The current pandemic has been particularly challenging for many individuals and brought up a mixed of emotions, which may not always be easy to manage. Feelings of loneliness, frustration and/or uncertainty may arise during these difficult times. With the uncertainty of what the future holds, it could be beneficial to practice mindfulness as a way to lessen our stress and improve our overall mental health.
What is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is about being fully aware of whatever is happening in the present moment” (Mercer, 2020). Being mindful of the here and now helps us better our emotional awareness and lessen our anxiety, which is of great importance right now during this pandemic. As a parent, you can help your child achieve mindfulness either by teaching them to focus on the present moment and/or by modelling mindfulness yourself.
Here are a few techniques you can use to practice mindfulness on your own or with your child at home during lockdown or at any other given moment. Try to focus on doing one technique each day, rather than trying them all at once. There is no wrong way to practice mindfulness, the key is to stay non-judgmental towards ourselves and our child. Trying is what matters most.
Take a moment with your child to witness the morning through your senses. Take turns identifying what you feel, taste, see, hear, and smell. Help your child to notice the small things that they would normally not pay attention to. For example, the birds singing or the warm morning light on their skin.
Body scan. Bring your awareness to a specific part of your body that you would like to investigate or begin with your head or feet going up/downward. Be mindful of the sensations that arise in each part of your body. For example, notice tension in your back, the breeze on your neck, your clothes resting on your arms.
Instead of simply hustling through a meal, take time to slowly and mindfully eat. Take turns sharing what you notice about the food you are eating. What does it smell like? How does it look? How does the food feel like on the tongue? What memory does it bring?
Square breathing (Deborah Weatherspoon, 2019). This breathing technique can help you and your child be present in the moment at any time, especially when one feels stressed, upset or a little overwhelmed. Breathing can help us, and our child feel more relaxed. Simply draw a square on a piece of paper, or in the air with your finger. While you draw each line of the square, take a deep breath in and then a deep breath out. Each breath should last approximately four to five seconds.
Mindfulness Box. Decorate a box with your child and fill the box with interesting objects found in your surroundings (rocks, branches, sand, leaves, feathers…). Encourage your child to explore what is around them while focusing on the present moment. You may also suggest to your child to try focus on their senses (touch, smell, weight, sight…) while creating the box.
Mindfulness Bracelet. Make a comfortable and safe bracelet with your child (it can be made from materials that you find in the house or in the garden). Explain to your child that each time they notice the bracelet, they can take a moment to become aware of one thing they see, hear, feel, and/or smell. Practice with your child at home so they can also take the habit to do it on their own.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This exercise may help you and your child become more mindful of the various sensations you may experience in your body. This activity is a great way to help your body feel more relaxed before sleep. Slowly read the following section to your child, taking the time you both need so your body can relax completely. Ask your child to close their eyes if they feel comfortable doing so.
Pretend you are holding two foam balls, one ball in each hand. Start to squeeze one foam ball from one hand and then, squeeze the other foam ball from the other hand. Squeeze them both at the same time as tight as possible. Notice how it feels when you squeeze the foam balls. Now let the two foam balls go. Let both hands rest and become aware of how your hands feel when they are now relaxed.
Now, imagine you are sitting in a garden. Squeeze your toes as if you are trying to pick up some grass between your toes. Squeeze a little more and hold on tight to the grass. When you are ready, let go of the grass. Let your feet rest and notice how they feel.
Finally, pretend there was a butterfly on your nose. You would like the butterfly to go without touching your nose with your hands. Move your face, jiggle your nose, just move your face in all the ways you want! Keep on doing it so the butterfly can gently fly away. When you are ready, stop and feel how your face starts to slowly relax. Simply notice how it feels.
If you would like to deepen your own journey towards mindfulness, feel free to start Deepak Chopra’s 21 days of meditation for free. Link below: https://chopracentermeditation.com/
A. Peterson, R.N., L. (2019). Decrease stress by using your breath. Retrieved 22 May 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/decrease-stress-by-using-your-breath/art-20267197?pg=2
Center, C. (2020). Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience. Retrieved 28 April 2020, from https://chopracentermeditation.com/
Dreeben, S., Mamberg, M., & Salmon, P. (2013). The MBSR Body Scan in Clinical Practice. Mindfulness, 4(4), 394-401. doi: 10.1007/s12671-013-0212-z
Mercer, J. (2020). What is Mindfulness?. Retrieved 1 June 2020, from https://www.jennymercer.co.uk/what-is-mindfulness/
Therapy Worksheets, Tools, and Handouts | Therapist Aid. (2018). Retrieved 28 April 2020, from https://www.therapistaid.com/