The term “mindfulness” has been thrown around a lot these days, but what does it really mean? Imagine lying down on the ground, eyes closed, taking in the sounds around you. You start to focus on breathing in the fresh air and exhaling the toxins and negativity in your body. You count your breaths and focus only on the subtle rise and fall of your belly. Or this. You’re getting ready to head out to work and stop for 60 seconds in front of your bathroom mirror to mentally walk through your day. You think of the tasks you have ahead of you and set aspirations for the day to help you get through some of the daily stressors you may encounter. These are both excellent examples of mindfulness that are easy to implement into your day. Mindfulness in a nutshell is taking the time to be self-aware, situationally-aware, and emotionally-aware. By practicing mindfulness on a daily basis, you have the power to combat negativity, reduce stress, and live a more balanced life.
Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to be a major time commitment you need to incorporate into your already jam-packed schedule. Mindfulness techniques can be practiced in as little as 60 seconds or as long as 60 minutes, but that is completely up to you and what your schedule allows. You can start the day with telling yourself a few positive affirmations during your car ride to work, practice belly breathing during your Monday morning staff meeting, or in the evening when you’re home with your family. Below is a list of mindfulness techniques great for you and your family!
Belly breathing is just as it sounds- breathing deeply from your belly and focusing on your inhale and exhale. Start by either sitting upright or lying down with your hands on your belly (Fun tip! If you have a young child, place a stuffed animal on their belly while lying down. They can watch their animal gently rise and fall with each breath and can think of it as rocking it to sleep). Close your eyes and take this time to think of someone you respect or love and mentally send them well wishes. How does this make you feel? Now try this again with someone who you may be upset or frustrated with. Allow yourself to take this time to acknowledge how you feel and to allow yourself to forgive and release any tension you may be feeling. Take this time to STOP; Stop, Take a breath, Observe your feelings, and Proceed.
It’s not even noontime and you just got out of your third meeting of the morning. Need a little pick-me-up? Grab a small snack (raisins and chocolate work great for this!) and practice mindfulness! Pop a raisin in your mouth and see how it feels in your mouth. Slowly chew the raisin and allow yourself to enjoy the experience of taking it slow and eating with purpose. Mindful eating can help relieve stress by focusing on one task and working through what may be running through your mind.
The Good in the Bad
Are you or your children having a tough day? Try finding the good in the bad. Start this exercise by recognizing how you feel, whether it’s anxious, frustrated, upset, or hurt. Why do you feel this way? What brought on this feeling? Is there something you can do to change the situation? Try to understand the way you’re feeling and working through why you feel this way. Once you’ve done this, finish strong by looking for the good that is going on in your life. Sometimes this can be hard to find, especially in children and teens, but this is a great opportunity to open those communication channels and dig deep for the positives that are going on. This isn’t to downplay negative feelings, but to address them and move forward.
You’ve started implementing these techniques with your family, so what? There are a plethora of benefits brought to families who engage in mindfulness techniques including:
- Being okay with imperfection
- Maintaining open communication lines
- Practicing active listening, appreciation and gratitude
- Allowing forgiveness
- Supporting each other
Adding just a minute or two into your family’s daily routine can help leaps and bounds with strengthening your relationships as well. Studies show that there should be a 5:1 ratio with relationships; five good moments for every one bad moment. As you start adding mindfulness into your life, think of your relationships with your family and friends. Do they fall into this 5:1 ratio? Do they need a little help? Remember to incorporate some fun into all relationships! Try adding in an impromptu ice cream date night, water balloon fight or night in the town to add to those beautiful memories.
Mindfulness can be as easy as 60 seconds a day, how will you start practicing mindfulness?