‘Mindful’ is not a word that I would typically associate with kids, let alone my own.
As some of you may know, I joined the Mindfulness in May program to help me learn to take time-out, refocus and create a sense of calm in a busy life filled with work and kids. I wrote about my thoughts on mindfulness when I was only 2 weeks into the program. Now I’m 3 months down the track and have slowly seen the benefits of mindfulness. This is not to say that I am completely stress free, but I am certainly better at keeping things in perspective, dealing with conflict, and negotiating with tiny terrorists.
Once I experienced the benefits of mindfulness, I wondered if bringing mindfulness to the afore-mentioned terrorists might help them be less self-centred, volatile, and well … less tyrannical.
Research has shown that practising mindfulness regularly has many benefits in children.
By tuning in to internal and external experiences with curiosity, mindfulness increases children’s self-awareness, social awareness, and self-confidence.
Through breathing and other grounding techniques, mindfulness increases children’s ability to self-regulate their emotions, especially difficult emotions such as fear and anger. This gives children the skills to cope better with stress and builds resilience.
Mindfulness training increases connectivity in the frontal lobe of the brain. This is linked to improved attention, memory processing and decision-making abilities.
Mindfulness improves children’s ability to feel compassion and empathy, which helps them to build positive relationships.
1 in 7 primary aged children and 1 in 4 secondary aged children are experiencing mental health problems and 1 in 5 Australian students are disengaged at school resulting in reduced academic performance. With concerning statistics like this, I was excited to hear that my children’s school is introducing a daily mindfulness practice.
If you’re interested in giving mindfulness a go, either for yourself, your children or your entire family, I recommend stating with Smiling Mind. Smiling Mind is a not-for-profit organisation that has developed an evidence-based mindfulness program* for children which is being implemented by schools across Australia (and as a doctor, I’m all about the evidence). For personal use at home, work or on the commute, Smiling Mind has a free App (this is what I use!) with guided programs for adults and children. It takes less that 10 minutes a day!
*NOTE: In 2016, researchers from Deakin University and InsightSRC surveyed 1853 students across 12 Victorian schools to assess the impact of the Smiling Mind mindfulness program. Results showed improved mental health, student sleep, wellbeing, ability to manage emotions, concentration, and school behaviour, as well as reductions in classroom disruptions and bullying.