As a parent today, many of us struggle to find balance in our family life. Because of our own busy schedules, we try to compensate for the little time spent with the kids by activating them in our absence and when together, filling up the weekend diary. But how do our kids get to unplug from weeks filled with long days at school, activities and homework? Jolie Michelle Ow gives us an overlooked tool that won’t just benefit the kids, but the entire family.
“Our children can handle quiet time if we cultivate the proper conditions for them to thrive at creating inner peace and quiet.” – Tejal Patel
Our children’s brains are so often tired and children of all ages (adults too) really need opportunities where they can take some time out to pause for a moment, be “unplugged”, to relax and focus. In our present world with sensory overloads from school, family and internal pressures, children need this pause more than ever.
You’ll be surprised to find, that children are naturally more intuitive and spiritually connected than adults because they have not yet understood boundaries and limiting beliefs. Their bodies and minds are more open to lessons around them. They soak up what they see, hear and feel around them, so if we allow them this space for self-discovery and with the right guidance, repetition and encouragement, children are able to access into the meditative zone and share the most astounding words of wisdom from their experience.
There are many benefits to Meditation. Meditation helps to find calm and balance and to awaken awareness. It works as a powerful support for the children as it offers rest for the mind, body and spirit to help them focus on what matters, and function more effectively and clearly.
With practice and repetition, children can learn to “switch off” from constant stimulation, which prevents them from stress and anxiety. And mindfulness meditation does not just work through a deep relaxation practice, but also with focused attention on inside experiences that may heal the body, mind and heart.
Practising meditation has many physical, mental and spiritual benefits and also enhances social-emotional skills. Children who practice meditation have been proved to gain inner confidence and are able to show more empathy to one another and people’s feelings around them. They are more apt to able to speak up and express their needs, control their emotions and not destruct themselves or others subconsciously.
Mindful meditation, specifically, is gaining a foothold in stress reduction, disease prevention and treatment. Increasing numbers of studies are showing improved attention and behaviour. Some research has shown benefits for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, school performance, sleep, behaviour problems, and eating disorders. Also, when U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan instituted The Skills for Life program in Ohio schools to teach deep breathing, meditation, and other problem-solving skills to elementary-aged children, they found that these practices helped children balance their emotions, cut down on bullying, and increased awareness.
Using meditation as a tool, have, as explained above, proven many great results, and the academic research also proves that meditation does not just make positive changes in the brain structure, but also the body, the immune system and blood circulation.
In 2017, Sarah Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, used the MRI technology to study the link of meditation and the brain. Sarah’s research showed that regular meditation practices resulted in changes in the brain structure and also that meditation may prevent age-related thinking of the frontal cortex that contributes to memory. This means that with regular mindful meditation, focus and attention can be trained, preventing dementia.
There’s recently been an increased interest in studying the link between mindfulness and the brain. The anterior cingulate cortex, the region associated with attention also showed changes in activity and/or structure in response to mindfulness meditation. For more info read this book byDavid Rock
But the research is all very well, how to incorporate this tool of magic is another thing. Being a facilitator for schools, families and corporations, the biggest challenge for meditation is not the practice itself, but the application of meditation into the daily lives.
When doing activities such as games, story-telling, music and other children-friendly mediums, parents and teachers often provide activities that children follow in order to keep them engaged. However, this means that there is less focus on the process and the connection between the teacher/parent and child. So how do we get a space for self-discovery – how can we spark wonder and nurture higher creativity?
What to focus on:
Firstly of all, try to avoid giving them what you think you know and have learnt from books or other resources. Let go of what you know or what others say, and be curious about what you may learn from a child. Get in touch with your own inner child.
Every child is unique and beautiful so it really doesn’t mean that one meditation will work the same for another child. When you are meditating with children, guide them through a sense of connection, try to create a bond that provides a sense of love and acceptance. This is an opportunity to understand each other’s needs and expectations.
I believe that meditation with children is more than relaxation. It allows everyone in the same room to ‘soften’ and watch what’s going on in a humbling, grateful and authentic manner. But in order to conduct an enjoyable meditation that connects and calms the little ones, you have to allow yourself to learn from these wise little ones through their lens.
