Practicing mindfulness minimises stress and anxiety, improves focus and concentration and provides coping strategies for the tough times.
In our busy world, bombarded by so many things demanding our attention, mindfulness is a vital trait to help cut out the ‘noise’ and keep us focused on what is important as well as aware of how we are feeling.
The word mindfulness may conjure up the image of meditation or yoga but it is much simpler than that. It is merely about ‘tuning in’ and ‘being in the moment’. In other words, not doing things mindlessly.
Have you ever driven home, arrived and realised you do not recall the drive, not even the traffic lights you would have negotiated? A scary moment and I am sure we have all been there. So many things running through our head that we mindlessly drove home.
In a nutshell, mindfulness teaches us to focus on the present moment. Another brilliant skill you can teach your little loves!
The benefits are huge, mindfulness:
- Teaches them to focus on the present moment
- Equips them with skills to recognise their feelings and regulate their emotions
- Increases kindness and compassion
- Imparts skills on managing stress and challenges
- Improves concentration
- Improves relationships
The best thing about it is that it is really easy to do! But, like having an ‘attitude for gratitude’ we need to do it regularly so that it becomes a habit. We want them to be aware of their inner and outer experiences and learn to recognise thoughts as ‘just thoughts’, to understand how those thoughts affect their emotions and how those emotions manifest in their bodies.
Some simple ways of teaching your kids mindfulness are:
Get them to notice things that are going on in their body at that moment - sensations, thoughts and feelings. This helps them to recognise the feelings they have when they are excited, happy, scared, frustrated or angry. When they are in any particular state, ask them how they feel inside. For example, if they feel like they have butterflies in their stomach when they are going somewhere new - it could be excitement or nervousness. The more they can understand why and how they ‘feel inside’ the more they are able to choose appropriate responses.
Whilst hugging each other, take 3 deep breaths together, dropping your shoulders and relaxing. This is an excellent ‘goodbye’ exercise to do when you are leaving them somewhere or when perhaps you recognise they might just need a calming hug.
A fun exercise to do whilst waiting in the supermarket checkout line or anywhere you are stuck waiting for a while. Ask them to tune in to their senses, and together, notice what you see, hear and how it makes you feel?
This a a great way for them to learn to deal with situations when they feel emotions such as anger and frustration coming on. Teach them when they start to notice those feelings inside their body that taking a few deep calming breaths can really help. Show them by example, when you are starting to getting angry or frustrated, take three or four deep breaths followed by, “Wow, I feel so much calmer now’. Never underestimate the power of a few deep calming breaths!
Unfortunately, in this day and age many people eat whilst watching television, a tablet or their phones. Even worse, they do it whilst in company of others at the same table. They are focused on what they are watching and mindlessly shovelling food into their mouths. It is very easy to overeat this way and can become a nasty habit. Food should be enjoyed on its own, without distractions.
Together, while eating, use your senses to observe the food. What does it smell like, taste like and feel like in your mouth?
Lying down with one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest, practice breathing so the belly rises first and then your chest. Most people are shallow breathers and breathe only into the chest but belly breathing (which is practised in meditation and yoga) actually turns on the relaxation response in your body.
You could place a stuffed toy or small cushion on your bellies and watch them rise and fall to make it a little more fun.
This is the perfect exercise to do just before they go to sleep or after they have had a big upset.
Mindful Nature Walks
Walking at your child’s pace, discuss what is around you. Stop, look and listen. Discuss what you hear, feel, smell and see. This teaches them to be totally aware of their surroundings and not just march mindlessly along a path.
There are just a few examples of how you can take the opportunity to teach them to ‘be in the moment’ but however you choose to do it, make it fun.
The Sage Store has some wonderful products to help your child learn all about their emotions and how to recognise how they are feeling. Our Emotions Game Pack, ABC Mindfulness Match are great tools.