Mindfulness is a bit of a mental health buzzword right now, and for good reason! Research is showing that daily mindful practice can improve mood, attention, and personal relationships. I could go on and on, but instead, let’s focus on how we can bring mindfulness (and its benefits) into your life today!
Since the term gets thrown around a lot, let’s define it quickly. Mindfulness is basically being aware in the present moment. Bonus points if your awareness is directed towards your body or senses in the present moment. I won’t dive into the brain science behind it, but just know that research is showing that mindful awareness practice can shrink the parts of our brain that create the fight/flight/fear response and increase the grey matter in parts of our brain that help us regulate emotions and social connection. Sounds good right? Let’s get started!
Yes! The Simon Says that you played as a kid. By playing this with your children you are engaging them in the present moment and asking them to be aware of their body at the same time. Jackpot! Remember to keep it fun, kids learn through play!
This can be done in two ways:
First, as you’re walking with your child try to engage all their senses. Start easy by asking them what they see and then add more detail. Ask about the color, size, etc… of the things they see. Next move to feeling; can they feel the breeze in their hair, what about different textures of leaves, pinecones, grass? Move to smell; what can they smell on their walk, can you stop and smell flowers, rosemary bushes, pine trees? Stop for a moment and see what they can hear, discuss the layers of sound. At first, they may only hear cars, but maybe they can listen to the breeze, hear some birds chirping or kids playing down the street! Have fun with this!
The second way to practice mindful walking is to tune into the sensations in your feet. Teens and adults can try to focus specifically on the sensations in the muscles in their feet and legs as they take slow, even steps. Younger children may want to walk barefoot and feel the difference between the sidewalk, the grass, and maybe even stepping on some crunchy leaves!
Before bedtime lay down with your child. Place a stuffed animal on their tummy and have your child see if they can rock their buddy to sleep using slow and steady breaths. If your child is old enough you can use this as a learning experience, have them take rapid uneven breaths and watch what happens to their buddy. It’s a wild ride! Then have them slow down and take even breaths, their buddy is having a much more peaceful ride this way. We can use this to talk to our kids about what happens when we get too excited, angry, etc… and then remind them that they are always able to use their breath to calm down, just like it calmed down their buddy!
Of course, mindful children come from mindful parents! If you need tips on getting started on your own mindfulness journey, feel free to check out my blog on Beginning Mindful Practice!
Abby Withee is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Rolling Hills Estates and Redondo Beach. With a focus on mindful practices, Abby works with children, adolescents, adults, and families to address a variety of diagnoses and presenting issues. Abby is also a South Bay mommy of a 5 year old and a 2 year old who enjoy crafting, hockey, and science experiments.
Learn more here: www.witheefamilytherapy.com