Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can help improve mental health and well-being. It is effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as improving focus and attention span. People of all ages can practise mindfulness, but it may be particularly beneficial for children.
What is mindfulness and what are its benefits for children
Mindfulness is the quality or state of being aware of something. It is a mental state that can be achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, without judging them as good or bad.
There are many benefits of mindfulness for children. Some of these benefits include:
- Improving focus and concentration
- Managing stress and anxiety
- Regulating emotions
- Improving sleep quality
- Boosting self-esteem and confidence
- Promoting empathy and compassion
- Enhancing creativity
- Reducing negative thinking patterns
- Improving social skills
- Overall well-being
Mindfulness can help boost a child’s self-esteem and confidence, improve sleep quality, and enhance creativity. Furthermore, it has been shown to reduce negative thinking patterns and improve social skills.
How to introduce mindfulness to children
Here are some ways that you can introduce mindfulness to children:
- Start by teaching them to focus on their breath. Have them inhale and exhale deeply, and ask them to pay attention to how the air feels going in and out of their lungs.
- Encourage them to sit in silence for a few minutes each day and focus on their thoughts and feelings.
- Ask them to pay attention to the things they see, hear, smell, taste, and feel during everyday activities. For example, you can ask them what colours they see when they look at a rainbow or what sounds they hear when they hear the rain.
- Help them to understand that thoughts are just thoughts, and they don’t have to believe everything that goes through their mind.
- Teach them how to be kind to themselves and others. This includes accepting themselves for who they are and recognising that everyone makes mistakes.
- Encourage them to practise gratitude by noticing the good things in their life, no matter how small.
Children who practise mindfulness are more able to pay attention, concentrate and persevere in tasks, and display more patience. A study with 3 to 5-year-olds found that those who participated in a mindfulness programme had significantly lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) than those who did not participate in the programme.
Mindfulness is an effective intervention for reducing anxiety levels in children. In one study, a group of 4 to 7-year-olds who participated in a mindfulness programme showed significantly lower levels of anxiety than those who did not participate in the programme.
The best ways to practise mindfulness with children
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness with children. Here are some ways that can easily be incorporated into a child’s daily routine:
- Practise mindfulness together as a family. Modelling mindfulness can be a great way to help children learn how to do it and are also a lovely bonding activity.
- Teach children how to meditate. This can be a great way to learn how to control their thoughts and emotions. There are many guided meditations available to listen to online.
- Get children involved in nature. Spending time outside can help children connect with their surroundings and become more mindful of the world around them.
- Encourage children to be creative. Whether it’s through art, music, or writing, creativity can help children express themselves and become more aware of their thoughts and feelings.
- Teach children how to do breathing exercises. This can help them relax and focus their attention on the present moment.
The importance of consistency when practising mindfulness
Mindfulness is a practice that can be beneficial for both adults and children. When practising mindfulness, it is important to be consistent in order to get the most out of the practice.
Being consistent with mindfulness can help children develop self-awareness and improve their attention span. It can also help them regulate their emotions and deal with stressful situations in a more effective way. In addition, mindfulness can help children learn how to focus on one task at a time and improve their memory.
It is important for parents to be involved in their children’s mindfulness practice, as they can provide support and guidance. Parents should make sure that they are setting a good example by being mindful of themselves, as this will help children develop a lifelong habit of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is an effective intervention for children struggling with mental health issues and is also a tool that they can employ should they face any issues in the future. It can help them to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, mindfulness can help to improve behaviour, attention, and sleep.
Joanne Docherty has been working with and for families since 2006 and is the founder of Starra Education. She also teaches at the University of Glasgow.