Teachers of mindfulness define it as paying attention to the present moment. It is being aware of our thoughts, feelings, of what is happening in our body, of where we are and what we are doing in this mo-ment. It is moving away from being distracted, inattentive and disengaged.
In recent times, our lifestyles provide us endless opportunities for distraction.
It is not only technology that is the villain here, but all the ways we disengage ourselves while we are in a particular activity. For example, as I sip my coffee, I am working on my laptop, listening to music and scribbling some lines on my notepad. The phone rings; I take the call. As I keep my smartphone down, I hear the familiar notification sound from WhatsApp. Then I check my mailbox. Nothing in there. What about Facebook? Let me look up the IPL score! I also realise that the songs have been playing one after the other without me listening to the lyrics or music. I notice my thoughts are all over as I split my attention doing various things. In the process, I’ve lost the flow of thought of what I was typing, and I am repeatedly reading the previous lines to keep track. My coffee is cold and insipid! I’ve lost much time and I feel so dissatisfied and stressed. I snap at my child who wanted to know what was for lunch saying, “Can’t you see I’m trying to work?”.
We believe that the key to productivity and saving time is multitasking, but research shows that the brain is incapable of actually focusing on two things at a time. And if it does, it is often losing data. Switching quickly between tasks causes the brain to drain energy, making errors and losing 40% of productivity in the process.
If we as adults seem to go through the day with so much stress, imagine how much more exists for our children! We would surely want to bring in the practice of mindfulness for the wellness of both-our children and us.
Here are simple mindfulness activities (Courtesy - Mindful Kids, 50 mindfulness activities for kindness, focus and calm by Whitney Stewart and Mina Braun)
MINDFUL BREATHS OR PRANAYAMA
Sit comfortably with your spine straight and body relaxed. Bring your focus to the present moment. Notice your breathing. Take three soft, slow, mindful breaths and feel them in your body. Breathe in and feel air coming into your nose. Breath out.
In the same way, breathe in and notice air filling your lungs and then your stomach and breathe out. Repeat these three variations for two more rounds. Breathe mindfully to feel awake and ready for the day.
Teach the child to breathe mindfully. Say, ‘Breathe in slowly like you smell a rose, then breathe out slowly like you blow a bubble.’
Sit at the table with your food plate in front of you. Before you eat, take three soft, slow, mindful breaths. Sniff the food you are about to eat. What does it smell like?
Look at it carefully. Notice the texture. Does it look crunchy? Soft and mushy? Or in be-tween? Take one bite and chew slowly until your food is like a paste. Is it sweet or salty?
Swallow your food. What sensations do you feel in your body as you eat?
Guide the child to eat without any distractions. Ask the above questions in simple words. Begin by eating a fruit or a piece of chocolate mindfully.
NAME THAT FEELING
This is an activity for two or more persons. Write down states of emotion like happy, scared, angry, sad, surprised, etc. on small, separate pieces of paper. One person picks a feeling and acts it out without talking. The others guess that feeling. Then each person de-scribes a time when they have had that feeling. Each person takes a turn acting out a feel-ing.
Encourage the child to act out and name the feeling.
Add more activities like giving gratitude, observing nature, relaxing each body part from head to toe during bed time, focusing on each step while walking, while getting dressed, etc.
Find brief moments during the day to practise mindfulness. Make it a daily ritual.
Mindfulness practice is important as it
- Builds concentration and improves regions in the brain involved with learning and memory processes,
- Regulates emotions and increases ability to feel empathy,
- Promotes happiness by reducing stress and anxiety,
- Builds the process of awareness and better decision making,
- Improves body wellness.
“By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience—even the comfort in a single breath—you’ll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure.”
-Rick Hanson, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence
As we fill our cup with calmness, empathy and fortitude, we are able to fill our child’s cup too.
To know more, here are a few links:
— The author is a certified Parent Educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation that promotes parents to build deeper connection within families. To know more about our programmes and workshops, look us up on www.parentingmatters.in.