Welcome to 2021! A new year. A fresh start. A time to let go of the troubles of last year, bring in new healthy habits and set your goals in motion.
Sunday the 3rd January is also International Mind-Body Wellness Day, a reminder of how important it is to look at how you care for yourself both mentally and physically. Observing this day is an opportunity to celebrate how a healthy mind can lead to a healthy body.
Mindfulness can be a powerful tool for both adults and children, bringing clarity, peace, and happiness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of self-awareness in body and mind. It is a way of paying attention to the here and now. By focusing on exactly what is around you at this very moment — what you can feel, see, smell, hear — you can clear your mind of anxious or busy thoughts.
Taking a moment to be fully present has wonderful benefits. It can help you accept what is, feel grounded, and keep anxiety and depression at bay. It can allow you to appreciate the vibrancy of being alive right at this moment.
The best part of mindfulness is that you don’t have to get any special tools! Everything you need is already within you.
One of the most popular and accessible forms of mindfulness practice is to observe your breathing. Breathing is so natural to us that we often overlook how incredible and powerful the process really is.
Focusing on each inhale and exhale is a fantastic way to ground yourself in the present.
Taking just 5 minutes a day to observe your breathing can help you feel calmer and happier throughout the day. Building a practice that becomes habit also puts you in good stead for managing difficult emotions when they do come up. It allows you to pause and observe before reacting.
Mindfulness can help cool feelings of anger – just think of the old rule of counting to ten! And breathing exercises are especially effective in de-escalating panic attacks.
There are a few apps and websites that can help guide you through mindfulness practices. Calm has lots of guided meditations as well as a breathing tool that enables you to focus on your inhale and exhale in a variety of rhythms.
Mindfulness for toddlers and children
Mindfulness and meditation practice doesn’t have to be something you do alone or away from your children. In fact, meditation can help both adults and children find inner-peace.
It can be an empowering experience for toddlers and young children, allowing them to feel a sense of control over their emotions.
‘Meditation can help kids read and respond to internal signals of stress before their developing brains and bodies give in to a full-blown tantrum,’ says Kristine Jepsen from Parents.com.
Encouraging mindfulness from an early age can instil the habit of pausing before reacting. It can help children to look at their feelings without judgement and accept that, sometimes, we do experience negative emotions – and that’s okay. It’s all about responding in a calmer, more grounded way.
Mindfulness also has the added benefit of improving concentration and memory recall which can be helpful in school.
For some techniques on how to get your children started with mindfulness practices, take a look at these mindfulness activities from mindful.org. The guided audio practices are especially handy if you want to join in too.
Meditating with your baby
It might seem counterintuitive to sit still and try and mindfully meditate with a baby wriggling around on your lap! However, Colleen Wachob from Mindbodygreen shares a daily 5 to 10-minute meditation ritual with her baby daughter. Colleen advocates sharing this experience with your little one as a reminder of how important it is to be fully present in the time you spend together on a daily basis.
Although breathing practices and meditation are excellent ways of practising mindfulness, other techniques can also help you feel present without having to sit still.
Yoga and Tai Chi focus on the breath and can be great tools for uniting your mind and body. YouTube is a great resource for finding virtual Yoga and Tai Chi sessions if you can’t get to public classes. There are even channels like Cosmic Yoga that are designed for children.