Mindfulness – it’s a phrase that you’ve probably heard more than you realise. In fact, with forward-thinking employers offering mindfulness training, mindfulness colouring books available on magazine stands and commuters tuning out the hustle and bustle with mindful apps like Headspace and Calm – you’ll find that mindfulness is actually everywhere!
But What is Mindfulness?
To give it its most simple definition: mindfulness is a mental state where you give your full attention to the moment. Used as a therapeutic technique, you calmly acknowledge and accept your emotions and thoughts, and feel the sensations in your body.
In today’s sometimes frantic world, mindfulness is a very simple form of meditation which essentially focuses on observation without criticism. Perhaps most importantly, mindfulness is about being compassionate to yourself.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
It’s a practice that’s been around for thousands of years, but recent studies have shown that practicing mindfulness exercises regularly can have a profoundly positive effect on both physical and psychological symptoms. The effects can be so positive that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends mindfulness as a way to help people who suffer from bouts of depression – and even those who have suffered in the past.
Benefits of Mindfulness Practice
Mindfulness can improve your well-being
Focusing on and savouring the moment can help prevent you getting caught up with worries about the future or regrets about the past.
Mindfulness can improve your physical health
Studies have found that mindfulness techniques can reduce stress, reduce blood pressure and improve sleep amongst other things.
Mindfulness can improve your mental health
Mindfulness meditation is now a key part of treating depression, eating disorders and anxiety.
Can Children Practice Mindfulness?
Experts now suggest that mindfulness techniques can also be of benefit to children. Evidence has shown that children who practice mindfulness techniques show improvements in their ability to concentrate, control their emotions and make clearer decisions. In a world that can be stressful and hectic, equipping your children with the means to take charge of their own thoughts and emotions can’t be a bad thing.
Why is Mindfulness Practice Important for Children?
Teaching children that they are in charge of their thoughts can be very empowering. It can help them to control anxious, negative and self-deprecating thoughts before they develop into recurring thought patterns. Mindfulness will teach children that thoughts are not facts and will provide them with powerful techniques that they can use to feel calm and safe.
How To Start Practicing Mindfulness With Your Children
Practising simple mindfulness exercises with your children on a daily basis can not only be of great benefit to them, it is also a lovely way of spending time together. It’s never too early to start practising mindfulness and it can be as simple as just keeping quiet, next to each other, noticing every small thing that is happening around you.
There are three exercises you can try at home!
1. Tummy Breathing
Whether sub-consciously or not, we’ve probably all done this at some point. It’s a great exercise to practice if your child is anxious or has trouble sleeping. In a quiet room, ask them to lie on their back and place their hands on their stomach.
When they breath in, ask them to notice their hands moving up, then when they breathe out, notice their hands moving down. Tell them to breathe deeply and focus completely on their tummy and hands, letting everything else fade away.
2. Glitter Jar
Perfect for illustrating how strong emotions can take hold and then clear again, this exercise will help your child find peace when they feel overwhelmed. You could use a snow-globe or fill a clear jar with water before adding some glue, a big spoonful of glitter and screwing the lid on tight.
When you’re sitting quietly, ask your child to shake the jar so that the glitter swirls around. Ask them to imagine that the glitter is like their thoughts when they feel angry, anxious or upset. Show them that the jar is cloudy and difficult to see through and explain how this is just like not being able to think clearly.
Now set the jar down in front of them and ask them to watch quietly as the glitter begins to settle and how the water becomes clear again. Explain that, just like the glitter, when you’re calm for a little while, your thoughts will start to settle and help you to think more clearly.
3. Park Safari
A fun exercise that will transform a normal trip to the park into a new adventure, this exercise teaches children to pay attention to the moment and increases their sense of awareness.
Tell them that you are going on a safari and their job is to find as many creatures as they can. They need to use all of their senses, finding even the smallest creatures that may be hiding away.
Make Time for Mindfulness Every Day
As with anything, the benefits of mindfulness for children improves with practice. Making it a regular part of your day, even for just a few minutes at a time can have profound effects that will be of benefit not only for your children, but for you too.