Creating a calmer home through mindfulness
When we’re zooming through our days, juggling appointments, deadlines, and caregiver duties, it can seem nearly impossible to stop and be fully present at any given moment. If we are being honest, the advice to just “be more mindful” can sometimes be downright frustrating.
But what if we told you that by making small changes within your home, your space could become a calmer, less stressful environment for everyone? It’s never too early to start teaching our children to tap into the here and now, while also retraining our brains to be more attentive so that we simply feel better.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness, or simply the act of paying attention to the present moment, is a practice rooted in ancient traditions and proven by modern science to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s about noticing thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the surrounding environment with more curiosity and less judgment. It can be helpful to explain mindfulness to children as, "Noticing the world and how you feel in it, without trying to change anything.”
Mindfulness exercises to try at home
- Breathing techniques. For younger children, ask them to pretend they're inhaling the smell of a birthday cake and then blowing out the candles, ensuring they feel their bellies rise and fall. For older kids, our Bend coaches often teach Box Breathing (inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and repeat).
- Building a feelings vocabulary. Our Bend coaches often use our SUN Technique to help members better understand and communicate what they are feeling. SUN is an acronym that stands for Share, Understand, and Name. Use the following questions to help your child notice and form words for their emotions. It may be helpful to model an example for your child or teen, describing a feeling that you’re currently experiencing.
- Share: Describe what you are thinking. What is the thought you are having?
- Understand: What does that thought mean for you? What is the situation you are in that caused that thought?
- Name: Name the emotion and describe how you are feeling about the situation.
- Practice mindful eating. Implement a mealtime routine where everyone tastes, savors, and fully experiences the food. This doesn't mean every meal needs to be a mindfulness session, but occasionally slowing down and truly tasting food can be a delicious lesson in mindfulness. Having at least one meal a day together at the table without screens is a great way to build mindfulness into your daily family routine. Here are some additional ways you can turn mealtime into a cherished family ritual.
- Take mindful walks. The next time you’re out in nature with your child, encourage them to notice the sights, sounds, and smells around them. It can be as simple as walking in your backyard or local park, paying attention to the rustling of leaves or the chirping of birds. Get creative! You can look for orange items, things that are shaped like hearts, or anything that you can turn into your next art project.
- Create a calming corner. Designate a quiet space in your home for mindfulness activities. It can be a simple area with a few cushions, a blanket, some favorite books, twinkle lights, and maybe a sound machine with calming music or nature sounds. This can serve as a sacred space for children or teens anytime they feel overwhelmed or just need a moment of calm.
- Create mindfulness journals. For older children, maintaining a mindful journal can be very beneficial. Encourage them to write about their feelings, experiences, and things they've noticed during their day. Younger kids can keep sketchbooks to draw and illustrate the same things.
- Tap into senses. Slowing down and tuning into sight, touch, taste, sounds, and smell is a great way to introduce mindfulness. For example, ask your child to close their eyes and concentrate on something that they smell. Is it something baking in the kitchen? Maybe the laundry detergent on their clothes? How does that scent make them feel?
- Model mindfulness. Children are intuitive and can pick up on our habits. Try to incorporate mindfulness into your own life, whether it's through meditation, deep breathing, or simply being present during daily tasks like washing the dishes or preparing a meal. The more they see you actively practicing exercises or simply being aware of your surroundings, the more they will follow your lead and do the same.
- Encourage open communication. Let your child share their feelings, thoughts, and experiences without fear of judgment. If they find a particular mindfulness activity challenging, discuss it and find ways to make it more engaging for them.
Teaching mindfulness to children and teens not only helps them manage stress and regulate their emotions, but also instills a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them. By introducing mindfulness early on, especially within your home, you're giving your child a tool that will benefit them throughout their lives, helping them approach challenges with calm and resilience.
And, always, let’s keep it real. Chaos is never far from a home with kids and teens. Realistically, implementing mindfulness might look a bit messy and will definitely vary from home to home. You are in control of what mindfulness means for your family, and how best to achieve it. Bend is here for you along the way.