Mindfulness is not always meditation. Mindfulness and meditation, in my book are two separate things. You need to be mindful when meditating but you don’t need to be meditating to be mindful. Phew, now there is a bit of a brain teaser.
Mindfulness is well researched and the research shows that it can indeed support us to flourish and live a more meaningful life. While I deeply value research, I don’t need research to tell me what my heart knows and feels. When I am more mindful in my day to day interactions and habits, I feel better within myself, I feel connected to the people around me and I have a wellspring of appreciation.
Mindfulness can be confused with religious practices and in the way I share mindfulness, it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with being aware and awake to the world within you and around you. It can be described as being fully aware of the present moment, the here and now. The dictionary tells us it is ‘the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something’. In today’s digital world, it is said that we need to be more focused on attention management, rather than time management. That our ability to pay attention is getting harder and harder to achieve and it is not the time we give something but the attention we hold to what we are doing that matters.
There are so many ways to describe what mindfulness is and I’ll keep it nice and simple, mindfulness is our ability to notice what is happening within us and around us, without judgement. Mindfulness helps us to not jump forward into the future with the worry of ‘what if’ or constantly lament or revisit the past with ‘but why?’. It helps us to find steadiness in the right here and now, to be “fully present, aware and awake”. Practicing mindfulness can help us to worry and lament less and have appreciation and gratitude more.
With mindfulness you can bring more ease into the smallest of jobs like doing the dishes or a bigger challenge like handling a tantrum (yours or your child’s).
Hurry and distraction are the two threats in a busy day and household. And, in a nutshell, hurry and distraction are the two threats to mindfulness. In our busyness we can miss vital signs that our child is struggling. As we focus ever more intensely on the external pressures around us, we may not even notice our own internal stress triggers and signals. Hurry can also lead us towards reactively viewing or labeling our child’s behaviour as “naughty or trying” and the old favourite of ‘my child is pushing my buttons!’
I think it is safe to assume that most of us have been here at some point in our lives, to varying degrees and it is certainly an important, if not vital topic on how we can create more calm and balance into our very own being and our parenting.
So how can we go from simply functioning to flourishing? From surviving to thriving!
Creating space for mindfulness is a great place to start. It’s free and it has fantastic side effects.
Here are 4 Mindful Parenting Practices that help you begin your mindfulness journey or to get reacquainted with how powerful mindfulness is.
The aim of these practices is to support you to create more calm, to experience the benefits of mindfulness and to make space for connection, awareness and joy no matter how out-of-sync or crazy your day gets.
Notice Your Pace: In Praise of Slow
Walk slower, speak slower and make an active choice to not move so fast. EVEN if you are in a rush. This helps you to slow down your body, which in turn helps you to slow down your mind. It brings an element of calm not only to you but to your whole environment and the way that you perceive the world. It models to your child a calm and steady nature. It gives you both a momentary glimpse of freedom, where you are no longer at the mercy of the modern world and its hasty nature.
We know all too well the crash and burn effect associated with rushing! That rush zone, where you’re in a hurry and you kick your toe, lock your keys in the car, and put the milk in the cupboard. The more we rush the less mindful we are of the moments in between and the more forgetful we become. This only adds to our parental stress and fearful self-perceptions of not being good enough and capable enough for our children.
Notice Your Words: Connecting Habits
Notice if you are speaking faster, nagging or complaining. Catch yourself in the act. Nagging and complaining is one sure way to disconnect from your child and from your own sense of well being. Instead of “Let’s get in the car we are going to be late”, try flipping it to what you want to achieve and create a more growth mindset. “Let’s go everyone, we are aiming to be on time today”. Say it with a steady, calm tone. You don’t have to pretend or act like Zen monk. Stay true to you and notice your patterns of speech in times of rush and hurriedness.
Notice Your Breath: Your ticket to inner freedom.
Our breath reveals a lot about how we feel and what condition our mind and body is in. If we are breathing fast and rapid, chances are we are either running, walking fast or are triggered with an emotion of anger, excitement etc… Tuning into your breath is a great way to check in and see how you’re traveling. It can give you that instant calm to slow down. You could practice a breathing exercise before getting out of bed to connect you with your breath and your body OR you could catch yourself in the act of breathing and notice how you’re travelling. If you feel frustrated or hurried, notice your breath. That simple. Then it requires some even breaths or some counting breaths. Breathe in for 4 and out for 4 and continue this breath for a few minutes to bring yourself back to your center. Then continue on doing your thing.
Notice How You Look: Yep… You!
I don’t mean whether your hair is blow-dried or your make-up is on or even what clothes you’re wearing. I mean really notice how you look, look at your face, your eyes, your lips, and your hair. So often in the morning everyone else in the house’s needs are met and not our own. If you look in the mirror and you see tired, do something. Wash your face with water and feel the cool or warm water wash over your skin. Take a few seconds to apply some moisturizer or spritzer. When you brush your hair, notice how it feels on your scalp. When you’re cleaning your teeth take time to feel the clean, shiny lovely feeling within your mouth. Embrace these moments as time for you. You’re doing it anyway; you might as well really experience it. If you look amazing, pat yourself on the back and notice what it feels like to look at yourself and be truly content and fulfilled.
Like all mindfulness practices, it takes awareness, practice and time. These small acts of mindfulness will help you to fill your own cup and start that all important need for self-care and nurturing.
Use these 4 practices to bring peace and calm in your daily interactions with your child and yourself. Use them to help you to feel more balanced, connected and grounded. Use them to go from functioning to flourishing in all that you do.
Until next time,
Happy, whole-hearted parenting