We’ve been hearing more and more about mindfulness, and the benefits it has to offer those who practice it, but what exactly is it? In essence, it’s the ability to be fully present in our world, and to take news and information in stride; avoiding overly reactive or defensive responses. The beautiful thing about mindfulness is that we all have it. The tough thing about mindfulness is that it takes practice to make sure your ability to be mindful is readily accessible. And that’s where we’d like to help! Here are some tips on how to bring a more mindful approach into your home, for the entire family.
Breaking down conditioned responses
As a human, it is only natural that your brain develops conditioned responses to what goes on around you. If you hear your phone ring, you rush to answer it; when someone says something you strongly disagree with, you immediately become annoyed and retort. Whatever the conditioned response, mindfulness can help you take a step back and may help you reassess your reaction.
This can come especially handy when it comes to your children. Teaching children to be more reflective and pensive, could mean less tantrums, fights, or emotional outbreaks. Mindfulness can teach children how to deal with being upset, frustrated, or plain angry in a more productive manner. Instead of crying when you tell your child no, your child can learn to listen to your answer, and to then take time to understand the answer more fully in the present.
- Set aside time on a daily basis to practice mindfulness. Start with 10 minutes, and then work up from there. You don’t need to find a special location, but you do need to commit to that time, 100%
- During those 10 minutes (or longer) spend time focusing on the present. The goal is not to clear your mind, but instead to focus on what is happening at present, without judgment, nothing else
- Take note of any judgement you make during this time, set it aside, and move on, back to focusing on the present
- Be patient with yourself, and don’t judge yourself for letting your mind wander. Instead, acknowledge its wandered, and bring your mind back to the present, again and again
That’s the practice! Yes, like most things, it’s easier said than done, but in time, you’ll come to fall into this practice more and more naturally.
Relaxing your mind, and focusing on your breath can be one way to practice mindfulness. Because of this, there are a variety of breathing exercises designed for both children and adults available online. Below are instructions for a 5 minute breathing exercise we recommend!
1.) Sit comfortably or lie on your back. Allow your back to be straight but not rigid, and let your arms and hands hang in a relaxed position. PAUSE.
2.) Close your eyes, if it feels comfortable. If not, soften your gaze. PAUSE.
3.) Bring your attention to the present by focusing on how you’re feeling physically. Scan your body from head to toe and consciously try to let any tension slip away. PAUSE.
4.) Notice your environment – any sounds you might hear in the background, what the temperature feels like in the room, etc. PAUSE.
5.) Bring your attention to your breathing from three vantage points: 1. Notice the sensation of your breath going in/out of your nostrils or mouth, 2. pay attention to the rise/fall of your chest, 3. notice the rise/fall of your belly as you breath. PAUSE.
6.) Choose a vantage point to focus on. Follow the breath for its full duration, from start to finish. Some breaths may be slow, some fast, some shallow or deep. You don’t need to control the breath, just notice it. PAUSE.
7.) Each time your mind wanders away from the breath (and this will happen many times!), notice where it goes and then gently bring your attention back to the feeling of the breath going in and out. PAUSE.
8.) Your mind may wander hundreds of times or more during these 5 minutes – that’s ok and natural! Your “job” is to catch yourself when you’ve wandered and to gently bring your focus back to the breath every time, without judging yourself for how “well” or “poorly” you’re doing the exercise. PAUSE.
9.) Try to practice this exercise for 5 minutes (or longer if you’d like) every day, for at least one week. Notice how it feels to spend some time each day just being with your breath.
Practice this as often as you can, daily even! Invite your partner to join you, or see if you can guide you and your little one through this exercise together. In time, you’ll start to feel the benefits of this simple breathing exercise in your day to day lives! There are some excellent videos available on YouTube.com, that focus on children and meditation, and other websites offer mindfulness exercises that focus on sight and sound.
We hope these exercises will come in handy for you and your family! Let us know how it goes, and it you have any advice to share with us on mindfulness, please do leave a comment! We’d love to hear your thoughts.