Before you begin connecting with your child in meditation, turn off your digital device and be present for them. Devote at least 15 minutes. Meditation can be conducted anytime and anywhere, as long as both adults and children are present – there is no perfect, or peaceful place and time. Now, take a deep breath, and get ready to relax.
The simplest and most effective tool to connect with children is using the breath:
Count the breath together.
Direct the breath from the waist to the shoulders into the diaphragm for 1,2,3,4, hold for 1,2,3 and out for 6,5,4,3,2,1.
Hold again, this for 1,2,3 before taking the next inhalation, and repeat for at least 8 rounds.
Remember to enjoy the process and stay open and curious. The emphasis of meditation is to cultivate the heart of presence, so that we may integrate meditation into daily living.
Here are 3 keynotes to be mindful of.
Connect to the inner child
Listen to your child, do not make any assumptions and try to ask open-ended questions to get to know them. Understand their needs and desires, how do they wish to be held and respected. Don’t interrupt their thoughts and ideas, if you do not like or agree with what they say and don’t say NO. Try using different ways of offering alternatives so you may avoid hurting their emotions and give them space to choose the best option that is the right thing to do and it comes from their own choice. You are holding their space and guiding them to feel accepted and validated.
Discover the inner child
Explore happiness and allow yourself to see through their lens. Spark a child-like curiosity wonder and walk with them through the mindfulness exercises like you would if you were a good friend to them. Celebrate little things around the curious eye and the mind. Stay curious, and allow yourself to play. It’s deeply healing for adults to let the inner child come out to play!
Embrace the inner child
Do you have something you do not like or enjoy about your inner child? Learn to observe the kind of words you would use towards yourself because it will reflect on what you see with your child too. Recognizing kindness and compassion, noticing acts of kindness every day, so we do not take them for granted. And by looking deeper at their efforts, and appreciating their kindness, this is a skill that can be developed over time and encourages them to feel loved and embraced as they are. Eventually, they will get better at recognizing and developing their own way of expressing acts of kindness and embrace their flaws as learning opportunities.
Our children are wiser and more capable than we think they are. They can handle quiet time to find aha moments if we cultivate the proper conditions for them to thrive with our presence and compassionate listening. Mindfulness meditation helps children relax, focus better and increase attention span. It also teaches children to manage their emotions, increase optimism and happiness, decrease bullying, and increase empathy and compassion. Meditating with your children resolves conflicts and strengthens relationships. Meditation is for everyone and it is a fruitful and enriching experience as long as you stay open and curious in the process of insightful learning.
Jolie conducts meditation for both children and adults in a safe and non-judgmental environment at Canvass. She designs camps, workshops and teacher development programme in schools and facilitates corporate mindfulness and overseas retreats, see more below.
Quotes about happiness have a way of encouraging us to dream bigger and smile brighter. These “be happy” quotes remind us of life’s greatest joys and give us optimists something to believe in.
THE BEST “BE HAPPY” QUOTES FOR OPTIMISTS
Whether you’re an optimist or you are looking to add more happiness to your life, these “be happy” quotes are for you. Keep the following be happy quotes in mind to make your days just a little brighter:
1. “HAPPINESS ISN’T A READY-MADE OBJECT. THIS FEELING COMES FROM ONE’S OWN ACTIONS.” — THE DALAI LAMA
Society likes to create the idea that happiness is some product or service that can be bought or sold.
While advertising companies the world over like to paint the picture that we’re all just one purchase away from being happy, this quote shows us the opposite.
2. “EVERYONE MUST REALIZE THAT THE PATH TO HAPPINESS IS FINALLY BEING HAPPY FOR YOURSELF AND BY YOURSELF.” –ELLEN DEGENERES
We all have the power to create our own lives. Whatever your deepest dream may be, it’s yours if you want it.
This quote by Ellen DeGeneres is a present reminder that we all can choose to be happy. Don’t fall for the trap of letting others tell you who to be or what you should do. Live your life for yourself and find the happiness you deserve to have.
