Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening moment by moment. It can boost emotional and physical wellbeing, and help with stress, anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness can help children handle the stress of study, work and play as they get older.
Our minds are constantly active. You might watch television – but also thinking about the past, or worrying about something, or wondering what you will have for dinner. Mindfulness is about stilling your active mind. It has been defined in several ways, including:
- Giving your complete attention to the present on a moment-by-moment basis
- Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.
Mindfulness practice involves developing the skill of bringing one’s attention to whatever is happening in the present moment. It is about being more aware as you live and experience each moment – as the moment happens. It can be a useful way of calming yourself, focusing and concentrating on what you are doing.
You can be mindful of your internal world – for example, sensations, breath, and emotions. Or you can focus on what is around you – for example, sights, sounds, and smells.
You can be mindful anywhere and with anything. For example, you can be mindful while you are eating, walking, listening to music or sitting.
You can use everyday moments to build and practice mindfulness. The more you practice, the more benefit you will get.
You can also encourage your child to build mindfulness. This is just about getting your child to do what she naturally does. Young children are naturally mindful because every new experience is fresh and exciting for them. Older children and teenagers can learn mindfulness.
Encouraging your child to be in the here and now can give him skills to deal with the stress of study, work and play as he gets older. There are many ways to help your child build and practice mindfulness. For example:
- Walking through nature with the family
- Taking photographs or drawing something interesting or beautiful
- Looking after a vegetable patch
- Listening to music and focusing on the instruments or lyrics
Mindfulness meditation is a highly focused type of mindfulness. It combines meditation, breathing techniques and paying attention to the present moment to help you notice the way you think, feel and act. If you or your child is interested in mindfulness meditation, it is important to not focus on negative or upsetting thoughts while you do it.
There is clear evidence that practicing mindfulness can have health benefits for adults. Being ‘present’ and less anxious can boost social skills and academic performance. It can also help people manage emotions.
There is not as much research into mindfulness with children and teenagers yet, so we do not know how well it works with them. But there is growing evidence that mindfulness helps with learning, decision-making, emotional intelligence, self-confidence and connectedness to others.
Children and teenagers seem to enjoy and appreciate mindfulness activities and schools are introducing mindfulness-based exercises into their day-to-day routines.