Mindfulness has been a key buzzword in recent years. Especially after the Coronavirus Pandemic, mental health experts have been espousing the many benefits of incorporating mindfulness into our daily routine. This doesn’t mean just scheduling in a 10-minute meditation practice (though meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness), it also means becoming aware and cognizant of our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness, at its core, is the ability to stay present. We become aware of what we’re thinking, feeling, and doing, but we don’t react. For example, if our child is misbehaving, we may start to feel angry or frustrated. Mindfulness is all about noticing the anger, acknowledging it, and then letting it go. Instead of getting lost in our own thoughts and emotions, mindfulness takes us into the present moment so that we can deal with our issues head-on.
Why should parents practice mindfulness?
No one said that parenthood was easy, but it doesn’t have to be anxiety-ridden either. Mindfulness can help us become calmer, more accepting parents. How does it do that? Namely, by bringing us into the present moment and helping us deal with our own emotions in a healthy manner. Here are a few examples:
- You’ll give your child your full attention: When we’re lost in our own thoughts or emotions, it’s hard to give the people we love our full attention. Mindfulness brings us into the present moment and helps us focus on what our child is saying and doing, here and now.
- You become more patient and accepting: Being a parent is hard, and sometimes we say or do things that are out of line. With mindfulness, we can learn to be aware of our emotions but have the forethought not to act on them.
- You have greater empathy: Mindfulness can help put you in the shoes of your child and understand why they may be reacting a certain way. This level of empathy can be especially helpful when our children are acting out.
- And you have greater compassion: Mindfulness fosters compassion, both for oneself and for your children (more on self-compassion below). Research has shown that responding compassionately to a situation can help ease tension, anxiety, and other upsetting emotions.
How do you practice mindfulness?
Meditation is one of the most common ways to practice mindfulness, but it is not the only way. Below are a few mindfulness practices you can incorporate into your daily routine:
- Sit in an upright position with your legs crossed or your feet flat on the floor
- Close your eyes and bring your focus to your breath
- Do not change your breath in anyway, simply notice it and let it take its course
- If your mind wanders (which it is bound to do), simply acknowledge the thought and return to the breath
- Sit in a comfortable yet upright position
- Close your eyes and begin to focus on the top of your head
- Slowly scan down your body, moving from your head, to your face, neck, shoulders, and so on until you reach your feet
- Notice any sensations that arise, such as itching, tingling, or even pain
- Acknowledge the sensations, let them be, and move on to another part of your body
- This can be done anytime of day during any type of activity
- Take note of any sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or sensations (touches) that are in your immediate surroundings
- Label them as “sight” or “sound” and then let them go
- This can also be done during anytime of day and during any type of activity
- When an emotion arises, label it as “anger” or “joy” or “frustration”
- Accept the emotion as it is, without judgment, and then let it go
- If an emotion is particularly overwhelming, sit with it, see how your body is reacting to the emotion. For instance, if you’re feeling anxiety, you may take note of the knots in your stomach or your heart racing. Leaning into the discomfort can often help quell these feelings
Self-Compassion and Mindfulness
An important part of mindfulness is self-compassion. While many of us see self-compassion as self-indulging, having compassion for ourselves makes us more mindful, forgiving, and kinder individuals. According to researcher Kristin Neff, self-compassion helps alleviate suffering by treating ourselves as we would a friend. After all, when a friend is having a hard time, would you be merciless and criticizing towards them? Or would you try to comfort them and acknowledge their suffering? If the latter is true, why should you treat yourself any differently?
Self-compassion is perhaps even more critical for parents, as the more compassionate we are towards ourselves, the more compassionate we are towards our children. Below are the three elements of self-compassion that you can practice in your everyday life:
- Self-kindness: Be warm and understanding towards yourself. Acknowledge how hard things are right now and understand you are imperfect. Do not be too harsh or judgmental.
- Common humanity: Recognize that everyone in the world suffers. You are not alone.
- Mindfulness: Be aware of what you’re feeling right now instead of ignoring it or exaggerating it.
At Steadfast Academy, we encourage all parents to become more mindful and self-compassionate, and to pass on those lessons to their children. For more parenting tips, read through our blog today.