3. “DON’T SET ASIDE YOUR OWN HAPPINESS. DON’T WAIT FOR THE FUTURE TO BE HAPPY. CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY NOW; NOW IS THE BEST TIME.” –ROY T. BENNETT
Be happy quotes like this show us how important it is to be satisfied in the present day. Though we all like to dream of a bigger and better future, the reality is that you don’t have to wait for your most magnificent dreams to come true to be happy.
There’s no better time than the present to bring positivity to your life. Choosing to be optimistic about where you are now will help you pave the way for a future filled with happiness.
4. “HAPPINESS IS MADE UP OF SMALL PLEASURES OR CONVENIENCES THAT WE EXPERIENCE EACH DAY, RATHER THAN GREAT AMOUNTS OF GOOD FORTUNE THAT OCCUR SELDOM IN THE COURSE OF ONE’S LIFE.” –BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
Benjamin Franklin’s quote is another way of saying that finding happiness is no stroke of luck. If you hope to be happy with your life, choose to do so right now.
By seeing life’s little pleasures for the blessings they are, you’ll find that feeling happy isn’t quite that difficult.
5. “EACH DAY IS NEW; YOU’LL NEVER FEEL HAPPY IF YOU CAN’T MOVE ON.” –CARRIE UNDERWOOD
Life has its fair share of good and evil. Though it’s easy to focus on the bad aspects of our lives, quotes like this remind us to take stock in the positive.
Don’t discount the unfortunate events that have happened to you, but don’t obsess over them either. Happiness is on the other side of moving on.
6. “IF ONE DAY YOU FIND HAPPINESS, OTHERS MIGHT BE JEALOUS. CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY ANYWAY.” –MOTHER TERESA
This quote is Mother Theresa’s way of telling us to ignore the naysayers. Everyone will have an opinion of your life, especially if you’re living your truth and are happy doing so.
Do yourself a favor and tune out the detractors. Keep the negativity away and tune in to your happiness.
7. “A MODEST AND CALM LIFE BRINGS MUCH MORE HAPPINESS THAN ANY PURSUIT OF SUCCESS FRAUGHT WITH CONSTANT RESTLESSNESS.” –ALBERT EINSTEIN
We all have goals we hope to reach. Though there’s nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself or your life, spending your days chasing “success” and wearing yourself thin isn’t healthy.
Albert Einstein’s quote explains that the key to happiness is finding a way to lead a calm and modest life. Continue to work hard to achieve your goals, but remember that they shouldn’t come at the cost of finding peace in your life.
8. “HAPPINESS IS DEPENDENT UPON OURSELVES.” –ARISTOTLE
Optimists can successfully cultivate a positive lifestyle because they know that they are responsible for their happiness. Though there are many things we cannot control in life, we get a say in whether or not we get to feel happy.
If you want to feel happy, don’t depend on anyone else but yourself.
9. “HAPPINESS SHOULDN’T BE THE GOAL…IT IS A BY-PRODUCT OF HAVING A WELL-LIVED LIFE.” –ELEANOR ROOSEVELT
The happiest among us don’t live their lives chasing the goal of finding happiness. These optimists naturally achieve satisfaction as a result of the type of experience they have.
10. “THINK OF LIFE’S BEAUTY STILL AROUND YOU AND DECIDE TO BE HAPPY.” –ANNE FRANK
Any of us can pick and choose something we’d like to change about our lives. Many of us often get overwhelmed by the struggles we contend with in life.
Anne Frank’s quote reminds us to choose happiness, despite everything. Next time you find yourself overcome by life, remember to appreciate the beauty around you.
11. “HAPPINESS IS ALL IN THE MINDSET. HAPPINESS HAPPENS AS A RESULT OF HOW YOU SEE THINGS.” –WALT DISNEY
The creator of the “happiest place on earth” Walt Disney knew the power of thinking positively. Walt Disney was a man committed to happiness. By adopting a positive mindset, Disney was able to be one of the happiest men on earth.
12. “IT ISN’T WHO YOU ARE, WHERE YOU ARE, OR WHAT YOU HAVE THAT WILL MAKE YOU UNHAPPY OR HAPPY. HAPPINESS COMES FROM YOUR THOUGHTS.” –DALE CARNEGIE
Never underestimate the power of your thinking. Dale Carnegie’s quote may seem simple, but it hits home.
