Mindfulness practice is becoming widely popular among individuals wanting to improve the way they think, approach problems, manage stress, and increase focus and creativity. Through research, it has been shown to improve the outcomes and manageability of various health conditions such as heart disease, fibromyalgia, cancer, psoriasis, immune disorders, inflammatory issues, in addition to anxiety, depression, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder. We often use a mindfulness practice to heal, or to correct something that is already out of balance within ourselves or our lives. What if we can use mindfulness as a preventative practice to adapt into a lifestyle in which being mindful comes naturally, and where mindful, positive thinking is an automatic behaviour?
In order for this to happen, I think mindfulness practice should start from the home. When we incorporate healthy living in our everyday personal environment, we set an example for others who share our space with us. Not surprisingly, we set an example for those little ones who look up to us the most- the kids! Even if you don’t have children of your own, I’m sure everyone who has had some interaction with a child knows that kids learn from their environment and will often mimic frequent actions and behaviours of adults. If we as adults adopt a healthy mindset, maintain a positive outlook on life, and practice regular self-care and kindness, think of all these life-skills and healthy behaviours that will beneficially impact your kids as they grow and develop!
With school starting up amidst a pandemic, it is important now more than ever to educate kids about mindfulness practices that can help combat potential stress and anxiety. Children may feel anxiety and internal stress even though they may not express it in the same way adults do, so it’s important to pay attention to any subtle changes and introduce fun, creative activities that allow for moments of self-expression, acceptance, and calm.
There are so many resources on the internet around this topic, but here are a few easy ideas to get you started:
- The Headspace app has an entire section dedicated to kids filled with guided meditations, breathing exercises, and other activities with themes around calm, focus, kindness, sleep, and waking up. This app has plenty of resources suitable for toddlers to teens and adults as well!
- Cosmic Kids Yoga has plenty of yoga videos (free and paid) that are fun and educational. They even have ideas for yoga games and printable guided meditations as well. Alo Yoga (on youtube) is also a great resource for kid-suitable yoga videos, each with a different theme of mindfulness such as being brave, positive, focused, present and kind.
- If your child is able to read and write, try encouraging a daily journal where they can write how they feel, or write about a recent happy experience or memory. Even drawing a picture expressing positive moments from their day or something they are grateful for can be rewarding.
- Try teaching the 5 breaths method when they are unhappy or upset about something. Before they get too upset, suggest breathing in and out slowly for 5-10 breaths as a way to calm the mind and centre their thoughts and emotions. Parents, this is a great tool to use for your stressful moments too!
- Practice mindfulness during other daily activities, for example while eating, socializing, and going for a walk. When you do each of these, make sure to set an example of taking in your surroundings, experiencing and appreciating them with all your senses. Avoid multitasking or diverting your attention to unneeded things during this time, like your phone or tablet. Teaching kids to live in the present moment is an essential mindset to carry through as they grow.
I hope these ideas help you get started with creating a positive, mindful environment in your home with your littles.