The practice of mindfulness has increasingly gained mainstream popularity over the years, though it has been a tenet of Buddhist practice for thousands of years. Outside its spiritual connections, mindfulness practice can reduce stress and anxiety and promote a sense of wellbeing. As mindfulness continues to reach new demographics, more and more studies are exploring its effects and benefits, not just for adults but for children, too.
Mindfulness is the practice of centering awareness on the present moment without judgment. This is done by focusing on one's immediate surroundings, namely the body, breath, and information obtained through the senses, such as the feeling of the surface you're sitting on, the warmth of the air around you, and the sounds of the birds outside.
We're actually pretty disconnected from our physical surroundings these days. To some, this overview of mindfulness might seem overly simple or trite; however, once they make an effort to detach from thoughts and distractions and focus only on the present moment, most people realize how quickly and easily our minds wander. That's why mindfulness is defined as a practice and not an activity: it takes intentionality and concentration.
As previously mentioned, this form of meditation involves the practice of intentionality and concentration, both of which are controlled in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Adults and children alike stand to benefit from the development of these skills, although some experts believe children can get the most out of it because their brains are still developing.
Children may also benefit from the practice by learning how to better ignore distractions, remain calm in challenging situations, and exercise patience. Mindfulness could also improve impulse control, cognitive control, working memory, and attentiveness. Studies also show that the reductions in anxiety and stress often seen in adult subjects are evident in children, too.
Teaching mindfulness to children can require a lot of patience. The minds of adults and children alike wander; the trick is to avoid judgment — don't feel bad or reprimand the practitioner when this happens. Simply encourage the child to come back to the present moment or their breath. Mindfulness is supposed to be enjoyable and enriching. The more you and your child practice focusing on the present moment, the easier it will become. Start with a short period of time — even just one or two minutes — and work up from there.
This exercise might be a bit difficult for an eager eater, but it's definitely worth trying as it can help a child better experience and enjoy their meals and prevent tummy aches from shoveling in food. Exercises can be done together or the parent can instruct and monitor.
Once again, exercises can be done together or the parent can instruct and monitor. Mindful breathing is a bit more straightforward than mindful eating, and might be a great activity for children who struggle to sit still.
Outdoor activities are vital for kids, and incorporating mindfulness into part of a walk can enhance the experience and make your practice more engaging and enjoyable.
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