What do you think about during the day? The happiest people make sure they leave room for positive thinking.
13. “ANYONE THAT WANTS TO BE HAPPY CAN’T DWELL ON THE PAST OR WORRY ABOUT THEIR FUTURE; THEY MUST FOCUS ON LIVING LIFE FULLY RIGHT NOW.” –ROY T. BENNETT
Though the past can be stressful and the future may seem uncertain, the only way to find happiness in life is to plug into the present-day truly.
14. “ONE CANNOT PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM SADNESS WITHOUT KEEPING THEMSELVES FROM HAPPINESS.” –JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER
Getting hurt isn’t fun. At times, the pain can seem so unbearable that it makes us want to close ourselves off from feeling anything ever again.
If you’ve ever felt this way, remember that while the pain can be overwhelming, it won’t last forever. The only way to be happy again is to open yourself up emotionally.
15. “HAPPINESS AND SANITY ARE QUITE AN IMPOSSIBLE COMBINATION.” –MARK TWAIN
To be joyful, Mark Twain proposes that one can’t be completely sane. While you don’t have to embrace insanity to find your happiness, this quote points out that frequently, others will classify what makes us happy as “crazy”.
Throw caution to the wind and pursue what you like if it makes you happy.
16. “THERE ISN’T ANYTHING ELSE QUITE LIKE THE FEELING AFTER A HARD LAUGH. NOTHING SO GOOD LIKE HAVING A SORE STOMACH FOR THESE REASONS.” –STEPHEN CHBOSKY
Little things like laughing are enough to remind us of how it feels to be happy. Should you ever need a pick-me-up, find something that makes you laugh. Sooner than later, you’ll forget what it was that made you sad in the first place.
17. “WE SHOULD BE GRATEFUL TO ALL PEOPLE THAT MAKE US HAPPY; OUR LOVED ONES ARE THE GARDENERS THAT MAKE OUR SOULS BLOSSOM.” –MARCEL PROUST
Marcel Proust’s poetic words compare our lives to gardens. Finding happiness in this life is all about finding the “gardeners” that will nurture our hearts and souls.
Whether it’s a friend, significant other, or family member, spending time cultivating relationships with your loved ones will bring you happiness.
18. “A PERSON ONLY NEEDS THREE THINGS TO FIND HAPPINESS: SOMETHING TO HOPE FOR, SOMETHING TO DO, AND SOMEONE TO LOVE.” –TOM BODETT
For someone to love, look to yourself, for something to hope for, think about building a better future. For something to do, strive to live your dream every day.
19. “MEDICINE CAN’T CURE WHAT HAPPINESS CANNOT.” –GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ
Many of us turn to medicine as a way to heal what ails us. Though this medication can ease the pain, it won’t fill our need for happiness.
Optimists know that the only cure for life’s most significant ailments is happiness.
20. “IN HAPPINESS, ONE FINDS THE SECRET TO BEAUTY. THERE CAN BE NO BEAUTY WHERE THERE ISN’T HAPPINESS.” –CHRISTIAN DIOR
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but many of us fail to see the beauty in our everyday lives. Take time to recognize the beautiful aspects of your life, and you’ll find that happiness is nearby.
To have negative thoughts is to be human. The story of humanity is the story of an epic battle with negativity.
This is perhaps the most important question in existence: How do you conquer negative thoughts that are stifling your confidence and bringing you down?
You’d be surprised to know the answer to this question is much simpler than it seems.
Yet even the simplest things can easily drown beneath the roar and constant cascade of negative thoughts that seem justified. If you could ignore that roar, what would you do? Pursue a new career? Make new friends? Go on a date and begin a relationship with a person who seems unattainable?
To read on is to know you can do any of these things, and more — but at the same time, this is a dare: to read on is to accept the dare and choose a confident approach to actions that terrify you.
This article will help you stop negative thoughts by teaching you strategies to cope with them in actionable ways. You’ll learn how to view your thoughts differently, how to calm your mind, and how to be confident in your actions. Most importantly, you’ll step away from the page empowered and ready to pay attention to the world around you in a non-judgmental way.
