What is mindfulness anyway, and how can it benefit kids?
The term mindfulness gets tossed around quite a bit, but do you actually know what it refers to? Many associate it with meditation, or may have heard a therapist talking about it, or a teacher. In fact, mindfulness is something anyone can practice, even young kids. There are simple techniques to incorporate it regularly into your day or in moments when it’s needed. Think of it as a way to calm the mind or empathize with others. When can we use mindfulness? Any time we feel anxious, sad, angry, confused, alone, scared, or simply overwhelmed. Being more mindful can help alleviate the stress associated with all these emotions. It can also help us relate to others when we may not understand them. In addition to these specific situations, mindfulness practice can be a daily routine, such as a morning meditation time when we clear our minds and are present. The effects will set the tone for a more mindful day.
How can we practice it? One simple way to cultivate mindful self-awareness is through our breath. Focusing on its movement in the body can calm us and help us let go of distracting thoughts. Sometimes, simply by acknowledging a nagging thought, we can put it aside and move on with our lives. Coming back to the breath in a moment of panic can reassure us that we’re OK and that our emotions will pass. Being able to recognize negative emotions when they arise and apply these techniques to deal with them is the goal of practicing self-awareness.
Another mindfulness technique focuses on others. Often conflicts arise when we cannot understand another’s point of view or we feel threatened by them. Teaching ourselves to pause in these situations and consider the other person can encourage peaceful coexistence. We can remember that they, like us, are beings with their own emotions, concerns, wants, and needs, and become more compassionate in our actions towards them. By sending positive thoughts and emotions to those in our lives, and by recognizing that we are all the same in essence, we can become more accepting and understanding of them.
What are the results? A study shows that mindfulness techniques combined with social-emotional learning in the classroom, when compared to a traditional social responsibility school program emphasizing community, conflict resolution and ethics, had a greater positive impact on children in measures such as prosocial behavior, well-being, and math ability, as well as a greater reduction in aggression. These findings can certainly extend beyond schools to the family environment, and kids who learn them at a young age can continue to utilize them in the work environment later in life. Mindfulness practice is an important piece of overall social-emotional health that can have long-lasting effects and set kids up to be successful.