To begin our guidance lessons each week, students are welcomed to a Mindful Moment practice. They are invited to find a comfortable position that is alert and intentional, to close their eyes, and to focus one of their five senses as an anchor to paying attention on purpose, without judgment, to the present moment. We might focus with our ears on the sound of a chime until it disappears, or with our eyes on the flowing sand of a timer, or with our hands on the texture, size, shape and temperature of a small stone. Our students have become accustomed to practicing different ways of focusing their mind. We also use our breath intentionally, either by bringing awareness to it as an anchor to the present moment or by breathing deeply as a powerful calming tool. Other weeks we explore emotions, both how we experience them in our minds and bodies as well as how we can notice them in others. Mindfulness has become a common and effective way for schools to help kids grow their social and emotional intelligence.
The benefits of mindfulness include:
Body and emotionalself-regulation
Stress reduction – finding greater integration and ability to cope withoverwhelmingfeelings of stress
Attunement with others & Empathy –feeling what another person feels moves us closer to compassion
Better impulse control- the development of flexibility to choose how to respond rather than react automatically
Fear modulation –Our ability to calm and sooth, and even unlearn, our own fears
Increased attention span and focus-a practice of paying attention can build our attention musclesin thebrain
Here are some suggestions for weaving mindfulness into your children’s daily lives at home to reinforce their growing practiceand to find meaningful moments of intentional connection during a busy season:
Establish a gratitude practice- Create a family ritual perhaps at dinner or bed time where family members express what they are grateful for.
Make your walks mindful- Go on a “noticing walk” or a “five sense tour,” strolling through the neighborhood and noticing things you haven’t before. Designate one minute of the walk for complete silence and simply pay attention to all the sounds you can here.
Practice with a breathing buddy- For young children, an instruction to simply “pay attention to the breath” can be hard to follow. Lying on their backs, children can place a stuffed animal on their belly, and focus their attention on the rise and fall of the stuffed animal as they breathe in an out. Ask your children about finger breathing, figure 8/infinity breathing, butterfly breathing and other breath exercises they have learned.
Check your personal weather report- Have everyone in the family describe their feelings using a weather report, “sunny, stormy, rainy, etc.” This allows children to take a step back and observe their present state instead of being only caught up within it.
For more information on how mindfulness can help kids and families be their best selves, including research studies, children’s books and local resources contact Sarah Greenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org