1. Uncover the Root of Negative Thoughts
Here’s a revelation: four different studies showed that people who are unskilled tend to grossly overestimate their abilities. The studies measured humor, grammar, and logic. Participants who thought they were great were in fact incompetent.
This shines a light on the root of your negative thoughts about your own abilities. Your self-doubt is a result of your intelligence. Instead of assuming you’re good, capable, skilled, and born ready to tackle any challenge, you analyze yourself and the situation. Past failings come to mind.
You think — you don’t just act — and when the brain gives itself time to think, any number of unwanted thoughts tend to pop up.
There’s a good reason why: early humans evolved in a dangerous environment. We had to think about what could possibly go wrong almost all of the time. We were threatened by wild animals, natural disasters, rival tribes, and competitors in our own camps. Our brains are hardwired to look for danger, and when a challenge arises, instinct tells us to either fight or flee.
You have negative thoughts because your intelligent brain is considering all of the possibilities. Although the challenges you face may not be anywhere close to the extremity of a wild animal attack, they’re challenges nonetheless, and a muffled version of your fight-or-flight instinct kicks in.
2. Value Your Emotional IQ
We’ve established that your intelligence is contributing to negative thoughts, the type of thoughts that can kill your confidence if you focus on them. But have you ever thought about your emotional intelligence?
Otherwise known as EI, this is a quality that goes a long way in the professional world, where it’s extremely important for people to possess it. In a survey, 71 percent of hiring managers said EI is more important than IQ, and 58 percent won’t even hire somebody with a high IQ and low EI. The University of Maryland identifies the following important aspects of EI:
You recognize your emotions.
You register the emotions of others.
You can figure out what’s triggering your emotions.
You “manage emotional info,” meaning you don’t just react when emotions flare, you are able to control yourself.
We’re taught to value the intellect from a very young age. We don’t place very much emphasis on the ability to recognize emotions and use them in effective ways. It’s this lack of balance that leads many of us to stumble.
Negative emotions cause negative thoughts, and emotion is triggered by something you can’t control. Likewise, the internal verbalisation of an emotion happens almost instantaneously — you don’t even notice when it happens. You feel sad because you didn’t get invited to a party. Suddenly, you start thinking you’re inadequate, and then defensiveness kicks in and you think, “I don’t like those people anyhow.”
Instead of reacting to emotion negatively, cultivate your EI. Recognize the emotion and understand that an emotion of this type is likely to cause negative thoughts. Also, recognize that the emotion is natural — it’s not right or wrong, it’s just a feeling you have.
Be there with the emotion, give it a name, give it a color, find a way to express it externally. Be creative, and if your expression feels sad, that’s because it’s authentic.
3. Recognize Unhealthy Actions That Reinforce Negative Thoughts
We thrive on stimulus. Basically, this means you seek out things to help you feel good. A lot of times, when kids are very young, parents do them a disservice by offering a stimulus at the wrong times. This carries through to adulthood.
For example, when you were a kid, you were sad because kids were making fun of you at school. Negative thoughts surfaced almost immediately, like buoyant objects on waves of emotion. Instead of sitting with you in your sadness and helping you express it, your parents gave you something to eat, sat you down in front of the TV, and then put you to bed.
What’s wrong with that? The first thing to provide comfort was an external stimulus in the form of food. The psychology of foodis such that,
“We can form unhealthy relationships with the thing that is supposed to aid in our well being.”
Food — especially processed, sugary food that delivers a dopamine kick — is a powerful substance that engages all of the senses. When you learn to turn to an external stimulus like food as a way to make yourself feel better, you create a negative feedback loop. Down the line, you develop a stimulus habit, and then when you indulge in the habit, you get down on yourself after the initial satisfaction is gone.
Identify unhealthy habits and remove them as an option. They’re confidence killers. Replace them with healthy habits such as exercise, art, journaling, and caring for a pet or visiting relatives and old friends more often.
4. Make Regular Deposits in Your Confidence Account
You need to do little things that increase your confidence. That way, when discouraging thoughts rear up, you have a reservoir of confidence to rely on.
