Mindfulness helps us to step back from the chatter of our minds and focus on the present. In the practice of mindfulness, we give ourselves permission to let go of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Instead, we aim to connect to the actual lived moments of our lives, whatever they may be. We may start to experience greater satisfaction in everyday experiences, such as becoming aware of the taste and smell of the food we are eating or noticing how we feel watching a beautiful sunset.
Practicing mindfulness can help us to reign in our thinking-mind. We learn to ‘let go’ of thoughts, viewing them as simply mental events, rather than truths to engage with. We also practice inhabiting the sensations of the breath and the body, and in so doing, we learn to connect to a wider sense of ourselves; one in which thinking does not need to dominate our whole experience. There is evidence that practicing mindfulness regularly improves our concentration and focus, reduces our experience of pain and distress, improves our overall wellbeing, and actually leads to structural changes in the brain in area that are responsible for our ability to ‘self-soothe’ and regulate our emotions.
Did you know that children can practice mindfulness too?
Mindfulness is suitable for anyone, even children. In fact, there are some excellent books for children that make mindfulness more accessible. It is a great life skill to learn at an early age and can provide a well needed moment of calm for both children and their parents or carers. If you need an idea for a mindfulness technique to practice with your child, why not try this mindful drawing exercise?
Draw your emotions
Mindfulness includes awareness of what we’re feeling, as well as the world around us. Young children sometimes have difficulty naming their feelings but drawing emotions can be a great way for a child to pay attention to what they are feeling and express it without using words. The key here is to try doing this exercise at different times – not only when your child is upset. Start by sitting down together and ask them to close their eyes. Encourage them to think about how they are feeling at that moment. You might want to offer some words to give them some ideas. For instance, perhaps ask if they are feeling happy, sad, scared, angry, worried. Then ask them to draw how they feel. Make sure you role model the exercise too by drawing how you are feeling as well. If they name their emotion, you can write the word on their picture too. Try to let their imagination run wild on this one, encourage them to use any colours or medium they want without constraining them to using one bit of paper or one type of pencil.
Try this today: 10-minute mindfulness practice:
Some of the easiest mindfulness practices are using activities that we already do every day, such as eating, brushing our teeth, walking, standing in a queue etc.