Mindfulness is about developing a mindset and lifestyle that can very much improve our quality of life. It is not complicated or abstract. It is about living the experience of whatever is happening, right here, right now. Surprisingly, most of us find it hard to do that. Research shows that most of the time, our minds are elsewhere, frequently regretting things that happened in the past, or worrying about plans for the future. But when we are able to stay firmly in the present, without adding judgements or over-analysing, giving just our 100% attention, that is mindfulness. And this present-moment way of being firmly attentive is actually the most real experience that is. We simply stay open to what happens, as it happens.
Imagine a very focused athlete in training, not having his nerves shaken by his coach’s expectations or his own fear of failure, simply giving his all – and this would give you a very ideal example of how mindfulness benefits us. For adults, mindfulness practice helps us to reduce stress, take things step by step, and become more aware of our own abilities without excessive self-criticism. For children, mindfulness helps to balance their usual hyper-ness, and guides them to be more focused and grounded when they need to be.
We don’t necessarily need to sit and close our eyes to practise mindfulness. What is more effective is to incorporate it into our daily life, and we can do this through our 5 senses. Good for both adults and kids!
- Sit comfortably, circle arms up along our sides to inhale up to the top, then slowly bring arms down as we exhale.
- Lay down and place a toy or cushion on your belly, and feel the object move up and down with your breathing.
- Close eyes, and listen attentively to whatever you can hear, listen to the various sounds arising and passing away.Then listen to more subtle sounds like your own breathing, or your own heartbeat.
- Ring a bell, softly or loudly, slowly or in quick succession, and hear each sound to the end until it fades away.
- Sing songs or hum as you or someone else plays an instrument or a song from YouTube!
- Look at an object for one minute, keeping your attention solely on the object, then describe it in full detail, or write it down in detail. It can be anything like a cup, a toy, a book, etc.
- Play a game – look for and choose an object in a certain colour, then share it with everyone, and why it’s interesting. (For young kids, it’s the game of “I spy with my little eye…”)
- Play a game – give everyone a few minutes to remember everything in a room, then close eyes and ‘test’ them on what is found in the room, or details in the room.
- Smell, feel a grape/raisin/chocolate in your mouth and roll it around, before finally taking a bite. Try to do this for the first bite of each meal.
- Feel a mystery object with eyes closed, describe it and guess what it is.
- Pet your cat or dog soothingly, adjusting as it reacts to you, and giving it love.
- Hold a pebble/leaf/flower in your palms firmly, and visualise the groundedness of the pebble, or varying texture of the leaf/flower.
- Play a game – bring different things to smell and guess.
- Visualisation – imagine smelling a fresh flower to feel the fragrance, to feel revigorated.
- Motivate kids with imagination, eg. stay still like a warrior guarding a castle, or sit tall like a flamingo.
- Use ‘friendly competition’ to spur the kids or each other to finish the work, or help with chores.