Here are some confidence-building activities:
Make a list of your strengths and things you’ve done (or are doing) that you’re proud of. Keep adding to the list regularly.
Do a power pose every day. According to psychologist Amy Cuddy, simply standing in an open, broad stance with arms raised like you scored a touchdown will train your brain to develop confidence. Do this for about a minute each day in front of the mirror.
Challenge yourself with a new activity that isn’t out of reach. Take up yoga, learn how to sew or to cook a new type of food, memorize a poem or lyrics to a great song.
Exercise and get enough sleep.
Do the 100 days of rejection challenge. Jia Jiang, the owner of Rejection Therapy, desensitized himself to rejection and built courage by making crazy requests of people for 100 days.
Make self-affirmative statements in your mind and out loud. Use your list of strengths. Say, “I am a good communicator, I am smart, I care for other people.” When your inner critic speaks up, counter it with self-affirmation.
Doing confidence-building exercises regularly pays off in the long-term. You’ll feel better physically and mentally, and negative thoughts won’t have the confidence-killing effect they once had.
5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
This is a huge one. It’s incredibly easy to compare yourself to other people in today’s social media environment. A study showed that the more time people spend on Facebook, the more depressed they are.
People tend to share their achievements via status updates and post pictures that are flattering. It’s easy to compare yourself to your friends’ Facebook façade and come up lacking. Then, you decide to post an update that makes you look good, and if it doesn’t get a ton of likes and comments, you get the impression your Facebook friends don’t like you.
This applies a great deal to people who are in relationships as well. A study showed that when people are in a serious, dependent relationship, they tend to advertise it on Facebook. Oftentimes, they do so because they’ve seen their friends do the same. If you’re not in a satisfying relationship, seeing someone’s positive status in the artificial environment of social media can be a serious downer. You end up comparing yourself to them without even realizing it.
University of Texas professor Raj Raghunathan recommends an alternative approach.
“Become a little more aware of what it is that you’re really good at, and what you enjoy doing. When you don’t need to compare yourself to other people, you gravitate towards things that you instinctively enjoy doing.”
Focus on what you enjoy. There will be no room for negative thoughts. You’ll get closer to mastering what you enjoy most and you’ll be confident in your mastery.
6. Practice Mindfulness as a Way of Life
Our Western mode of thought frames things in terms of problems and solutions. It’s tempting to say, “If negative thoughts are the problem, mindfulness is the solution.”
Mindfulness meditation isn’t a solution and expectations for mindfulness creates frustration. All you can expect of mindfulness is to be mindful.
Mindfulness is a way of life. It’s the practice of paying attention, it’s the practice of noting phenomena and releasing phenomena in the same way the lungs take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.
How does mindfulness help you cope with negative thoughts? The mind takes note of the thought and then releases it.
That’s all, there’s no magic here. There is the recognition that your brain and its thoughts are a functioning part of a phenomenal universe. At the risk of sounding cliche, a rolling stone grows no moss. The mind that releases thoughts and lets them go in the universe does not brood on them, therefore that mind remains fresh and ready for new challenges.
7. Judge Less, Do More
When we judge other people and gossip and make negative comments about them, we give negative thoughts power. We vocalize them and let them resound. Soon, this type of thinking becomes a habit, and it turns on the speaker. It’s like a dog biting an owner who trained the dog to bite people.
Don’t give negative thoughts about other people a foothold. Don’t make these thoughts an authority. Instead, practice loving-kindness meditation or something close to it. With loving-kindness, you sit and direct thoughts of well-being and unconditional love first to yourself, then to a friend, then to an acquaintance, and then to someone you don’t like.
Next, start writing down specific, achievable checkpoints, tasks, and goals for yourself. Write down dates and places and get as hyper-specific as possible. Make sure your checkpoints and goals revolve around what you enjoy doing. Keep a laminated copy of your to-do list in your pocket. Check things off: do more and enjoy the act of doing.
By focusing positive thoughts on yourself and others, and by focusing on your object of enjoyment, you’re training your brain. Soon, you are used to thinking positively and getting things done. Oh how good this feels!
