Do you know what mindfulness is? In our busy world, many of us are often kept from appreciating and focusing on the present moments we face, either from packed schedules, intrusive thoughts and/or electronic distractions.
Mindfulness stems from the concept of becoming fully aware and present in certain moments of our lives, whilst trying to accept each moment without judgment. It’s traditionally taught through yoga, tai chi, meditation or reflection, but is also accessible through a wide variety of activities.
The benefits of mindfulness can be extensive. Over 30 years of research has shown it to be helpful in alleviating symptoms from conditions such as chronic pain, hypertension, gastrointestinal disease and sleep disorders. It’s also powerful in improving mental health and overall well-being through its ability to reduce anxiety, fight depression and improve relationships.
What’s most beautiful about mindfulness is probably its simplicity. It involves targeting and driving focus through the mind in an attempt to fully experience the present through all five senses, without letting attention wander to distraction. Mindfulness is almost like a muscle; the more you work it, the stronger it becomes.
If you’re interested in taking easy steps to practice mindfulness, especially with your children, consider these exercises:
Belly breathing: One of the core parts of mindfulness is learning to breathe fully in a slow, relaxed manner. Help your child sit in a comfortable position (preferably cross-legged) on the floor or in a chair, and guide them in taking long, slow inhalations and exhalations. Try telling them to focus on the sensations in their body where they feel their breath the strongest. Or, to imagine their breath as waves of water or clouds of glitter going in and out of the body. You can build their ability to do this kind of breathing for one to three minutes, and possibly progress up to five minutes.
Clear your mind: You can try this while belly breathing. Help your child learn to keep their mind quiet by encouraging them to track the thoughts crossing their brain, imagining them floating away in a balloon or cloud across their mental scape.
Gratefulness: In this practice, you can lead your child to pause and list three things they’re grateful for in that particular moment. If you’re working with a group, take turns listing your thoughts.
Mindful eating: Try to get your child to slow down and pay attention to all of the sensory aspects of eating. Start your child with one small piece of food, and lead them into eating it mindfully. First, have them describe how the food looks and smells, and then how it tastes by taking a lick or tiny bite. Challenge them to chew the food slowly and describe the sensations in their mouth.