Originally published Tuesday, 02 June 2015.
I love this question. I love it because it poses an insightful distinction - and one that's all too relatable.
How easy is it at the end of the year, when everything is wrapping up, to live stressed out, racing around from one activity to another, with our minds always jumping ahead? While our activities are good, our memories are priceless, and our hearts are in the right places, I still feel the need to slow down and actually drink in what I'm experiencing. I want the benefit of a clear mind.
Children need this benefit too. Studies show that children today have fifty percent less free time than children thirty years ago. They are also getting one hour less of sleep per night. As their schedules flood, they can experience increasing anxiety.
I learned these statistics from Mindfulness Educator Mary Lea Crawley. I recently attended her discussion of the book The Whole Brain Child by Drs. Siegel and Bryson. Mary Lea formerly worked at a local church before starting her own practice. She teaches children a mindfulness technique that is currently endorsed in California school systems and practiced around the world. While the technique itself is secular, I see some Christian resonances.
Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, with kindness. Focusing on the present moment uncovers rich rewards:
- Breathing and heart-rate slow
- Brain chemicals balance
- Ability to focus and concentrate increases
- Ability to respond rather than react increases
- Empathy heightens
It's clear that the benefits are not just mental. Mindfulness can positively impact our physiological state and relationships with others. It can also enhance our spiritual lives by opening us up to the blessings of the moment and promptings from the Holy Spirit.
Here are six tips for fostering mindfulness in yourself or your family:
- Get active! Moving the body helps rebalance the different parts of the brain.
- Focus on the breath. Take some time to simply concentrate on breathing in and out. Ask your children, "Where do you feel the breath in your body?"
- Stop and listen to sounds in your environment.
- Pause and feel your feet connecting to the earth.
- Observe your surroundings. See how many different shades of a particular color you can find around you.
- Mary Lea also mentioned an activity she uses with children: She puts glitter in a jar filled with liquid. She shakes the jar and asks the children to watch the glitter settle.
Each of these activities helps to center the mind and bring awareness to the present moment. It is a continuous discipline, but there are incentives to keep trying. First, children typically mirror our mood, so the more peaceful we are, the less anxious they will be. Second, the more we practice, the better we will get at doing it. There is brain science behind both of these assertions. Finally, I am reminded of scripture's prompting to "Be still and know that I am God..." (Psalm 46:10). I want to let go of the clutter to grasp what really matters - like the divine invitation awaiting each of us.
If you would like to learn more about Mary Lea, you can visit her site at mindfulkidsnj.com.
Readers, stay tuned next week for a giveaway! You will have the opportunity to win two fantastic new faith-building resources for your children, which would make great end of the year gifts by the way!
Finally, if you appreciated this post, you might also like Full Schedules, Thin Souls.