The Bottom Line
Confidence is a habit. Like any habit, you need continual practice to build confidence. It’s easy to develop bad habits because you’re not thinking of some distant goal. You’re just engaging in an action repeatedly. Hand takes donut, puts donut in mouth, mouth chews, throat swallows, repeat. Why can’t positive habits be the same way?
Build your confidence by repeating routine actions that build confidence. Go to sleep with enough time for eight hours of shut-eye. Wake up, stretch, and hold a power pose for a minute while thinking self-affirming thoughts.
If you have time for exercise in the morning, exercise in the morning. Set a realistic goal to challenge yourself in some way that day. Then, with knowledge that you will tackle an achievable challenge, go through your day with mindful indulgence in each moment.
Mindfulness practices have found a much-needed home in the West. For many reasons, there is perhaps a no better time to teach kids how to become mindful individuals.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
“[Mindfulness] is the opposite of absent-mindedness. Whenever we’re lost or confused about what to do, we can simply come back to the present-moment experience.” ~ Joseph Goldstein, ‘Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening’ (Source)
The origins of mindfulness are traced back to ancient India and Nepal some 2,600 years ago. It was at this time and place when Siddhartha Gautama – who’d later become the Buddha – taught his followers the concept of sati.
The Pali word sati roughly translates to the English word ‘mindfulness.’
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (‘MBSR’) program, definesmindfulness as: “…paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
On the surface, being mindful seems to be a rather simple concept. However, one soon discovers that ‘simple’ in no way means easy.
Unpacking Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness serves as a viable framework for helping explain why the practice is difficult for the modern person.
Um, yeah, many of us – if not most – aren’t too good at paying attention. Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., author of the book ‘Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence,” recalls a conversation with an advertising representative, who told Goleman:
“Today, you have to keep it [client presentations] to a minute and a half. If you don’t grab them by then, everyone starts checking for messages.”
You may have also heard about the famous “goldfish” study, where researchers insist that the average human attention span is shorter than that of our freshwater friend. Great.
When we pay attention to something “on purpose,” we’re exercising two attentional faculties: directed attention and sustained attention. Directed attention is where we voluntarily choose the ‘object’ of our focus (e.g., a presentation). With selective attention, we ignore the presence of potential distractions for a while to focus on one thing (e.g., a task.)
Sustained attention can only develop through disciplined effort – and people (understandably) need to have a good reason to exert it. Therein lies the problem.
Unless something truly captures our fancy, it’s all too easy to tune out. Which is what we do most of the time.
…IN THE PRESENT MOMENT.”
The human mind is continuously ruminating about the past or projecting into the future. If you observe your mindstate, you’ll feel a gentle“tug” as your mind seeks the next moment – and then the next. Never allowing you to settle into this moment.
We can easily observe this phenomenon on our morning commute. People always want the traffic to move. Why? There is usually no good reason.
THE EVIDENCE FOR MINDFULNESS
Evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness (and mindfulness meditation) in adults is convincing. Prestigious universities like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford are on board, as is the U.S. military, and corporations such as Google, Apple, and Nike.
Why? Because it works.
Thousands of rigorous research studies have reached the same conclusion. A Harvard professor by the name of Sara Lazarone conducted an early study. Her 2011 research was among the first to document the effects of mindfulness (MBSR) training on brain structure and function.
“…[mindfulness] is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing [a type of metacognition], and perspective-taking [i.e., empathy].” (Emphases added.)
Until recently, the vast majority of mindfulness research focused on adults. Fortunately, smart people in high places decided it was time to introduce mindfulness practice to children.
The results thus far look promising.
– In a study of 64 second- and third-grade students (7-9 years old) published in the journal Psychology, mindful awareness practices (MAPs) “showed gains in behavioral regulation, metacognition, and … executive control.”
– In a study of early adolescent students, a mindfulness education program improved self-reported measures of optimism and self-concept.
– A study of contemplative practices effects on teacher and student outcomes were “…positive,” including on “…the health and well-being of teachers … [and] students who are at risk of reacting to stress in ways that are destructive.”
