Mindfulness is learning to focus our attention on the present moment, with intention and without judgement. It helps us to shift our thoughts away from recurring stressors and focus our attention and energy on the present moment. This could be through tuning into surroundings through our senses, focussing on the activity we are engaged in or grounding ourselves in our body or our breath.
Studies have shown that engaging in meditation practice can improve self-regulation, concentration, attention, social communication, and overall mental and physical wellbeing, for both adults and children.
It can be great for children who have difficulties expressing their emotions, understanding their regulation needs and recognizing bodily signs of stress.
There are lots of meditation activities that can be easily implemented into your daily or weekly routines. Here are some fun, quick ideas that you can do with your family to reduce stress and increase openness and connection.
Movement based meditation
Movement based meditations such as Yoga or Thai Chi can be a great way to build connection between the mind and body. There are lots of free online resources that you can use to practice these activities at home, including the popular Cosmic Kids videos.
Belly breathing: Practice taking a deep breath and imagine that you are filling your belly with air, like a balloon, then slowly let the air out. You can even place a teddy bear or toy on your stomach and watch the toy move up and down as you breathe into your belly.
Breathing through drawing: Practice drawing a line up and down on a page, take a big breath in as you draw a line up and slowly breathe out as you draw the line down.
Bubble blowing: For some kids breathing exercises might not be engaging enough. Sometimes I will use bubbles and instruct them to take a deep breath in, then blow the bubbles using a long slow breath.
Full body scan: Lie down or sit in a comfortable position. This is an opportunity to check in and notice sensations within the body. Start by checking in with the feet, then work your way up to the head. With each section breathe in and focus on how this part of the body feels. How does your skin feel against your clothes? Do your muscles feel tight or relaxed? If your child has difficulty noticing their body try mindful check ins after movement activities when their body sensations are more intense.
Tuning into sight: Take a moment to look around the room. Take turns to label three things you can see. Try to describe it in detail, what colour is it? What shape is it? How does it make you feel?
Tuning into sound: Take a moment to close your eyes and tune into to the sounds around you. Take turns in labelling a sound you can hear- is the sound close or far away?
Mindful activities: Talk to your child about what activities help them to focus on the present moment. Drawing, craft, sports activities, music, dancing or time outdoors are activities that are often helpful to anchor ourselves in the now. Encourage your child to notice - is their mind busy or quiet?
This is an activity that could be done at dinner time with the whole family or before bed. Find time to reflect on what you are grateful for. What has made you smile or laugh today? What has made you feel happy? What did you enjoy? You could practice writing down or drawing the things you feel grateful for. By regularly tuning into positive thoughts, we train our brain to search for moments of joy and reduce our focus on stressful or negative events.