Although mindfulness has only recently been embraced by Western psychology, it is an ancient practice found in a wide range of Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism, Taoism and Yoga.
Mindfulness involves consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now with openness, interest and receptiveness while focusing on your mind on the present.
It’s the art of paying attention to your life on purpose, without judgment.
Mindfulness interventions have been demonstrated to be beneficial for a number of psychological and physical conditions such as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, addictions and personality disorders.
It has also proven to be a powerful factor in reducing stress both in children and adults.
The ability to pay attention to your here and now is a central tenet to the practice of mindfulness and is a natural, innate human ability.
Studies have shown that children as young as three can learn to turn their focus on breathing, their senses, thoughts and emotions.
While much of the research about the benefits of mindfulness on health and emotional well-being has been focused on adults, new studies are showing that the benefits of practicing mindfulness with children to help them address the increased stress they are experiencing.
As with adults, stress often leads to feelings of resistance, fear and anxiety.
Mindfulness practice is one way to assist children in building healthy stress management skills.
Children who practice mindfulness techniques develop social and emotional intelligence, resulting in greater self-awareness, less stress, and higher levels of happiness and empathy.
By using mindful breathing and focused attention to become more reflective and self-aware, children are able to gain greater emotional control.
Here are a few easy ways to encourage your child to become more aware of their thoughts, their feelings and their world around them.
In our rush today to get somewhere, we often forget to take pleasure in how we get there. Even though walking is something we do every day, we often fail to notice what we pass along the way.
When walking with your child, take the time each day-to-day to feel your body as you walk through the world.
- Ask your child to pay attention to their arms as you walk.
- Ask them to notice how their feet feel as they strike the ground.
- Encourage them to pay attention to their five senses.
- What sights do you see?
- Look for shades of color and patterns.
- What sounds do you hear?
Taking the time to examine the texture of objects around you, trees or plants if you’re outdoors; walls or furniture if you’re indoors is a wonderful way to be in the moment with your child.
Ask your child to listen carefully for about a minute and then name five sounds she heard while being quiet.
They could be someone’s footsteps down the hallway, the ticking clock on the wall or the sound of a pen scribbling on a paper.
Paying even closer attention, the child is asked to notice the feelings or thoughts he had while listening.
Did a lawn mower outside the window make him think of his yard at home?
Did the honking horn remind him of a trip to the city?
Have your child stop what they’re doing for a moment.
Have your child take a deep breath in and slowly let the air out. With each inhale say, “In” and with each exhale say, “Out”.
One breath cycle is made up of one inhale and one exhale. Have your child observe their thoughts, feelings and emotions. Notice them and then let them go.
The practice of becoming more aware of your breathing triggers the relaxation response.
This results in slower breathing and increased feelings of calm.
Have your child practice this for five breath cycles then repeat.
Noticing your breathing is one of the fastest ways to bring your attention back to the present moment.
Use this practice when your child is upset or to help the body and mind prepare for restful sleep.
Just like adults, children experience these negative feelings and often they don’t know how to deal with them.
By using simple mindfulness technique children can learn that they can change these negative feelings into positive ones, and be empowered to feel what they want to feel.
Start by asking your child to imagine a television set and how, when they’re watching TV, they have a remote to change the channels if they don’t like a certain program.
Then tell them that they can learn to do the same thing with their own emotions.
They can change their personal channels.
They can feel happy or sad, grumpy or enthusiastic, worried or calm, sleepy or full of life and vigour.
Ask your child to imagine a feeling of being sad.
Then, by connecting their thumb to their forefinger, click as if you are clicking their own personal remote control and image something happy they’ve done, or enjoyed or want to do.
Encourage them to notice how their entire body changes just by thinking about something?
Teach them that they can choose what they want to feel.
If they are experiencing something that they don’t enjoy, change it.
Encourage them to practice changing the channels of their personal remote control.
Mindfulness can help children—and adults—shift their point of view to focus on the positive instead of the negative. By choosing to look at things that are beautiful, you can shift your awareness in a profound way.
If your child is afraid, by teaching him or her to focus on the beauty of a flower, the sound of the trees and looking for the things that comfort them, you are providing them with the tools to regulate their own feelings and putting them in charge of their own experience.
This post was written by Ali Goldfield and published in http://therapystew.com
About Ali: Blogger, speaker, psychotherapist and social media coach. She is passionate about helping others reach out and connect and find the answers they are looking for.