Mindfulness is the act of gently bringing your awareness to what is happening in the present moment every time you catch your mind drifting into its own version of reality. It is the act of acknowledging the thoughts and recognizing them for what they are – JUST thoughts. It is a state of being that is free from judgments and simply accepting what is.
A simple way to start the practice of mindfulness is finding five or ten minutes every day to do mindfulness meditation. Sitting in a comfortable position, with your back straight and eyes closed tune into the sensations of breathing. Focus on your in-breath as it enters your nose descending into the belly. Notice how the belly expands. Then notice how the belly contracts as the out-breath rises to be expelled through the nose. You can also imagine breathing in wellness and vitality and breathing out any sickness or negativity. Continue to focus on this cycle for five or ten minutes.
During this activity, your mind will get distracted with thoughts numerous times. The mind is a natural wanderer, so do not be disappointed or discouraged if you have to bring your mind back to your breath a hundred times. The key to being mindful is being aware that the mind has wandered away and non-judgmentally bringing it back by paying attention to your breathing. Tuning into the sensations of breathing even for a few minutes allows the mind to pause in its often convoluted journey. There is great value in being able to pause and have the presence of mind to be aware of thoughts and impulses before acting on them. Instead of blindly reacting to situations, developing the ability to respond with thoughtfulness adds immeasurable benefits, not only to our relationships but to our mental well-being. I have found that the simple, yet profound benefit of mindfulness is in helping us understand that thoughts are just thoughts and that it is our emotional attachments to these thoughts that is the root of suffering.
So friends, heres to a week filled with clarity, understanding, peace and mindful awareness. Happy Monday!
Talking to children about their day, spending quality time with them, reading to them etc are great ways to connect with your child and show them you care. Equally important is to show them how to be mindful – to be in the present moment and enjoy it, without worrying about what happened in school yesterday, anxious about the test tomorrow or sulking over why they did not get that extra cookie. Children have an innate quality to simply be present in the moment. Here are some ways to hone it.
- Take a walk with your child and talk about what you see. Talk about the changing colors of the leaves or the smell of the flowers. Pick up a leaf and examine the texture, the color, the sound it makes when it rustles in the wind. Hold the pine cones lying on the ground and notice how perfect each one is. Become curious and excited about nature and see how your child forgets about the worries in their little head and embraces the wonders around them.
- Choose a mindful activity that your child will be able to relate to and have fun doing it. The spider-man mindfulness activity is great for children. Link: http://kidsrelaxation.com/uncategorized/spider-man-practicing-mindfulness-and-increasing-focus/
- Set aside some time every day to give your undistracted attention to your child and immerse yourself in their play, letting them set the terms and rules of play. The key term to note here is ‘undistracted attention’.
- Mindfulness involves paying attention to breathing – the breath is used as the object of concentration. This simple discipline of bringing awareness to breathing helps our mind focus on the present moment. A fun way to teach children to bring their attention to their breath is by having them lie down and placing their favorite stuffed toy on their belly. Have them watch the toy go up and down as they breathe in and out.
- Introduce the habit of taking three mindful breaths (bringing attention to breathing in and breathing out – noticing how cold or warm the air feels, how the belly goes in and out) at least three times a day. Teach them they can always use this as a tool anytime they feel emotionally unsettled.
Studies have shown that doing these simple and fun mindfulness activities on a regular basis changes the structure of the brain improving the quality of thought and feeling. Children who practice mindfulness on a regular basis show increased patience and focus, higher tolerance for frustration, ability to stay calm amidst emotionally challenging situations, improved cognitive and performance skills and decreased worry and anxiety.