that helps women overcome obstacles, find safe sanctuary, job training and employment, and empower them to say, “Yes, I can!”

Of course, I was delighted to answer the call to act as emcee at the AFW’s annual Sandra Day O’Connor Luncheon. This year’s Lifetime Achievement honoree was Goldie Hawn.

I’ve long admired Hawn as an Academy Award-winning actress, producer and director. I was less familiar with her work at the Hawn Foundation, which Goldie established to support research into developing ways of helping children become healthy and eager learners. The more I heard, the more I realized that this foundation may be Goldie’s best work yet.

After her acceptance speech I was lucky enough to interview her about her fascinating projects. She was thought-provoking, content-rich and hilarious.

Her foundation has developed a school curriculum, MindUP, which teaches children vital social and emotional skills that empower them to manage and reduce their own stress, helping them to be happy. The evidence-based program, which is now taught in schools across five continents, combines neuroscience, positive psychology, and social and emotional learning, in tandem with mindfulness. The result is young people who are living smarter, healthier and happier lives.

Among the lessons that enhance learning, children are encouraged to:

• Learn how their brains react to emotions.

• Take daily “brain breaks” and focus on breathing.

• Practice mindful sensing — exploring sight, taste, smell, hearing and motion.

• Consider the differences between optimism and pessimism.

• Learn to savor happiness.

• Learn perspective and how to view differing results.

• Focus on compassion and empathy.

• Perform random acts of kindness.

• Engage in practical problem-solving and critical thinking.

Does this sound like a program that should be limited to children? I certainly don’t think so!

She explains this whole concept in her new book, “10 Mindful Minutes,” which I highly recommend. As Goldie says, “What I do know is that MindUP works for children, so its principles can work for parents too.” I would extend that to all adults.

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