DEFINITION: a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Why Practice Mindfulness
The results of Mindfulness are easy to see. For children, the practice allows them to navigate difficult emotions, handle anxiety without getting overwhelmed, build emotional awareness and self-knowledge, while experiencing and considering their feelings. They learn to slow down their response times in difficult situations and make better decisions before reacting, increasing cognitive flexibility and frustration tolerance. For parents, mindfulness means being more in control over your reactions to the stressful situations you encounter daily as an adult, feeling more connected and present with your family members, finding your body less tense throughout the day and stepping fully into joyful moments with awareness and calm.
Despite its popularity, mindfulness can seem like a big undertaking. It often feels mysterious and out of reach. Many of us may find ourselves wondering how on earth we’re supposed to find a “quiet moment” to sit cross-legged and breathe amongst the busyness of our daily routines. If we did get such a moment, we’re scared of what may greet us when we actually pause, worried that if we’re not “calm and clear headed” then we’re not “doing it right”.
Good News: You’re likely already practicing!
Parents and caregivers practice mindfulness all the time, we may just not identify it that way because of common misperceptions about what mindfulness is all about. Those long eye gazes between you and your newborn… the tender nighttime snuggles and lullabies after dressing your little one in soft pajamas… the heartfelt hello and bear hug at school pick-up. Mindful moments can be found each time you pick up a Slumberkins’ board book and connect with your child, each evening you do your bedtime routine.
To kick off the new year, we’re inviting our Slumberkins Community to intentionally incorporate a mindful moments into each day with your children! These moments enliven all your senses and include reflective questions from our friend Yeti for you and your kiddos to contemplate.
Mindfulness Meditation vs. Present Moment Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be practiced in countless ways. The cross-legged variety, called Mindfulness Meditation, is only one of the many unique approaches to a practice whose benefits are as vast as they are ancient. The "present moment" is available to you anytime you want to bring awareness to what is happening in your inner and outer experience. Unlike those autopilot drives to work when we arrive in the parking lot with little recollection of our journey to get there, mindfulness invites us to notice everything passing through our sensory doors — the sounds, smells, sights, tastes, body sensations, thoughts and feelings — that we are experiencing right now.
Wait, so do all those experiences have to be pleasant and calm in order to be mindful? Not at all!
Say your toddler is melting down at the end of a long day. Notice your heart rate increase and the unpleasant emotions that may arise. Name them in your mind. Then take a few deep belly breaths, imagining any negative thoughts that arise moving from your head to your belly. Without judging yourself for having these thoughts, you might instead use a compassionate statement like, “I’m doing my very best in this moment. I'm OK.” Like watching a churning sea from a lighthouse perched upon a cliff, mindfulness allows you to experience tantrum with without getting swept up by the tide. If you do find yourself losing your patience, mindfulness allows you to notice that fact without criticizing yourself harshly and regroup — for that moment of impatience, too, shall pass!
Mindfulness is about seizing the moment, regardless of whether it’s calm, chaotic or otherwise, and being kind to yourself through it. Over time and with practice, you will notice a shift to a more tranquil inner state.
Join us this month for Mindful Moments with the Slumberkins Family!