The practice of mindfulness is not just for our hippy counterparts. Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training. Being mindful is also a practice of being GENTLE with yourself. We love that!
For both kids and adults, mindfulness practices can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic stress and improve sleep.
And who doesn’t want better sleep?
So, how can we be more mindful? We recently read an article by David Gelles in the NY Times offering basic tips for children and adults of all ages. We’ve broken it into segments to be more MINDFUL of your time and attention, and just to make life easier for all of us. Enjoy –
“What Is Mindfulness, and Why Do Kids Need It?
From our earliest moments, mindfulness can help minimize anxiety and increase happiness.
Photo Credit (c) NY Times
HOW IT HELPS
Adversity comes at us from the moment we are born. Infants get hungry and tired. Toddlers grapple with language and self-control. And as children develop through adolescence to become teenagers, life grows ever more complicated. Developing relationships, navigating school and exercising independence — the very stuff of growing up — naturally creates stressful situations for every child.
At each developmental stage, mindfulness can be a useful tool for decreasing anxiety and promoting happiness.
Mindfulness — a simple technique that emphasizes paying attention to the present moment in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner — has emerged as a popular mainstream practice in recent decades. It is being taught to executives at corporations, athletes in the locker room, and increasingly, to children both at home and in school.
Children are uniquely suited to benefit from mindfulness practice. Habits formed early in life will inform behaviors in adulthood, and with mindfulness, we have the opportunity to give our children the habit of being peaceful, kind and accepting.
“For children, mindfulness can offer relief from whatever difficulties they might be encountering in life,” said Annaka Harris, an author who teaches mindfulness to children. “It also gives them the beauty of being in the present moment.”
Part of the reason why mindfulness is so effective for children can be explained by the way the brain develops. While our brains are constantly developing throughout our lives, connections in the prefrontal circuits are created at their fastest rate during childhood. Mindfulness, which promotes skills that are controlled in the prefrontal cortex, like focus and cognitive control, can therefore have a particular impact on the development of skills including self-regulation, judgment and patience during childhood.
Mindfulness isn’t something that can be outsourced. For parents and caregivers, the best way to teach a child to be mindful is to embody the practice oneself.
“Learning mindfulness isn’t like piano lessons, where you can have someone else teach it to your children,” said Susan Kaiser Greenland, a mindfulness instructor who works with children. “You have to learn it yourself.”
Of course, being a parent is an incredibly stressful experience in its own right. For those raising children, practicing mindfulness exercises — and ideally practicing mindfulness meditation for even a few minutes a day — can be profoundly beneficial, allowing caregivers to not only share the skills of happiness and acceptance with a new generation, but also take better care of themselves at the same time…”
Look for more in the next two weeks on Infants and Toddlers, Children and Teens!
Resource: Gelles, D. Mindfulness for Children. New York Times. New York, NY.
Here are some of our favorite resources about mindfulness for kids and parents.
Authored by Myla Kabat-Zinn and her husband Jon, the founder of mindfulness based stress reduction, this is a comprehensive guide to mindful parenting.
Written by Ms. Greenland, this is a helpful guide for parents that includes techniques to help children develop mindfulness.
Created by Ms. Greenland and Ms. Harris, this activity card set was the inspiration for several exercises in this guide.
This book, written by Eline Snel, features exercises that can help children deal with anxiety, improve concentration and handle difficult emotions.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen monk, wrote this guide for parents who want to introduce their children to mindfulness and meditation.
A comprehensive guide to mindfulness for parents and children by Ms. Kim, this three-volume set includes a study guide for parents, lesson plans for children and an activity book.