10 THINGS THAT MAKE KIDS MORE MINDFUL
“Mindfulness … [has] beneficial effects on the emotional wellbeing, mental health, ability to learn, and the physical health of school students.”
~ Katherine Weare, ‘Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People’ (Source)
Without further ado, here are 10 (fun!) ways to teach kids to be more mindful:
“STRIKE A POSE!”
A fun way to get kids into mindfulness is by having them pose like their favorite superhero! This exercise engages the child’s creativity and focus and is a great way to boost their self-confidence.
Ask the child who their favorite superhero is (e.g., Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, etc.). Then tell them to pose like their idol.
Tip: if they’re having trouble coming up with something, do an image search online, show it to the child, and see how accurately they can duplicate the picture!
Have a young child pick out their favorite stuffed animal. Ask them to try and balance the toy on their belly while taking a big breath. As an added challenge, tell them to watch the rise and fall of their belly while balancing the toy.
This is an excellent and fun activity for teaching young kids concentration and focus.
TENSE AND RELEASE
Starting with at the feet, gently and slowly tighten the toes and then the whole foot. Work your way up with the child, having them tighten and squeeze their calves, upper legs, abdomen – all the way up to the scalp.
Tense and release are a common meditative practice that both releases muscle tension and enhances focus.
Body scanning is another popular meditative technique for improving concentration. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform a body scan.
1) Sit comfortably in a chair or lie down.
2) Bring your attention to your body.
3) Take a few slow, deep breaths.
4) Feel the sensations of your feet on the floor. Pressure, tension, heat, tingling, etc.
5) Next, notice the feelings of your legs against the chair. Then the back, abdomen, chest, upper and lower arms, neck, face (including eyes and jaw), and the top of the head. Finally, feel the sensations throughout the whole body.
MAKE A GLITTER JAR (FUN!)
While a simple project, a ‘glitter jar’ can teach kids the power of being mindful. It’s also an informal “introduction” to “meditation” – and has powerful effects of calming mind and body.
Here’s what you’ll need: a small jar, clear glue, glitter, a few drops of food coloring (optional), hat water, and a whisk.
1) Fill the jar with 20% glue and 80% hot water. Mix with the whisk.
2) Add 1-2 tablespoons of glitter. (To make it extra fun, add the glitter of different colors.)
3) Add a couple of drops of food coloring (optional, but recommended. Think of a lava lamp.)
4) Put the lid on and give it a good shake.
5) Unscrew the cap and allow the mixture to cool for a while. (Tip: for safety reasons, place the jar out of the reach of children during the cooling phase.)
6) After the liquid cools, tighten the lid and seal it with super glue.
NAME THE EMOTION
Challenge your child to stop and name at least one strong emotion per day. Ask them to describe the feeling. If they can’t, ask some leading questions like:
– When you’re upset, how does your tummy feel?
– Can you feel the butterflies in your stomach when you’re excited?
This exercise teaches kids the valuable skill of emotional regulation (i.e., “emotional intelligence”).
BE MINDFUL WHILE EATING A RAISIN (OR SOME OTHER TREAT)
Mindful eating is an unappreciated yet powerful mindfulness exercise. Here’s how it works:
1) Pick up a raisin.
2) Carefully examine the raisin’s texture. What do you see?
3) Feel the raisin. Describe it.
4) Put the raisin on your tongue. Do not bite yet. How does it feel and taste?
5) Slowly chew the raisin and notice any flavors.
COUNT THE SOUNDS
This is a mindfulness listening exercise and an excellent way to teach directed and sustained attention.
Stop and notice the sounds all around. It may be the humming of a refrigerator, the sound of an animal call, or the nearby traffic. With a relaxed but focused mind, count how many noises you can hear in one minute.
“LET’S WASH OUR HANDS!”
Here’s another straightforward yet powerful mindfulness exercise for kids. Slowly washing the hands, one notices just how relaxing this routine activity can be.
Notice the sounds of running water, the feel of the soap, and the sensations as the hands are rinsed. Feel the cloth of the towel as you dry.
How does it feel?
SENDING KIND THOUGHTS
Ask your child to picture someone in mind. It may be a friend at school or someone else. With the eyes closed, teach them to send loving, kind thoughts like: