As the world has become quite hectic and chaotic lately it can be easy to become engulfed in negativity and fear. However, during times like these, it becomes that much more important to become aware of the way we respond to external triggers and to take care of our mental health.
How can we do this? Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a practice that focuses on being fully present in the moment and becoming aware of our thoughts to be able to react in a more peaceful and productive way. This practice is greatly beneficial to overall wellbeing and mental health. In fact, studies show that practicing mindfulness can actually change the brain and reduce symptoms such as anxiety and depression (1). It also has been shown to reduce high blood pressure and inflammation by influencing gene activation (2).
Mindfulness is not only reserved for adults, but it's also an important practice for kids as it embodies a way of being and living. Mindfulness can benefit children just as much and may actually be more important to implement at a younger age so that it becomes second nature as an adult.
The art of slowing down and becoming more present can actually help to improve focus and attention, mental wellbeing, and social skills among children and teens.
How to practice mindfulness with your kids
Mindfulness literally means to slow down and pay attention. We know what you are thinking; how do I get my kids to slow down?
We recommend keeping it simple and easy to keep your kids engaged. Below are some tips on how to implement mindfulness with your kids in your day to day life.
Not just for kids, mindful or intuitive eating is highly recommended for all ages. Intuitive eating involves becoming mindful of how we are feeling in our bodies when we are eating. It veers away from the dieting approach and focuses on paying attention to what you are eating and how your body is reacting with non-judgment. It's about trusting yourself to make the right decisions around food that make your body feel good. Learning this approach from a young age can help to reduce the risk of emotional or disordered eating later on and is a great way to practice mindfulness at least 3 times a day.
What are easy ways to start practicing mindful eating?
1. Be grateful. Showing gratitude for your meal not only puts you in the present moment but gratitude also increases feelings of wellbeing. Encourage your children to share what they are grateful for and to give thanks for the food in front of them.
2. Turn off distractions. When we are distracted we are disconnected from our bodies and not living in the moment. This is very damaging to our digestive system. When we are not focused on our food and our attention is elsewhere there is a greater likelihood to experience digestive upset and tummy troubles.
Distractions such as electronics are also a guaranteed way to overeat and become disconnected from hunger signals making us eat more. This may sound challenging but we promise you with practice it becomes easier!
3. Get cooking. Involving children in the preparation of meals allows them to explore new skills and helps them feel included in the family dynamic. Preparing a meal is also the first step in proper meal hygiene because it triggers the body to start secreting digestive enzymes necessary to digest food. Children who participate in meal preparation are also more likely to become curious about what they are eating and make healthier choices. Growing a garden is a great way to get children involved with their food and eat their fruits and vegetables!
4. Eat together. Eating as a family creates not only the opportunity to bond as a family, but it also instills the idea that eating is done sitting down at the table without distractions, instead of multitasking in front of the TV or computer. Dinner time is the easiest for most families to get together, but try to schedule a set time every day to sit down and enjoy your food as a family.
5. Pay attention. Have you ever stopped to actually notice and observe your food? Most of the time we inhale our food without even looking at it! Develop your kids' curiosity by asking them to describe the taste, shape, texture, smell, form, and color of the food they are eating. Ask them questions so they are encouraged to stop and notice, this will also help them to slow down while eating, so important for proper digestion!
A gratitude practice is a positive way to start the day by focusing on everything you are grateful for. To keep it simple, take your kids out to the store to pick out a journal and get them to list 3-5 things they are grateful for every day. This teaches us to focus on the positive in our lives and increases feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Other activities you can implement as part of a morning routine include mediation, reading, preparing breakfast or going for walks outside. Getting your kids into the habit of starting the day on a positive note away from electronics can improve their mental health, energy, and attention.
Meditation is a great practice to include in you and your kids' routines. Contrary to popular belief it does not have to be complicated. There are many resources now available to practice meditation anywhere and anytime with the help of recordings from apps like Headspace. They provide various themes to explore which helps to keep kids engaged.
Wondering how you can get your kids ready for bed once and for all? Adopting a regular bedtime routine is one of the best ways to do this!
Insomnia is becoming more and more common among adults, but also children nowadays.
Some things you can do to promote calm at bedtime and make it easier (and quicker) for your kids to fall asleep include dimming the lights and playing soft music.
Activities that kids (and adults) can implement before bed include meditating, baths, reading, slow yoga, journaling, or coloring. This is also an ideal time to connect with your young ones and hold space for conversation. Feel free to explore different options with your child to find out what works best for both of you.
Avoid electronics by keeping phones and televisions outside of the bedroom and stick to a regular schedule. Our bodies love routine, so if you keep it up, it will stick!
Get out in nature
Nature is naturally calming and grounding to humans, the perfect place to practice mindfulness! You will see it becomes second nature to become present in nature. For kids, observing different plants and animals in nature is a great way to shift our attention to the here and now.
A study found that the more humans wereexposed to nature the less stress and the more joy they experienced (2). Spending at least 120 minutes per week outside has also been associated with increased happiness and wellbeing (3).
Exposing children to nature early on has many benefits from boosting happiness, decreasing stress, increasing creativity and focus, improving energy and sleep, and even boosting immune function.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your kids and get outside!
Practice it yourself!
As adults, it's up to us to set the example for our kids because they look up to us and mirror what we do. So go ahead and adopt the above practices into your life and explore how you can become more mindful in your everyday life. Not only will this create a great example for your kids to follow and make them more likely to implement, but you will also receive the benefits for your own health and wellbeing!
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.