Mindfulness for Healthier, Happier Kids & Families
What is mindfulness? I think of it as “The action we choose as a result of our level of awareness in the present moment”. Having present moment awareness allows us to create and experience happiness, gratitude, a peaceful and focused mental state and a general sense of well-being. It helps us to more deeply connect to ourselves, our loved ones and our environment. Mindfulness nurtures our relationship with our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts and assists us to more honestly and effectively communicate.
Mindfulness teaches kids and young adults to be aware of their environment, their own thoughts and their feelings. It cultivates self-confidence, compassion and empowerment. When parents and children habitually practice mindfulness, the family builds a foundation of support and trust.
Children today are experiencing life differently than we are as adults. They are experiencing life differently than we did at their age. It helps us and them to understand this and to remain present and aware rather than be distracted by past or future events.
Today in the United States alone one in three kids between the ages of 10-17 are:
· Overweight or obese
· Have been bullied or bullied someone else
· Have experienced at least one episode of severe depression
· Have recently used drugs or alcohol
Kids are under tremendous pressure academically and socially. They are concerned about their own safety in school. Parents want their children to be happy, healthy, confident people. The best way to guide them is to be an example of these qualities.
Here are four ways you can begin to cultivate mindfulness within yourself. Just remember, your authenticity is vital. If you simply go through the motions with an expectation of a certain outcome, the point is lost. Really make the effort for yourself first. Taking care of you is the most selfless thing you can do for your children.
1. Choose healthy foods and take time to enjoy your food. Pay attention to flavors, textures, smells. Offer gratitude for your food, to the earth and your food source, to the farmers who grow and harvest it, to the truck drivers who haul it to the stores and markets, and to the store workers. Bring awareness to the process and energy offered that enables you to enjoy the food on your table. This teaches children to appreciate what they have and the efforts of others.
2. Get outside, put your bare feet on the Earth. Connect with nature. Notice wildlife, flowers, trees, the sky and the air. Even if it’s only for a few minutes each day, whether you sit in still contemplation, meditate or go for a walk; this practice will help clear your thoughts, reduce stress and energize you.
3. Be conscious of your words. The energy of the words you choose affects you more than you may realize. And your words have incredible power to affect your children. Even with good intention, a word like “should”, for example, can have a negative impact. Do your best to avoid telling yourself and others, including your children, what they should do, should wear, should think, should feel or should be. Rather than telling your kids how NOT to behave, try affirming and being an example of what kind, loving and appropriate behavior looks like.
4. Practice non-judgement. Practicing kindness, empathy, compassion and love toward yourself and others guides children to do the same. This teaches children the value of all people, themselves included. Understand that we are all on our own journey of learning and growth in life and we are all better off when we are kind to ourselves and when we support and lift each other up, despite our differences.
Mindfulness is a practice, meaning we aren’t perfect and we all make mistakes. And that’s okay. Old habits are sometimes difficult to break and new ones take some time to form. Be gentle with yourself. Having self-awareness to be present and choose our actions in each moment gradually removes us from a victim mentality where things happen to us and into a place of empowerment where we are creating our experiences through our own intention and behavior. We all have this power, we all have this choice. It’s up to us to make sure our kids know this, too.
Donna Marsh is a Holistic Wellness Practitioner and Life Coach. She focuses on whole food nutrition, mindfulness and meditation to create balance and wellness within the body, mind, heart and spirit. If you would like more information about Donna or her individual and family programs, visit www.wellness-starts-within.com or call 315-572-2453 to schedule a free 30 minute discovery session.