What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness has become quite a buzzword today, but what does it really mean? It can sound mysterious or even intimidating, but mindfulness is simply being mindful about what you’re thinking and deciding where to focus your attention. Being mindful is deciding to be kind to yourself and others. For instance when you stop, take a breath and think about your current thoughts, feelings and surroundings you’re being mindful. That’s it!
Why practice mindfulness?
We are living in a fast-paced, technology-filled world of constant distraction. As a result kids today are more stressed than ever. Kids as young as preschool are having drills for active shooters in their schools. Subsequently these fears as well as issues with social media, bullying, and grade performance can cause great anxiety in children. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that we provide young people the tools to handle it all.
There are many benefits of mindfulness
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Lifting our mood and producing more positive
- Increasing feelings of hope
- Decreasing physical and emotional pain
- Reducing anger
- Increasing positive social emotions toward new
people as well as loved ones
- Activating empathy
- Improving social connection
- Increasing self-love and how we feel about
When children are stressed, anxious, bored or unhappy, they are much less able to cope with problems and take in new information. Some children might test poorly even when they know all the answers. For these children, the stress and anxiety of taking a test might be so overwhelming they are not able to focus on the task at hand. Therefore, teaching them to regulate their feelings will give them the tools they need to pay attention and focus.
It’s important to teach our children to first recognize their feelings. Asking questions and helping them to notice how their body reacts when they are happy, sad, angry, nervous or embarrassed. And once they recognize the feelings, it’s important to let them know it’s okay to have these feelings. Above all remind them the feelings are temporary and they will pass.
As we help children to understand their emotions we can give them tools to calm down, take control of their emotions, and move forward from a better place. So something as simple as a “Peace Corner” for children to calm down at home or school instead of using detention or a time-out can help them to understand they might need a quiet moment alone to feel calm and peaceful. A “Peace Corner” with comfy pillows, maybe something to hug, and calm surroundings can be a safe space to settle without feeling punished for their feelings.
We can provide children with the tools to tune into
themselves and develop self-awareness.
Building self-awareness cultivates self-reliance and when children learn
to rely on themselves, they can harness tools to help manage their own
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We
can help them understand the value of their emotions, feel empathy for others
and rediscover their natural joy. That’s
quite a payback!
There are many ways to practice being mindful and to teach our children to do the same. For example, go for a walk and see how many heart shaped rocks you can find. Stop and notice things along the sidewalk on your walk to school. Notice what you see, feel, hear, smell and taste? Is your food sweet, salty, sour, warm, crunchy? What do you notice in your body? What is the quality of your thoughts? There are so many ways to stop and really be present in our day to day lives.
Mindfulness tools for child
There are also some great mindfulness tools that our children can use when they are feeling strong emotions and need to find a way to calm down.
Some of our favorites are:
- Pinwheels: teaching them that slow deep breaths can slow their heart rate and calm them down.
- Mind Jars: noticing that the glitter is swirling around like their emotions. As the jar settles and becomes clear, so does their body and mind as they focus on the present moment and their breath.
- Yoga: promotes body awareness and learning to sync breath with movement. There are many calming poses that relax the body.
- Rectangle Breath: rectangle breath emphasizes extending the exhalation longer than the inhalation. You can demonstrate doing this seated in easy pose using your finger as a visual outlining the shape of a rectangle in the air.
- Hoberman’s Sphere: use the sphere to follow along with your breath as you open and close slowly.
Mindfulness for Parents
Don’t forget yourself because you will be better prepared to help your children through their emotions when you are able to remain present yourself. Our children naturally imitate our behaviors. Consequently if we are able to stay calm and present, it will help our children to feel more safe, grounded and calm. In our fast paced, busy world, it can be a challenge. Set a reminder to take a few deep breaths or stand up and stretch during your busy day. Even if it’s only 5 minutes to close your eyes or go to a quiet place and breathe – find time in your day to care for yourself!
“Tea is an act complete in its simplicity. When I drink tea, there is only me and the tea. The rest of the world dissolves.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Plan times to put down the technology and be present with those you love. It will strengthen your bond and help you reconnect with your children as well as your significant other. For instance go for walks, bike rides, or have a game night. But don’t stress yourself trying to plan big events. Ultimately, the important part is being present with each other and taking the time to enjoy each other’s company!
As you practice more mindfulness with your children, they will quickly learn not only when they might need a moment or when you might. Therefore don’t be surprised if your child shows empathy when they notice you’re having a rough time and ask if you’re okay. And when your three year old reminds you it might be a good time to stop and take a few deep breaths… success!
These are just a few ideas to incorporate mindfulness into your family lives! If you’d like to read more, we have some great links on our resources page.
What tools do you use to help yourself and your children stay mindful? Please comment below – we’d love to hear from you!
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”
– Sharon Salzberg