Mindfulness as a trend has grown over the last few years. Many people are now using it as a tool to help combat the stresses of today's world. Not only is it great for adults, but it is also amazing for children too. Children experience stress just like adults do and in some cases they can experience more. It is vital to help our children embrace mindfulness to equip them with strategies to live a happier and more peaceful life.
Experiencing stress can have a huge impact on our lives and a very negative one at that. Stress releases hormones within our bodies which can cause tension, fatigue, mental fogginess, sleeplessness and more! It can also compromise the immune system. In turn this leads to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
When we get stressed, we can experience several symptoms including loss of appetite, anger, sleep problems, crying, headaches, sore tummies, trouble concentrating as well as a loss of interest in daily activities. These symptoms can often be confused with other illnesses and especially in children can go unnoticed. Monitoring your child’s symptoms if you are finding they are reoccurring may be a starting point to recognise if they are experiencing stress or anxiety. Medical experts now estimate that 90% of disease is caused by or made worse by stress which is why it is becoming much more of an epidemic. This being said, the more we are educated about how to reduce stress, the better!
Every child will experience stress at some point in their lives, some more than others. As adults, it often goes unnoticed about the true impact daily stresses can have on our children’s lives. Today’s society has unfortunately played a role in this. Children may experience stress from disruptions within the home, being overly scheduled, feeling pressured to achieve, judgements from others, failing an exam, thinking about the future or any kind of situation that may threaten their self-esteem. These are just a few examples. Through understanding mindfulness, we can teach our children how to value a calm and relaxed state of mind. Helping alleviate some of life’s stresses. The earlier we allow our children to deal with their stress, the better their health and energy will be as adults.
Our brains can develop new connections, pruning away weaker ones allowing us to be more adaptable to our changing environment. It was once believed that as adults we did not have what’s called neuro plasticity (our brains ability to adapt and change) whereas now it has been proven that even adults can alter their ways of thinking. Luckily for our children, their brains are still forming the majority of their neural pathways allowing them to adapt and change much quicker. We can remap our brains and the way we think by changing our experiences. The more we practise mindfulness the deeper our neural connections become. Offering our brains the pathways to dealing with stressful situations before they get out of hand. As with anything, the more we practise, the better at it we get. Think of Your brain has an empty field. When you practise something for the first time, it is like walking across the grass and leaving slight footprints. If we go back to that field the next day, some of our footprints may still be there. If we walk the same path again, we will begin to make more of a pathway. By visiting that path each day, it becomes more and more obvious until eventually there is a clear muddy path through the field. Our brain makes connections in the same way.
Many studies into the use of mindfulness with children have shown major improvements with their attention, calmness, social compliance and their ability to empathise towards others. Research also suggests that training our children to use mindfulness strategies has also increased their social-emotional awareness as well.
Learning to be mindful has many benefits for children, including:
· Being able to stay more focused
· Better able to pay attention
· Being more aware of their body, thoughts and emotions
· Experiencing less anxiety
· Executive function increase (being able to multi-task)
Training our children to be mindful can also lead to structural changes within the brain that can enhance several qualities, such as:
· Better impulse control
· Longer attention span
· Treating illness, anxiety, stress and depression
We live in a world that is fast moving and every second of our day is often filled to the point we feel like we have had no spare moments. This is where mindfulness comes in to play. It can improve both our mental and physical health so why are we all not doing it? To be mindful involves reaching a state of heightened awareness, being present in the moment and turning off the endless chatter that goes on in our minds. Mindfulness can be achieved simply by taking time to observe the breath. It doesn’t need to be a complicated process.
Being mindful involves being aware of your thoughts but not judging them, it is about detaching yourself and letting go of cares and concerns. It is an amazing technique which allows you to relieve stress and anxiety which in turn helps boost your productivity and creativity. Many of us say we don’t have a spare 10 minutes in the day however, when the results of being mindful are so powerful, finding that 10 minutes must become desirable. Especially when we think of our children. Make the time together and share the wonderful experience of relaxing the mind and being present in the moment. One of the best things you will ever do for your children if you feel stress is beginning to take over their life, is to help them understand the concept of mindfulness.
You can begin to practise mindfulness throughout your day in many ways. Things you could do include:
· Expressing gratitude
· Enjoying a cup of tea or hot chocolate
· Doing some deep breathing
· Listening to music
· Taking a walk in the woods
· Stepping away from your mobile phone or computer
If you are finding you don’t have the time to engage with mindfulness activities, maybe you need to start looking at reducing your schedule. It is very easy to overindulge and get caught up in every club or activity available. Doing this can often cause unnecessary stress, especially for children. Re-examine the things you do throughout the week and evaluate which are the most important and which you could let go of. This growing trend of ‘minimalism’, it really works!
People often think their goals in life should be to acquire more things. How about looking at this from a different perspective? Wouldn’t you love to acquire more peace, more serenity, more calmness?
Being happy is a state of mind, it isn’t a place we arrive in. By helping our children to put their peace of mind first we are allowing them to understand their own importance and soon they will discover what is meaningful to them. Help to de-clutter their minds and engage in mindfulness!