Mindfulness: Easy tools to use when helping your children navigate their way through classroom life.
How often have you rushed through an activity only to realise minutes later that you can’t remember what you’ve actually done? Modern life is busy, often overwhelming, so much so that we tend to live our lives on autopilot. Our brains are used to living this way in automatic mode, until one day you realise that you’ve just eaten your entire lunch and can’t remember tasting even a bit of it.
Children are just as susceptible to this mode, especially in times of stress. There is another way, an easier way which promotes awareness of the world, concentration, empathy towards others, combats stress and helps diffuse anger. Today the practice of mindfulness is everywhere. It has been criticised, embraced and studied as one of the major new ways to treat a variety of medical conditions such as anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is scientifically proven to change the structure of the brain when practised for as little as eight weeks.
Hard to believe that the simple act of paying more attention can actually make a huge difference to the way your brain operates. Here’s a simple guide to how it works…….
Paying attention to the sensations in your body and the way your breathing patterns change is the main principle of mindfulness, and it can be done through any number of great exercises. The thinking behind learning to pay attention to your breath is that if your breathing is rooted, then anxiety/panic/anger can’t find a space in which to dwell.
Children and adults often build a false narrative when it comes to worrying about situations – mindfulness seeks to knock down those faulty ways of thinking that cause the fear centre of our brains (the amygdala) to expand. When we dwell on fearful anxieties and ‘what if’ thoughts then pathways in our brains are created and stored. Mindfulness is a way of reconditioning the brain to improve its function and to move away from autopilot ‘fight or flight’ reactions.
Teaching children to see thoughts as mere mental events and not factual evidence is a useful tool to have at your fingertips. Visualising is one thing that children can access through their imaginations when it comes to exercises in mindful play, or the mindful eating game. (As covered in the resources below)
Sensory exercises really help children to step back before reacting impulsively. Activities like making the calming glitter jar (http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Calming-Glitter-Jars/) or your own stress balloons are all part of the mindfulness strategy in dealing with emotions and reactions in a healthy way.
Below are some great resources to access mindfulness for children – including activities and exercises that can be tried anywhere.