Dr. V.S. Gayathri
The Importance of Mindfulness for Kids!
“Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.” – Buddha
Our mind is one of the most powerful things in our body. And the way to channelize it in the right direction is totally on us.
One of the best ways to inculcate good habits and emanate positive energy is to imbibe the virtue of mindfulness. And, it is not just for adults, but kids too. The earlier they learn and practise mindfulness, the better person that grow up to be.
Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment through a holistic realization. It can be achieved by self-awareness and meditation techniques where you can focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.
A study showed that a mindfulness training of 8 weeks can lead to decreased anxiety, depression, and negativity. To test how meditation affects people who have no prior meditating experience, researchers carried out an experimental study on non-meditators in the age group of 18-45 years. The control group was made to listen to a 13-minute podcast daily while the experimental group participated in a 13-minute guided meditation daily.
After eight weeks, the experimental group showed decreased negative mood and anxiety. The group also showed enhanced working memory, recognition memory, and attention. The study concluded that daily meditation, even for a shorter duration can have similar effects as more prolonged and more intense meditation experiences. Now, let us understand what mindfulness means for kids and how we can nurture it.
What is mindfulness for kids?
For them, it would simply mean paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. It can be something they are feeling, hearing, or noticing- it’s just an honest and kind look at what they are experiencing at a given moment.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Studies show that there are manifold benefits of mindfulness for kids which includes:
1. Increased focus which develops attention, self-control, classroom participation, compassion, and others. It facilitates better decision making.
2. Improved academic performance due to the ability to resolve conflict, overall well-being. It is known to boost creativity and problem-solving abilities.
3. Decreased levels of stress also reduces levels of depression, anxiety, disruptive behaviour. It helps to improve self-image and imbibes confidence.
“In a 2011 study, it was found that students who meditated for 20 minutes solved significantly more unsolved problems from the pre-test session. Further analysis showed that maintaining an alert state during meditation (raising a hand to report every 10 deep breaths) resulted in more insight regarding the unsolved problems, hinting that watchfulness rather than relaxation contributes to insight.”
How to inculcate mindfulness in kids?
There can be: - Guided Mindfulness Meditation for Children - Guided Audio Practices for Kids
1. Make them sit in a relaxed, comfortable position. Pick something for your child to focus your attention on 2. Let them breathe normally while paying attention to your breath. If they want, they can close your eyes and ask them to breath in and out. 3. Tell them that if they feel that their mind is wandering, they can keep thinking about that thing 4. Ask them to keep breathing, keep relaxing, keep paying easy attention to what they were thinking. Let them try to do this for 5 minutes. Another research shows that practicing mindfulness can also improve the attention for people with ADHD as well, or who think they have trouble paying attention.
Some Mindful Breath Practices for Children
1. Belly Breathing When breathing in, the belly expands slightly; and when breathing out, it contracts. Do several rounds and return to normal breathing.
2. Mindful Breathing Simply notice the breath and let them feel it move in the body. You can add visuals and words to make the practice more engaging. For example, on the in-breath ask your child to repeat the phrase, I am a lake and on the out-breath, I am calm. This technique can be adapted to use any visual and taps into the power of imagination.
3. Teddy Bear Breath This is a great variation of the belly-breathing practice for little ones. Have them lie down with a teddy bear or stuffed animal on their belly, and let them watch as it moves up and down with their own breathing, as if they are rocking it to sleep.
4. Four Square Breathing This practice is a useful tool for older children. Ask then to breathe in for a count of four, and hold the breath for a count of four. The, gradually breathe out for a count of four, and hold the breath for a count of four. Let them repeat this for several rounds and then return to normal breathing.
Resources for teaching mindfulness to kids
Sitting Still Like a Frog - A great list of audio exercises for kids
Annaka Harris - InnerKids – There are several scripts of mindfulness
Kristina Sargent - The Art of Social Work - Here are a couple of kids activities for mindfulness and feelings
3 Simple Exercises to Try with kids from Mindful.org
Mindful Time in Nature – Some activities for mindfulness inspired by Nature
Relaxation Scripts - A helpful collection of meditation and mindfulness scripts
5 Strategies to Teach Mindfulness to Children from Baby Buddha