Living in the present moment is our natural state. It sounds simple, but it’s one of the most difficult practices for modern society to value, accept, and incorporate into daily living. Being in the present moment was easier during a time without television, cell phones, internet, and constant social and news feeds. The more research that surfaces about the mental, relational, and physical benefits of mindfulness, the more we realize we want to embrace the practice in our lives and teach our children how to establish mindful skills at a young age.
Mindfulness is intentionally living in the “here and now” through non-judgmentally paying attention to the present moment. Mindfulness became well known when professor Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) studies and course. This course blends meditation practice with intentional focus. Studies have found numerous mental health benefits of MBSR and other mindfulness courses.
Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness
- Reduces anxiety
- Improves mood
- Increases attention
- Strengthens ability to manage toxic stress
- Increases self-esteem
- Better social interaction
- Positive impact on cognitive skills
- Helps regulate emotions
- Improves self-control
- Better sleep habits
Benefits of Mindfulness Practices for Children
Teaching mindfulness to ourselves and our children can be simple and have positive outcomes for the rest of life. Parents often wonder how to explain mindfulness to a child. It’s as easy as focusing on your breathing. Teaching a child their breath is always available, no matter what emotional state they are in, is an impactful intervention. Practicing mindfulness and meditation re-trains the brain and calms the nervous system. Children learn to observe thoughts and feelings and make intentional choice instead of reacting and potentially having outcomes with negative consequences.
Try 5 minutes a day with your child practicing one of these mindful exercises:
- Hot cocoa breathing: Teach your child to hold a pretend cup of hot cocoa in their hand. Inhale the smell for 3 counts, hold for 1, and blow the steam off the cocoa with your 3 count exhale.
- Use the 5 senses: Pick an object or place your child can describe using their 5 senses. If you are at the playground, for example, have your child describe what they see, smell, taste, hear, and feel.
- Mindful eating: Try sharing a snack with your child. Eat slowly and describe taste, smell, and texture.
- Draw emotions: When your child is feeling angry, happy, or sad, have them pick colors that represent their emotions. Next, have them draw what they are feeling with no judgement.
- Belly Breathing: Have your child lie down and place a stuffed animal on their stomach. Have them notice what happens with the stuffed animal when they breath.
Mindfulness Practices for Teens
Managing emotions can be difficult at any age, but as a teenager emotions can feel out of control. Young adult emotional regulation is key to helping teens feel in control of the chaos they feel inside. Mindful listening and mindfulness practice help to regulate extreme emotional stress that teens feel due to hormones, social pressure, self-esteem issues, and family dynamics. Teens often manage stress and anxiety with coping skills that tend to be harmful or at best a distraction. In an attempt to manage emotions teenagers will often turn to substance use, playing video games, and increasing time on social media. This can consume teenagers time and affect their mental state; increasing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and ADD.
There are many resources including videos and applications that can help teens practice mindfulness for as short as 5-10 minutes a day. A habit that will have an impact for life. A few examples of mindful exercises for teens are guided meditation, breathing practices, and grounding exercises.
Mindfulness Practices for Students
In the classroom setting, students who learn mindfulness are more focused, calm, and exhibit more resilience. Mental health experts have agreed, creating curriculum around mindfulness principles cultivates students who exhibit a greater sense of self and purpose.
Programs such as Mindful Schools provide easy to navigate resources, tools, and research for parents, teachers, and schools to strategically use in the classroom. They offer a range of programs that can help schools build mindful communities. Check out their website for more information and resources: https://www.mindfulschools.org
For more information about mindfulness and other services, contact The Oas Center in San Diego. Therapists at The Oas Center are trained to help kids utilize skills and create healthy habits!
What does mindfulness teach?
Mindfulness is a secular practice that teaches observing thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the moment. Instead of labeling or making a decision about whether an experience is good, bad, right, or wrong, we just notice it. This gives a person distance from believing they are what they think or what they feel. It guides a person to have more control and awareness.
Is mindfulness meditation good for kids?
Mindfulness is extremely effective and beneficial for kids. Research shows children who experience anxiety have a decrease in symptoms (fast breathing, stomach aches, biting and picking nails) after practicing mindful exercises consistently.
What is mindfulness in child development?
Starting mindful practices early positively affect your child’s development. They learn to accept their experience and emotions and as a result work through them! Many children learn to push emotions aside, are scared of their feelings, or have never learned to take in the present moment. Children are taking in their environment at all times, teaching a child to be mindful gives them the tools to succeed emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Why do we need mindfulness in schools?
Programs such as Inner Resilience, Mindful Schools, Learning to Breathe, and MindUp are gaining popularity throughout the nation. Schools are beginning to realize that putting the resources and time into their schools is making a positive impact on student’s behavior and academic success.
What are the benefits of mindfulness in the classroom?
Students who learn mindfulness individually will notice positive results in themselves, but students who practice mindfulness in the classroom with other students will notice a shift in culture. The classroom environment will be groups of students who are more attentive to others, compassionate, and empathetic. Classrooms of people who are caring towards themselves and one another will help decrease bullying and create impactful leaders.
Why is it important for teachers to be trained in mindfulness?
Research shows burn out rates for teachers are at an all-time high resulting in more teachers quitting. It is clear that teachers need supportive environments to help with their workload and the demands of teaching the next generation. Inviting teachers to be a part of mindfulness programs helps with teacher’s mental health and increases community in the schools. As a result, teachers feel more empowered, energetic, and supported. Students benefit from teachers who are thriving.
How can mindfulness help students?
Research has shown students are reporting higher rates of stress than ever before. Trauma, Anxiety, Distraction, and Isolation are among the top reported issues students are facing. A consistent practice of mindfulness in schools or at home creates students that are more focused, have more academic success, and have increased positive social interactions. Students learning these practices as a group also cultivate a more peaceful environment.
How can mindfulness benefit the modern teenager?
The modern teenager spends more time on social media, video games, and on the internet than ever before. According to Mindful Schools, on average, U.S. teens spend 9 hours a day on digital entertainment, excluding schoolwork. These practices will increase anxiety, isolation, and feelings of disconnect. There are many apps, you-tube videos, and websites with mindfulness practices that can engage the modern teenager.
How does mindfulness help teens stop their habitual automatic reactions?
Mindfulness helps teens learn to stop for a moment (even a breath) and choose how to respond instead of automatically responding. Being mindful allows us to experience our life in the present by utilizing our senses. Teens can observe their thoughts, emotions, and body sensations instead of allowing them to overtake and control behavior.
What are the advantages of mindfulness training for parents of children with conduct disorders?
Having a child with conduct disorder puts stress on parents. Self-care is important for parents to incorporate in their lives. Mindfulness helps parents feel more centered and better able to engage with their child.