Happy Habits For Kids

For parents interested in raising happy kids!

Mindfulness

Mindfulness

Have you ever wondered why some children are less focused and have shorter attention span than others? Is your child constantly feeling stress about school or reacting negatively when they feel upset when something bad happens? So, what is the secret to focusing a wandering mind and getting rid of unhappy thoughts?

  • The answer is one simple word: mindfulness.

Mindfulness? Wait, isn’t that something like meditation and chanting Buddhist scriptures?

  • Well, first of all, you are not entirely wrong. Mindfulness indeed is a spiritual and psychological concept that, according to the teachings of the Buddha, allows one to cleanse his thoughts and receive a calm awareness of the mind and body.

But hold your horses…

  • Despite having its origins in Buddhism 2600 years ago, mindfulness is not intrinsically religious and has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years (Hanh, 1976). The methods and pedagogy of mindfulness has been adapted and transformed for application in mainstream psychotherapy and modern clinical psychology since the 1970s.

Who can benefit from practicing Mindfulness? And, at what age is it suitable to apply mindfulness practices?

  • Anyone and everyone can do it! Regardless of whatever religious or philosophical belief you have and whatever age you may be, mindfulness can benefit you and your loved ones once you begin practicing it. From age 3 all the way till adulthood and old age, mindfulness can be taught and practiced. There are several mindfulness exercise one can do such as meditating; writing a mindfulness journal about your daily experience, thoughts and feelings; doing Yoga or Taichi etc. The key is using the right practices for the right age group. Our suggestion is, to start your child with the simplest exercises such as concentrating on one’s breathing, teaching your child to appreciate the smell, taste, and texture of the food. For example, here is a simple exercise recommended by psychologist and educators, called the Raisin Meditation Exercise.
  • Raisin Meditation

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  1. Sit comfortably in a chair.
  2.  Place a raisin in your hand.
  3. Examine the raisin as if you had never seen it before.
  4. Imagine it as its “plump self” growing on the vine surrounded by nature.
  5. As you look at the raisin, become conscious of what you see: the shape, texture, color, size. Is it hard or soft?
  6. Bring the raisin to your nose and smell it.
  7. Are you anticipating eating the raisin? Is it difficult not to just pop it in your mouth?
  8. How does the raisin feel? How small it is in your hand?
  9. Place the raisin in your mouth. Become aware of what your tongue is doing.
  • Bite ever so lightly into the raisin. Feel its squishiness.
  • Chew three times and then stop.
  • Describe the flavor of the raisin. What is the texture?
  • As you complete chewing, swallow the raisin.
  • Sit quietly, breathing, aware of what you are sensing.

Reference: http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/activities/how-eat-mindfully

Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses the experience thus:

“The raisin exercise dispels all previous concepts we may be harboring about meditation. It immediately places it in the realm of the ordinary, the everyday, the world you already know but are now going to know differently. Eating one raisin very, very slowly allows you to drop right into the knowing in ways that are effortless, totally natural, and entirely beyond words and thinking. Such an exercise delivers wakefulness immediately. There is in this moment only tasting.”

Here is an article about a 5 week program combining Tai Chi and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Boston Public Middle School written by Robert Wall: http://www.mindfuleducation.org/robertwall.pdf

Here are some mindfulness practices that are scientifically proven to produce better mental well-being and child development:

Firstly, some statistics:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 5 children and adolescents 9 to 17 years old have a mental health disorder that leads to impairment in daily functioning. In a pilot study conducted by Semple, Reid, & Miller in 2005, 5 children ages 7 to 8 years with anxiety-related academic difficulties received a 6-week mindfulness training program. Participants showed improvements in academic performance and teacher- reported problem behavior. In another study, Napoli, Krech, and Holley (2005) used an integrative program of mindfulness and relaxation with 194 children in first to third grade with high anxiety. Participants showed a significant increase in selective attention and decreases in both test anxiety and ADHD behaviors.

For more information, read the full article here: http://www.mindfuleducation.org/Biegel_et_al_MBSRforAdolescentPsychiatricPatients.pdf

Next, some applications:

1) Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (first introduced by Dr Jon Kabat Zinn)

Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including chronic pain, emotional and behavioral disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression and Anxiety Disorders (Kabat-Zinn, 1985, 1998). There is many approaches for mindfulness based practices which challenging the negative self image and hoping for change for the future. Watch this clip to find out more about Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction:

A useful reminder from Dr Jon Kabat Zinn: “It is not about just the breathing and the meditation but an intimate relation with the breath (awareness).”

2) In this video, Dr Jon Kabat Zinn talks about the benefits of mindfulness being taught in schools.

 

Where has mindfulness been taught? Has it been successful?

  • If you’re still feeling a little uneasy about the idea of teaching mindfulness to your child, why not look at some of the findings which shows significant successes in the application of mindfulness in some schools.
  • According to the findings from mindfulschools.org, a study conducted in school year 2011-12 showed significant improvements in children’s behaviors in after they have been taught and have had the chance to practice mindfulness exercises for 6 weeks.

© Graph taken from mindfulschools.org (Check out this website for more information about the study and the results: http://www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/research/)

Here is a trailer of a documentary about teaching mindfulness to kids in schools:

Mindful Schools

  • According to their website, to date, Mindful Schools has taught over 18,000 children in 53 schools. If you are interested in learning how to teach mindfulness to your child or learning how to apply mindfulness yourself, Mindful Schools is currently offering two levels of training to adults: one on cultivating a personal mindfulness practice, and a second level on teaching mindfulness to children.

Here is an article about the benefits of mindfulness for adults: http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/06/01/mindfulness.training.stress/index.html

Parenting mindfully

  • Because emotional stress can impede how our kids learn, it is important for parents to teach kids how to better cope with it.

In conclusion, here are 2 simple reminders for parents and for kids:

1)   Pause before we act and notice what is happening, what others are feeling, what you are feeling, showing empathy

2)   Accept what is going on and not judge.

Quoting Christine Carter, Author of Raising Happiness,  “Practice mindfulness even if you’re not a hippie.” So, what are you waiting for? Start now by being mindful!

 

Websites For More Resources:

1) Association of Mindfulness in Education:

http://www.mindfuleducation.org/research.html

http://www.mindfuleducation.org/resources.html

2) Mindful Schools:

http://www.mindfulschools.org

3) Greater Good Science Centre, UC Berkeley

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness

References:

  1. Albers, S. (2003). Eating Mindfully. Oakland, Calif.: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.Kabat Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to Our Senses. New York: Hyperion.
  2. Walsh, R., & Shapiro, S. L. (2006). The meeting of meditative disciplines and Western psychology: a mutually enriching dialogue. American Psychologist, 61(3), 227.
  3. Hanh, T. N. (1976). The miracle of mindfulness: A manual for meditation. Boston : Beacon.
  4. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your mind to face stress, pain and illness. New York : Dell.
  5. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. Hyperion.
  6. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1982). An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: Theoretical considerations and preliminary results. General Hospital Psychiatry, 4, 33–47.
  7. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1998). Meditation. In J. C.Holland (Ed.), Psycho-oncology (pp. 767–79. New York : Oxford University Press.
  8. Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, L., & Burney, R. (1985). The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 8, 163–190.
  9. Wall, R. B. (2005). Tai chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction in a Boston public middle school. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19(4), 230-237.

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