April 15, 2019 — By Wendy Sachs

     In the past few years, the practice of mindfulness has become mainstream. Mindfulness is the art of being in the present moment, paying attention to all that is around you. It is often associated with meditation, slowing your breathing and relaxing muscles. Scientists have found that it can help regulate emotions, reduce stress and help us be more resilient. Practicing mindfulness is not just for adults. Children benefit in all the same ways.

Here are some ideas to help you become more mindful.

Find mindful moments. Are you sitting waiting for an appointment or for your meeting to start? Nowadays, we often reach for a cell phone or other device. Instead, try just paying attention to your breathing and emotions. At first this can be difficult, but these small moments can pay off big time as you become more in touch with thoughts and feelings without distraction. Children can do the same thing, although you may need to help them by making it a game to sit still quietly for short bursts of time.

Make a glitter jar. Fill a water bottle or clear jar with a mixture of hot water and clear glue. Then dump in some glitter. Duct tape the lid back on. Now shake it and stare at the glitter as it swirls around. Sit still and quiet as the glitter settles back onto the bottom. This is a super way to explain mindfulness to kids and to help everyone calm down and be present when tension is high. For all of us life can swirl around and seem out of control, by being still and breathing deeply we can center ourselves and gain control of our emotions.

Belly breathing is an excellent technique for kids and adults. For adults, you can put your baby on your stomach as you lay flat on floor or couch. Breathe deeply noticing how baby rises and falls. With older kids put stuffed animal on your belly and theirs. Breathe together watching toy rise and fall as you inhale and exhale.

Whole families can practice mindfulness with a listening walk. Explain to children that as you walk through the neighborhood or on a path thru a wooded area you are going to not talk, instead listen and see what you hear. You can talk when you are finished about the tiny noises you notice when you stop making noise and pay closer attention to all that is around you.

Quieting your minds and really being present in the moment is not something that comes naturally for most of us. It takes practice and intention. But the dividends can be great and well worth the time invested.