What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being aware of what you’re sensing, thinking, and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Being mindful takes effort and brain training if you have not grown up being mindful about mindfulness. It is a conscious focusing of one’s thoughts, feelings and actions.
Why should we work with children on mindfulness?
Research has shown that mindfulness helps regulate emotions, decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also help us to focus our attention, as well as to observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment.
So, if we consciously start working on children and train them to be mindful, they will be able to handle stress correctly and they will also be able to restrain themselves from being impulsive. In a world where we feel a lack of everything building this habit will take children a long way.
Studies show that we think around 60 to 70 thousand thoughts a day and 80 to 90 percent of those thoughts are negative or repetitive. We are either lost in the past or thinking of the future. If you see young children, they think they can achieve anything, however, are they grow up they keep experiencing negativity and are told no to most things. Hence, their thoughts are limited and they doubt their own potential.
How do we build this habit of the mind?
- Visualisation is a powerful tool that you can use to get your children to start young. A small exercise to do as a family is to create a visualization board. On chart paper draw out or use cut-outs of everything you want to achieve in a year. Put it up on one of the walls accessible to everyone. Each morning look at the board and say whisper a thank you and walk away.
2. Another powerful tool is music. Music offers a rich experience with multiple layers of instruments, sounds, melodies, and beats. Create a family music list and listen to music together.
3. Observation: teach your children to observe how they are feeling in different situations, tell them to record these observations in a diary. This exercise will eventually help them in figuring out their triggers and what upsets them and once they are aware they can work on it.
4. A few books to help children become mindful are:
The Snowy Day — By Ezra Jack Keats
The Missing Piece — By Shel Silverstein
The Lion and the Little Red Bird — By Elisa Kleven
At the risk of repeating myself, I would like to reiterate that it is essential to start mindfulness practice with children at a young age as it is believed that a child’s core beliefs are built from 0 to 7 years. Depending on what they experience they build a mind map for themselves. Parents need to remember that children mirror their behaviour, if they see their parents not consciously focusing their thoughts, feelings and behaviour and allowing outer distractions to live an unmindful and auto-pilot life, then this is what your children will learn to mimic.
Simple tips to help children become mindful:
- Create a mindful morning and bedtime ritual
2. Practice breathing with them
3. Maintain a gratitude journal or jar
4. Practice mindful eating
5. Talk to children about how they are feeling when agitated and why and then help them re-frame this thought.
Mindful children will be able to manage adversity and bounce back easily as they would be able to focus on what to do next, rather than be emotionally paralysed and take no action. If this recent pass has taught us anything, it is that mindful living is important.