Mindfulness can be described in many ways. It is a practice of purposefully paying attention in the present moment and bringing a non- judgemental, compassionate awareness to the nature of things. It helps you to be in the present rather than worrying about what has happened and what could happen. Mindfulness practice is an essential tool in stress management and works so well with children. Mindfulness is a big part of The Emoji Kids, Emoji Parents and the Emoji Teachers programmes. The mindful way to well- being is life changing. Excuses that I hear: “I’m too busy to sit and meditate.” “My children won’t be able to sit still.” “I can’t do it.” Well, you don’t need to sit to meditate, mindfulness can be used on the go that’s the beauty of it. It’s so easy to apply it to your everyday life. In mindfulness practice, you choose where to place your focus. You direct your attention there, but you don’t worry if distracting thoughts or feelings cross your inner mind as that can easily happen. Instead, you redirect your attention to the matter at hand, your chosen focus which is quite often your breath. Being attached to the present experience and not worrying too much about the past or what’s going to happen in the future will allow you and your children to deal with life’s ups and downs more successfully and is great for when doing SATS and GCSE’s So how can it help you and your children? It can:
- Improve Wellbeing
- Increase Focus
- Improve Sleep
- Improve Relationships
- Feel Good
- Feel Happy
- Decrease Stress
- Decrease Worry
- Become more Creative
- Increase Awareness
- Improve Resilience
- Reduces Anxiety
Below are the different types of mindfulness both yourself and children can use.
Breathing is one of the most natural ways to calm ourselves down, and yet we just don’t utilise our breath to its full potential. When we feel stressed, we tend to take quick shallow breaths without even realising, holding our whole body tense. Taking some slow deep breaths releases the tension, it is a natural healer, so easy for children to do and it’s free!
“When you are breathing and know that you are breathing, that is mindfulness of breathing.” Soren Gordhamer
By focussing on our breath, it brings us into the present moment. We’re not in our past worrying about something that has happened, and we’re not in our future worrying about what could happen. We’re just in the now, focussing on our breathing.
Try it now.
Take a moment, and focus on your breath. Listen to your breath, place your hand on either your chest or tummy and feel it raising up when you inhale and down when you exhale. It’s as simple as that and how easy is it for our children to do? You can download and print the breathing cards and laminate them to use either in the home or classroom.
What Is Mindful Listening? From the tweeting of the birds up in the trees to the people talking around us in the background, Mindful listening helps us and children choose which sounds to focus our attention on and helps us to be thoughtful in the way we hear and respond to the words of others. Imagine being able to focus on one sound or person talking and not getting distracted by other thoughts or noise around you, being able to choose what to focus on, enabling you to respond to something rather than react. Mindful listening is excellent for active communication Mindful listening also lays the groundwork for social awareness and effective communication.
Let’s have a go now.
Close your eyes. Imagine that your ears are like microphones picking up sounds around you. What sounds can you hear in the room right now at this moment? Now take your concentration further out of the room, outside, what sounds can you hear? You may find that some thoughts start to come in along with memories that the sounds are triggering, see if you can allow these to float pass and focus again on the sounds Now take your concentration back to your breathing and open your eyes again. How was that? This is a great exercise in the classroom and the home.
What Is Mindful Eating?
How often do you sit down to eat, gulp your food down without really tasting it? How often do you or your children concentrate on the flavours and smells of our food? The most common answer to this is not often at all as our minds are focussing on something else or, both yourself and children are on devices. To appreciate the food we eat—whether it’s spicy dish or a simple piece of toast— requires mindful tasting, or slowing down to savour our food and notice its flavour, texture, and temperature. Mindful eating is again a great way to teach children to be in the present moment, to start using all of their spidey senses and to slow down. And for yourselves, if you find yourself eating and your mind is feeling chaotic and is elsewhere. You can make this into a fun game for the kids. It isn’t time-consuming at all. A quick question at the breakfast table like what flavours can you taste this morning. What can you smell? Can help them to feel calm and it’s fun! Or, if in the classroom you can ask the children to think about it over their lunch and tell you in registration.
Mindful walking and movement can be great fun! All you do is pay attention; it’s as easy as that. Instead of being in your head thinking about what you have to do next you connect to the present, again using all of your senses. While moving around the house, up and down the stairs, out in nature, you choose. Next time you take the kids out for a walk ask them to focus on their feet on the ground. Every time they take a step ask them what it feels like under their feet, what sounds can they hear, what does the ground feel like under their shoes. What noises can they hear, what different types of birds can they hear? It’s amazing what you can suddenly hear when you listen. What smells are in the air, can they smell the earth/mud, any flowers, anything else? What can they see that they don’t usually spot? You could set them a task so look out for something. Mindful walking/movement is a great way of grounding them and yourselves. Make it part of your routine before school. If in a classroom setting, you could take the children for a mindful walk outside this would be great before their SATS.
Movement. You can ask the children to walk around the room and for them to notice the different feelings. What do the materials on their body feel like? Each time a thought pops into their head, they can bring their attention back to what they are doing.
Mindfully making a bed. Feeling your feet on the ground, what does the material of your bedding feel like? Can you smell the bedding, What other smells are you aware of Can you feel your legs against the bed? What does that feel like?
Mindful washing up
Listen to the water while the sink or bowl is filling up. Watch the bubbles grow. How does the water feel on your skin? How do the bubbles feel?
Sweeping leaves in the garden
This is a classic Zen Buddhist mindfulness practice. Focus your attention on the leaves that you are sweeping. Notice your breath each time you sweep, notice how your hands feel, listen to the rustling sounds. If any thoughts try to come in and distract you, just let them pass and focus your attention again on your breath or the sounds. This is a fun way to do chores and a great way to get children involved. Mindful adventures! Children love adventures and what better way to get them involved in mindfulness making it an exciting adventure where they will make wonderful discoveries and feel calm and grounded at the same time.
Mindful bedtime routine.
Children/young people like routines, it can help them feel safe and secure. It may not feel like that at times especially when they are pushing against the boundaries. If your child is resisting the bedtime routine, then a good idea would be to come up with a routine together. You can make this as creative and fun as you want. Writing the routine down and allowing the children to come up with the ideas is fun and you are empowering them rather than telling them. This isn’t about letting them go to bed at what time they want to. You can set the end goal and state “bedtime is at 7.30pm so what can we do to make sure you are in bed for this time?” My children used to be very creative when doing this. We had a big piece of paper, and they would draw pictures and make it nice and colourful. Once you’ve all finished, you can put it up on the wall, or it may be in a notebook. However you do it, make sure you remind them of the routine that they have helped to make if they start to move against it. You can look at the boundaries again together if they’re not working and they can be changed as long as they get to the end goal that you have set and cover the other goals like bath/shower, brush teeth etc. Then you can use the mindfulness techniques like breathing cards, bedtime breathing gratitude etc, to help them to sleep.