February 10, 2017

Being mindful: Especially for families

What does being mindful mean? Mindfulness has gotten a lot of buzz. Most researchers agree that "mindful" means being in the present.

Mindfulness is allowing your thoughts to be about right now, not worrying about the past or planning the future. Another important part of being mindful is accepting your thoughts and feelings without judgement:  good or bad.

How can I become mindful?

One way to start practicing being mindful is walking. As you walk, pay attention to your breathing. Notice the rhythm of your breath, in, out for several minutes. Notice how your breath corresponds to your stride. On which foot does it feel natural to inhale, exhale? Next, notice the sights, sounds and smells around you. When thoughts or worries creep into your mind, acknowledge and disregard them. Recognize that thoughts are fleeting. Thoughts don't define you and can be focused on or dismissed. Practice dismissing thoughts without judgement and gently bring your attention back to the present, as you walk and breathe. Learning to let thoughts go and return to the present is the essence of mindful movement. Again and again, return to the present; the sights, sounds, the feel of the breeze and smells around you as you breath and walk.

What are some benefits of being mindful?

  • Improves immunity and the ability to fight off illness

  • Good for our minds: reduces stress and depression

  • Changes our brains: improves memory, empathy and helps regulate emotions

  • Helps families: parents who practice mindfulness are happier with their parenting skills, report better relationships with their children, and have children with better social skills

  • Helps schools: when mindfulness is taught in classrooms behavior problems are reduced, aggression between students is reduced, students are happier and have improved attention spans

  • Fights obesity: mindful eating promotes healthier eating habits and helps slow the speed of eating and encourages savoring each bite

How can families become mindful?

It starts with parents. Once parents have practiced being mindful, they can be mindful with their children. Ways to be mindful? Slow down. Listen. Work on not being distracted by thoughts. Unplug. Enjoy a conversation with your child. Experience the sights, sounds and smells of the season as you walk to and from school or play at a playground. Have a meal together without TV, smart phones, iPads or computers. Give mindfulness a try, if any of the benefits work for you it will be worth it!