The most well-known mindfulness activity is meditation, but there are many other ways to be mindful in everyday life that are much more straightforward. Mindfulness basically means noticing what is going on within us and/or within our environment. This can include sensations within our body, thoughts within our mind, how our behaviours impact on others, and how others’ actions impact on us. It can also include being aware of the world around us – temperature, sights, noises, smells, movement, tastes, our location in relation to other things….there is so much to be aware of, and endless ways we can be mindful.
- Breathing. Place one hand onto your chest (over your heart) and the other hand onto your belly (at the belly button). Breathe normally and notice the rise and fall of your chest and stomach areas. Continue for about 10 breaths. Try breathing in through your nose and out through your nose or mouth. Be aware of making the breath out longer than the breath in (this calms our nervous systems). Mix it up with making sounds as you exhale – a long sigh, buzzing, a hum or whistle. Gently blow bubbles or a tissue to notice what happens when you breathe out. Use counting to focus your thoughts.
- Mindful life. You and your children can engage in fun mindfulness activities by focusing on everyday actions you usually do on auto pilot. Try noticing what it is like when you eat something – not just the taste, but the smell, texture, temperature, what your tongue does, when you feel the need to swallow, or even any memories eating a particular food brings up for you. Lie down in the back yard and look up at the sky – can you see clouds or stars, what else do you see or hear, what does it feel like to lie on the grass? In the bathtub or washing up, mowing the lawn, picking a flower, brushing your teeth…..be aware of what you notice and share it with your child. Ask them to do the same.
We can engage in mindful activities on our own or share them with our children. Have a little fun with these:
- Stop, Pause, Play. Stop what you are doing. Take a few slow, steady, calm breaths to help bring yourself back to the moment. Focus on what your child is doing or communicating with you. Once you have slowed yourself down you can better engage with your child. Letting yourself be in the moment can also make it less awkward to connect with your own inner child and just “play”.
- Hand holding. We often hold our children’s hands but rarely notice what is actually involved. Next time you hold your child’s hand, take a moment to notice how it feels in your hand – notice the size, whether it is soft or hard, warm or cool. Give their hand a gentle squeeze, or run your thumb over their palm. Notice any movements they make with their hand and fingers. You can also do this when you have a quiet moment together, and experiment with how you touch your child’s hand – you may like to gently stroke their hand, or bring it up to your face and feel it against your cheek. You can use your other senses too to look at your child’s hand, or smell it. Let your child do the same to your hand. This simple exercise if a great way to quietly connect with each other.
- Consider how you appear to your child. Imagine yourself from your child’s perspective – you will be physically bigger, maybe soft and cuddly, maybe solid and strong. How do you hold your body when around your child – do you tense, are you physically affectionate, do you have eye contact with your child? How does your voice sound? Do you have a particular smell that your child would notice? Do you have a particular taste (let’s face it most of our kids have licked us at least once!). Consider if this what you want to be like as a parent or could you change the way you relate to your child?
- Sitting still. This sounds simple enough but in our busy lives, we rarely take the opportunity to just sit. You can do this on your own or with your child. Avoid distractions like screens, phones, or conversations. You may like to listen to music. Notice not only what is going on around you, but also how you feel inside yourself – what thoughts do you have, any sensations (you may feel your bottom on the couch, or the need to wriggle), do you notice any emotions such as nervousness or boredom?
- The perfect child, the best parent. Some days seem to fly by without us having a minute to stop and appreciate our children. A nice time to do this then is when they are in bed, drifting off to sleep. Or even once your child is asleep. Take a moment to be close to your child – physically touching or in close proximity. Use your senses to really notice the perfect being your child is – look at them, hear their soft breathing, feel their warmth, smell their scent. Notice sensations within yourself – a smile, love welling within your chest, the desire to reach out and hold your child. Put aside the frustrations of the day, and remind yourself that this amazing little person loves you for who you are, and try alittle compassion for yourself – you are being the best parent you can be.
Being mindful in our parenting may seem tricky at times, especially when we get caught up in the business of daily life. However, with some practice, you will find that being more mindful increases your satisfaction as a parent, lowers stress levels, and encourages more fun and stronger connections with your children. Mindful parenting is about noticing what is happening in the moment, how you and your child are feeling, and what you and your child need right now. Try not to get too caught up in your own preconceived ideas of parenting and how you ‘should’ behave, but rather stay with the moment and respond as authentically and calmly as you can.
Australian Childhood Foundation (2012). Mindful parenting – A Bringing Up Great Kids Resource.http://www.childhood.org.au/
Child Psychology Brisbane https://changespsychology.com.au