Most of the time, children are moving very fast. Whether they are studying, playing, reading, talking, they just keep going and going. Only when they fall asleep at night, they hopefully rest. What if they could give their bodies and minds some mindful rest during the day? They could do everything they do more easily. This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. When they are aware, they will feel calmer. When they are able to give their minds time to be quiet, they will waste less energy worrying about things that don’t really matter.
Teaching your students conscious breathing or doing breathing practices with your kids helps them slow down and connect to their bodies especially when things may feel out of control. There will always be distractions around, but it doesn’t require much except to be present if you can find a place inside you with your breath.
The first way of being present is to be aware of their bodies so that they can know about their feelings and health. For instance, he/she can know if his/her stomach feels uneasy because of an upcoming test. Or his/her heart might beat faster when having to speak in front of the class.
Here is an exercise about being aware of one’s body. You can do this exercise with your kid or student:
Find a comfortable place and lie down. Close your eyes.
Take a deep breath in and out. Again, in and out.
Put your attention on your toes. Curl them tight, then stretch them out.
Move your attention to your feet and ankles.
Put your attention on your knees. Bend your legs and stretch them out.
Move your attention to your pelvic area. Feel the area below your stomach as you breathe in and out.
Put your attention on your stomach. Notice how your stomach rises when you breathe in. And when you breathe out, it goes back down.
Move your attention to your heart. Try to feel your heart beat as you breathe in and out.
Put your attention on your neck and shoulders.
Move your attention to your hands, fingers, elbows, bending and straightening them out.
Next, put your attention on your tongue. Open your mouth and breathe in and let the air out.
Take your next breath through your nose. Breathe in and out. Feel the air go into your nostrils.
Move your attention to your closed eyes. Do you see anything with your eyes closed?
Put your attention on your ears. What are you hearing right now?
Move your attention to the top of your head. Breathe in and out.
Now, pay attention to your whole body as you take one last deep breath in and out.
Open your eyes and say “Thank you!” to your body.
The appreciation of the body is important. Appreciating your food is also significant. Foods offer so many flavors – sour, sweet, bitter, salty. And they have different textures. Here is an exercise you can try with your children:
Before you get started, choose some foods with different textures and tastes.
To begin, look at the food. Notice the color of each food.
Feel the food using your hands.
Then smell it.
Take one food and put it in your mouth. Before you begin chewing the food, let your tongue taste the flavor. Chew slowly. Do you like it?
Now, take the second food and put it in your mouth. Chew slowly and experience the taste.
Take the third food and repeat the same steps.
You may say “Thank you!” to the foods that nurture your body and brain.
Another mindful activity that you can practice with your kid/student is listening. When having a conversation, you listen and speak. Sometimes you may be speaking but the other person may be thinking about something else and not really listening. It is also possible that you do the same thing. If you fully listen, you hear more beyond their words. And you feel more connected with the person you are having a conversation. You also begin to notice people’s moods and feelings. For this exercise you need a person to speak to:
Tell them that while they speak, you are just going to listen. Ask them to tell you about something. And as they tell you their story, do not interrupt them. Don’t even nod. Just fully listen to them. Hear their story. Be aware of their feelings.
When they are done, change the roles.
Once you both have shared your stories, you can share your ideas about how you feel while listening and speaking.
It is important to practice mindful listening as it will change the interaction with the people in your life. Just try to listen fully before you respond.
There are also other mindful exercises that you can practice with your children. For instance, you can teach them silence so that they can enjoy the quietness of their minds or they can learn how to meditate.