There’s a popular topic trending at the moment, but unlike most trends, this one isn’t going anywhere. This trend is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice that centers you on the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness is ageless for children and adults alike. It’s the delightful invitation to take an extra breath in those moments of anxiety, fear, or, more broadly articulated, those moments of stress that tend to permeate our everyday lives.
From the Mouths of Babes.
Just the other day, a colleague of mine said something very funny. Her 4-year-old son was huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf until he finally declared what was on his mind: “Mom, I’m angry! I think I need to do some yoga.” She was completely taken by surprise and then snooped around the corner to find him sitting in a quiet space with his eyes closed, simply breathing in and out. After a while, he calmed down. She had no idea where he got this wildly blissful notion and attributed it to something he learned from school. Her son clearly understood mindfulness for children.
There was so much wisdom in that moment. First of all, her son recognized that he was angry. He didn’t run from it. He didn’t hide from it. He recognized it. Second of all, he decided to do something mindful about his stress: he decided to breathe.
Dealing with Stress has become a common experience – Mindfulness can help both Parents and Children.
Stress is an occurrence that has become so normalized that it’s expected. And it’s toxic. It increases our heart rate, blood pressure, weakens our immunity, ages us, tires us, and can even lead to insomnia, anxiety, diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help reduce stress and strengthen immunity. It is as simple as sitting quietly, staying present, and breathing, just like my colleague’s son.
Over the past year, we’ve been under global lockdown as the world continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the fact that we’ve had to stay within our own bubble, the pandemic put a giant spotlight on mental health like depression, anxiety, stress, and many other factors that have been looming around the familiar walls of our sanitized homes throughout the indeterminate duration of the quarantine. There’s no singular age limit to this experience. All creatures great and small – from infancy to the elderly – have been dealing with the effects of the pandemic.
Boosts your Brain Power with Mindfulness Practices.
The brilliant thing behind a dedicated mindfulness practice is that it is a free tool with the capacity to help with many of the issues faced during this time by reducing stress and improving cognition, compassion, and mental well-being. Studies have shown that over time a mindfulness practice promotes activity in the prefrontal cortex – the part of our brain associated with focus, impulse control, and goal setting. The practitioner develops a healthy sense of self by cultivating the skill set of letting go in order to self-regulate and promote a restful state of calm.
Infants have a natural tendency to live in the moment without judgment. They have the wisdom to listen to the inner compass that navigates them along the path of joy. They have a natural affinity toward mindfulness without even knowing it. The glorious thing about this is the fact that we all have that same internal compass and can navigate toward the very same path of joy by simply taking a pause to breathe.
Why? Because mindfulness is not only for children, it’s ageless.
Here are a few great mindfulness practices for every age:
- Back-to-Back Breathing: With a partner, sit up back-to-back, supporting one another. Place one hand on your heart, one hand on your belly, and close your eyes. Notice your own breath. Keep breathing naturally and notice after a while how the breath slows, and you both start to sync your breathing rhythm naturally.
- Square Breathing: Inhale and count slowly up to four. Hold and count slowly to four. Exhale and count slowly to four. Hold and count slowly to four. Repeat for as many rounds as you like.
- Nature Walk: Take a walk on the wild side and stroll through nature. Pay attention to every step, every breath, and focus on what you see, hear, feel, and smell. Take this opportunity to be silent and connect with nature.
- Dance Party: In those stressful moments, get out your favorite dance hits and throw a mini dance party for yourself. Move, smile, and sing along!
- Belly Breathing: Lie on your back with your hands on your belly. Breathe in and out through your nose calmly and quietly. Start to focus on the breath in your belly. As you inhale, feel your hands move up. As you exhale, feel your hands move down. Notice your breathing gets deeper and fuller. A great way to do this exercise for kids is by placing a plush toy on their belly and, with each breath, allow them to notice the toy move up and then down.
Try a Fun Yoga Practice: This goes without saying, Child’s Pose, Downward Dog, Crescent Lunges, and so much more.
Next, Find Relaxation by Focusing your Attention.
- Tension Body Scan: Lie down in a comfortable spot. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Start to deepen your breathing, noticing the sensation of your belly moving up and down. Focus on your feet. Squeeze your toes and tense your feet for 5 seconds…then let them go. Move up to your legs. Give them a big squeeze for 5 seconds…then let everything go. Continue to move up your body in your mind’s eye and tense each part for 5 seconds. Once you’ve completed tensing and letting go, squeeze your entire body for 5 seconds. Let it all go. Refocus on your breathing, allowing it to flow naturally, and notice how you feel.
- Guided Meditation: Sometimes, we need a helping hand along our mindfulness journey, and I’m certainly no exception! Here are some of my favorite go-to meditation apps: Headspace, Chopra, InSight Timer, Hemi-Sync
Get Creative with ways to be Mindful in Everyday Life.
- Coloring: Coloring is a fantastic way to bring us to the present moment without judgment. By slowing down and connecting our breath to this activity and zooming in on the task at hand, coloring can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the mind down.
- Mindfulness Bubbles: This activity is a fabulous and FUN way to send your loving-kindness anywhere in the world. Grab your favorite pack of bubbles and think of three people: someone you love, someone who’s made you angry, and…yourself! Close your eyes and focus on your heart. Imagine a glowing pink light in the center and watch it grow with each breath. This glowing light is your loving-kindness. Open your eyes and blow the pink light from your imagination into your bubbles to send your loving-kindness to each person. Keep blowing your bubbles, and have fun! The more fun you have, the more it works! Tap into your idea of what mindfulness for children means, and awaken your inner child.
- Mindful Cooking: Find a simple recipe that you can’t wait to try and add one extra step at the very top: STEP 1 – Enjoy every moment. With this in mind, connect your breathing to your food preparation and take your time. Notice the texture of each ingredient, the colors, and the aroma. And now, notice the sound of the sizzle of the pan. Finally, notice how the aroma changes over time. Continue to connect your breath to each moment, continue to take your time, and indulge in that incredible moment when you take your first bite with divine satisfaction.
Remember to Breathe!
Now, of course, this is a short and rather specific list, but let’s not forget the profound and simple wisdom of my colleague’s four-year-old son: in those moments of stress, do yourself a favor and remember to breathe. After all, the more focused attention we give to our breath, the more opportunities we’ll find for a peaceful state of mind. Mindfulness isn’t just for children; it’s for all of us!
Let me know in the comments about your experience with mindfulness practices. What is your top go-to way to de-stress? Do you have a similar story? We would love to hear from you! And, please check out my book, “Mula and the Fly,” sold on amazon.
Tag me on Instagram at @laurenhoffmeier and @happymamalama if you have a story to share. Please let us know you’re interested in a Zoom book reading or a Mindfulness for Children course.