What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment. This includes your thoughts, feelings, and the world around you. Being mindful means being ‘aware.’
Why is being mindful an important skill to practise?
Learning to become more present leads to responding more positively to others or to situations, as we’re in a calmer state of mind. Research shows that practicing mindfulness regularly creates less activity in the Amygdala part of our brain – the fight or flight zone. Reduced activity means that we feel calmer and less reactive.
Practicing mindfulness or meditation can actually change the shape of our brain – amazing!
Try to practise a little mindfulness every day…
1. ABC Breathing - (awareness, breathing & cloud) take three minutes to focus on your breath. Click the link for a demonstration:
2. Go on safari - This turns an average, everyday walk in the park into an exciting new adventure. While on safari your goal is to notice as many birds, bugs, creepy-crawlies, and any other animals as you can. Anything that walks, crawls, swims, or flies is of interest, and you’ll need to focus all of your senses to find them. A mindfulness safari improves awareness and helps you be present.
3. Listen to some music - This game is simple. You play a song and pay attention to the song. Here are a few different ideas you might want to try out:
Listen to the song and give a thumbs up (likes) when you …
hear a specific instrument,
hear drums start/stop beating,
hear the voice of a singer start or stop,
hear a specific word or sound (tee-hee) ,
notice that the music affects their feelings,
feel uplifted/calmed by the music,
feel the music make them feel sad or anxious.
Pick just one or two things per song.
You could also listen and pay attention to your feelings. After the music stops, think about how the music made you feel. This is a great way to learn how to notice and talk about emotions.
4. Draw your breath - Practice mindful art by “drawing your breath.” Using a piece of paper and a marker or pen. Start with the marker in the middle of the paper, breathe in and breathe out drawing lines for each breath. During this whole activity do not raise your pen from the piece of paper.
When you breathe in, you draw a line in any direction. Keeping the pen on the paper and when you breathe out, you draw another line. Keep doing this as you breathe in and out making your own lines, shapes, and creative artwork. After about 30 breath cycles, use colours to colour in the different shapes. You can be creative by colouring in the shapes, drawing little pictures or patterns in each shape, etc.
5. Heartbeat Exercise- Paying attention to your heartbeat has a role in many mindfulness exercises and activities. To begin, jump up and down in place or do jumping jacks for one minute.
When you have finished, sit down and put a hand over your heart. Close your eyes and pay attention only to your heartbeat and, perhaps, your breath as well. This helps you notice your heartbeat, and use it as a tool to help you improve your focus.
Information for Parents and Carers
Here are some effective mindfulness tools to help you and your child/children become more mindful and reduce worry and anxiety:
Reassure children by reminding them that our feelings never stay the same – they change, just like the weather. It’s reassuring to know that if we’re feeling anxious or sad, this won’t last forever.
Remember that we can’t change the past and we can’t force the future so try to stay present and focus on the positives in your life:
Start a gratitude journal – list whatever you’re grateful for today: health, a phone call from a friend, a hug, a good meal, a sunny day.
Make a worry box – a useful way of taking a worry out of your head. Reflect on whether it was worth worrying about in the first place – often not!
Get outdoors – nature reduces the stress hormone Cortisol /decreases heart rate = feeling happy & relaxed. Walk mindfully when you’re in nature, focusing on what you see, hear, smell and touch.
Breathe – try ABC breathing or 3:5 breathing at different times of the day. These are useful ways to calm the body and stay on top of how you’re feeling.
Give kids opportunities to talk to you about how they’re feeling. Take a walk together, share a hot chocolate, or make time for an end of day catch-up. This prevents children from bottling things up.
Get creative – try anything creative together such as origami, stone painting, puzzles, or baking. These activities use both sides of the brain, helping us feel more balanced and calm.