When I was a child, I remember being happy.
I was raised by great parents (losing one of them far too early, but still…), always well cared for, encouraged, and provided for. Yet somehow I got to adulthood not knowing some basic things about life, which I really wish I didn’t have to figure out so late.
It isn’t the things you might expect. I knew how to do my laundry, cook a decent meal, bank online, and mow the lawn, but there was something deeper that was missing. What was it? It was things like this: HOW do I stop worrying? When someone says “calm down” – what do I actually DO to make that happen? What IS the “right” decision?
The way I found myself becoming aware of these apparent missing pieces (and how to find the answers) was to actually take a moment to BE with myself – to be mindful. Luckily, my little ones were babies when I discovered this, so as I was learning, so were they. I dug into the science of mindfulness for myself and introduced the practices in an experiential (and yes – developmentally appropriate) way for them. And it really did change my version of what a meaningful life could feel like.
Then, by offering them these practical, easy, and fun ways to participate in a mindful practice themselves, I knew it was shaping their experiences, too. I share these ideas with you today in hopes that the little ones in your life won’t have to wait until their 30s to find out about themselves (and what makes them feel good), like I did.
Create – Encouraging children to create doesn’t have to just be drawing or painting. I define creating as “a process of using your wonderful skills to make something that wasn’t there before” (Excerpt from Mindful ABCs). It could be a song, a play, or even something intangible like a friendship or a happy thought. Imagine yourself as a child and having the confidence to know, to really know, that you have the ability to create something in your life. How wonderful would that be?
Breathe – The breath is something so easy to connect with because we all have a direct, physical access to it. We can feel how it changes according to our experiences (internally or externally). Your breath has the capacity to change your neurological responses, too, so…let’s learn to use it to our advantage! Take a gentle breath right now, through your nose while closing your eyes and tell me, doesn’t it feel good?
Feel your heart beating – When explaining why it is important to be mindful of the body, I often quote
neuroscience and cellular biology researcher, Dr. Joe Dispenza. He writes, “Feelings are the language of the body.” So, practically speaking, when we take a moment to literally feel our heart beating – we are getting valuable information. We are giving ourselves that opportunity to BE, like I mentioned in the beginning of the article.
Go outside – For goodness sake, let’s just all get out there. Whenever my children are grumpy (and my long-winded explanations about choosing your thoughts don’t seem to be turning them around…) we always end up outside. And luckily, it is another proven, effective way to integrate mindfulness into your life. It engages the senses in so many different ways, which is an important part of the practice. Being aware of how the sun feels on your skin or the sensation of the wind, well… it’s nice. And it is actually giving your mind a much-needed break to “organize” itself without you really having to do anything at all. Except maybe enjoy that little ladybug as it flies by.
Lastly, when we, as adults, model presence (without judgment), no matter what you are doing, children feel it. They are getting the message on that deep level that they are OK. So, my suggestion is: Hop on the mindfulness train and bring the littles with you. They will thank you much later in life, maybe even sooner than we think.
Tamara Hackett is the author/illustrator of two best-selling children’s books on mindfulness: Mindful ABCs and Mindful 1,2,3. The first focuses on gaining understanding and comprehension of meaningful vocabulary (Because we could always talk more about gratitude…right?) and the second focuses on creating experiences for children to connect. For more information on Tamara’s offerings please visit www.tamarahackett.com.