By Sinead Hamill
Stress, stress, stress! Aghhhhh! Sometimes the demands of life can place huge stresses on us. As adults we have responsibilities, which must be met but included in these is one which most of us can neglect; the responsibility to look after our own mental and physical well-being, enabling us to be the best version of ourselves. Juggling the many activities we have to fulfil is not easy and can often leave us feeling emotionally unstable and overwhelmed. When you have children to care for and love, on top of everything else, it may at times feel tough or even impossible to meet their energy, spontaneity and need for your time and attention.
You may have found yourself getting impatient or cross with them for no good reason, resulting in you feeling guilty and regretful afterwards. Yet another issue to deal with!
Stay strong, there is an answer: Mindfulness, a practice which originates from the Buddhist Eastern practices of meditation. In our busy lives it is easy to find ourselves constantly planning and looking to the future rather than actually living in and appreciating the present moment. Practicing the art of mindfulness encourages you to focus on the here and now, without judgement. It enables you to get in touch with your real self and recognise that when you’ve taken every outside factor out of the equation, in this exact moment you are in fact essentially safe and okay.
In today’s society, children also seem to be faced with many pressures and anxieties. As difficult as we may find coping at times, children have not got the same logic and life-experience we have to help sort through their issues, so practising the art of mindfulness can be extremely beneficial and rewarding for them also. Perhaps this is something you could enjoy practising together. The following are just some of the benefits we get from becoming mindful:
An appreciation for all we have
Increased levels of calm, happiness and satisfaction
Better functioning immune systems
Higher levels of energy and optimism
Empathy and understanding
Improved ability to deal with stress and anxiety
Improved focus and concentration
Improved academic and business performance
The practice of mindfulness, in theory is quite simple. It is about becoming aware of your bodily sensations and surroundings right now. The following are a few simple exercises I enjoy doing with the children in my class to promote calmness and awareness:
Butterfly Breathing: Demonstrate the difference between slow, calm breaths and faster, hyper breathing by asking them to first raise their arms up and down slowly like a butterfly, breathing in and out as they do, following this with moth breathing where they pretend to flap their wings behind their backs quickly like a moth, taking short fast breaths as they do so. I encourage the children to use the butterfly breaths inside and save the moth breathing for outside running and playing.
The Wow Factor: As a group we sit down, discuss and make a list of all the things that make us think ‘Wow’. This helps us become more aware of the many blessing we have in our lives already. We end this with a quick prayer saying: “Thank you for our thoughts. Thank you for our sight. Thank you for our hearing. Thank you for our smell. Thank you for our taste and speech. Thank you for our loving hearts.” Place your hand on the appropriate areas as you speak.
Sensory Exercises: There are numerous exercises we can do to develop our senses. Make it fun for kids by turning it into a super-hero game where they must use their super senses of observation, memory, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting and touching. A quick online search for games to develop the five senses will provide you with ample choice of activities.
However at the end of the day children are keen observers and they do learn many of their skills and develop traits by observing the adults in their lives. So whether you are calm as a butterfly or flapping about like a busy moth practising and developing your own levels of mindfulness is a great starting point for spreading the waves of calm to those around you. Have fun with it, be happy and let the waves of calm commence!