Simple Ways to Raising a Happy and Mindful Child

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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/
  3. 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’.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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Mindfulness in Professional Sports

It is time for professional sports teams to go beyond training the players’ body and start training their mind to handle the mental stress that comes with being in high performance environments. The psychological stress that pro athletes experience has a negative impact not only on their personal life but on their athletic performance as well. Stress hormones like cortisol can disrupt cognitive processes such as memory, attention, and decision making abilities. Numerous research conducted in recent years has shown that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis helps reduce stress.

The responsibility of bringing mindfulness into mainstream professional sports may rest with the coaches and their commitment to making their players not just better sportsmen but better human beings. Recent NFL news has spurred a multitude of discussion around rules and laws surrounding off-the-field behavior of its players. Now might be the right time for people and organizations that pour millions into professional sports to start thinking about taking care of their stars from the inside out. Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has already embraced this attitude, taking a holistic approach to training his players. Regular mindfulness meditation practice and yoga is incorporated into the team’s training routine. He realizes that taking care of the players’ mental well-being not only helps them stay relaxed and have clarity of mind on the field but off the field as well. As the players learn the art of accepting and letting go, of being relaxed and alert, they are able to focus fully on the present moment, not feeling frustrated at a botched play or thinking about winning or losing. They are able to just be…in the moment, without the constant mental chatter, without any distractions. This calm state of mind brings about increased focus and decreased physical and mental stress. Without the mental commentary and judgments that accompany every act, the mind is able to quiet down and with relaxed concentration the players are able to ‘be in the zone’.