The Simple Power of Mindfulness - For You and Your Children
Imagine your mind as a room full of people. Stop for a second to listen to them.
There might be an organiser in the corner, reciting your to-do list over and over, just in case you missed it the first 65 times. There could be a critic, reminding you that you might not be up to the task ahead - pointing out your flaws and weaknesses. There’s probably a distracter - telling you to check your Facebook page just in case something exciting has happened in the last 10 minutes and you might miss out. There’s also likely to be a worrier - whispering anxious words to whoever wants to listen.
All of these 'mind-people' make it hard to concentrate on you, your ideas, creative genius, and the kind, compassionate voice of intuition that sets you on the right path.
Now, imagine there was a way to quiet these people, so you can work out exactly which thoughts are useful. Imagine this magic tool that helps you to master your mind, and understand that these thoughts are not YOU, and to listen to who YOU really are.
Well, you’re in luck. There is a tool. And it’s surprisingly easy.
The simple act of slowing down and focussing on the here and now can quiet the committee in your head, so that you can discern which thoughts are useful, and which ones are just distracting mind-clutter.
This theory applies just as much to children as it does to adults. In a young mind, the difference between fact and fiction, between thoughts and anxieties, is even more blurred. I believe it’s our role to help them master their thoughts and emotions, as well as our own. We spend a lot of time focussing on imagination, play, problem solving, pre literacy and numeracy - all of which are so important in a child’s development. But statistics are showing that anxiety in children is on the rise, so we need to place just as much importance on the mastery of emotions.
Mindfulness is no longer reserved for those on a spiritual path, or seeking enlightenment, it’s now been researched and widely proven to decrease stress, improve concentration, build on resilience, improve social skills, reduce bullying and countless other benefits. Dr Wayne Dyer famously said "Remember, your natural state is joy." All we need to do is get out or our own way to feel the joy of being present the moment.
Luckily, you don’t need a degree to practice simple mindfulness techniques with your children (and for yourself). All you need is short, regular exercises at key points in the day, and some timely reminders for children to take a few deep breaths when they are experiencing overwhelming emotions. The key with young children is to keep it short and engaging.
Try these three ideas to get started:
1. A Body Scan
Get children to stand, sit or lie (depending on what you think will work best for them at the time).
Ask them to squeeze and clench every part of their body one by one - starting at their toes, and ending at their head. For example: “Squeeze your toes together as hard as you can! Now relax them and make your legs as hard as rocks. After you relax them, squeeze the muscles in your bottom (this is bound to get a giggle), then squeeze your hands into tight fists…”
Once they have got to their heads (squeeze your face tightly), then ask them to tighten the entire body, before letting go and relaxing the whole thing - and noticing what that feels like for a few seconds. Take a few deep breaths (don’t forget to smile!) and you’re done.
2. Three Wishes Breathing (adapted from a loving kindness meditation)
Ask children to close their eyes and imagine they’re walking up a green grassy hill. When they get to the top, they stop to take a breath, and notice a huge magical dandelion.
Ask them to take 3 deep breaths - and on each breath they make a wish.
The first wish is something for themselves, the second is for someone they know, and the third is for the whole world. Get them to take each in-breath carefully and think of the wish as they blow the dandelion seeds as far as they can.
3. Read a book about Mindfulness, like “Just Breathe: A Mindfulness Adventure”
This beautiful book (written by NZ author and artist, Jen Sievers) takes children through a basic breathing exercise in the form of a story. And helps them to understand how to use this to calm difficult emotions. This works as a mindfulness exercise on it own, and also opens a conversation about the idea of breathing through emotions.
It’s available for pre sale purchase from Curiate for mid-December delivery. If you order on presale, we will also send you a free digital pack with 6 more illustrated mindfulness activities, as well as a guided meditation mp3 file - taking children through the Three Wishes breathing exercise above.
In summary, mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated. Anything that brings us back to the present moment (focussing on what we can see, feel, hear, taste and touch) and quiets the rowdy chatter in our minds, can offer countless benefits to our mental state.
Start with just a few deep breaths and a gentle smile a few times a day and you’ll notice how much better you feel.