Mindfulness for Children

Children, you would probably agree, are for the most part happy and carefree, living in the present and enjoying every little minute in life. They are our biggest teachers, reminding us to live in the moment, finding wonder and joy in a puddle of water or a rainbow while the rest of us keep rushing to our next item on our to-do list.

Working with children you realise how the seemingly little things can be massively important in their little world. They may not have scary things like mortgages or high-powered jobs but trying to figure out this mad world when you are still in primary school is no mean feat. Often, they do not understand the emotional, physical and mental processes going on within them let alone have the ability or skill-set to express themselves to a parent or guardian. In fact, most adults find this extremely difficult but have learned to park these feelings or suppress these challenging emotions in some way instead of dealing with them.

I have been teaching children for nearly 10 years now (How the hell did that happen??) and I have seen children from all walks of life come up against challenges which they didn’t have the skills to deal with.

I see them growing out of their childlike wonder and amazement earlier and earlier and start using words like stress, worry and frustrated more often. They are growing up in a world where stress is a common place word in most households as parents and families in all their shapes and sizes try to hold on to and better themselves in their careers, keep a roof over their heads while paying for all the wants and needs of a family. While they struggle and strive to meet the materialistic needs of their family they try to ensure everyone is fit and healthy, cared for emotionally and mentally and at the same time share and elicit morals and values. This is a huge undertaking in and of itself and then you add in the day to day scheduling and organising and melt downs of everyday life, it is no wonder most people are dealing with stress on a daily basis.

As adults we are looking for more and more ways to deal with the stresses and strains of modern day living and we are learning these skills and trying to implement them in an already busy schedule. If we don’t see instant positive results a new habit, it usually gets thrown by the wayside. That is why I think it is so important that children learn these skills from a young age and have the ability to utilise them whenever they are faced with a challenging encounter or situation.

Mindfulness-1024x659Meditation and mindfulness has huge physical, emotional and mental benefits. Research and studies continue to prove the positive effects that meditation and mindfulness can have on the body and as adults, more and more of us are drawn to these practices.

So, what are the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on the body?

  • Less stress and anxiety. Felt not only on a mental and emotional level but felt on a physiological level from the nervous system first and then the other organs.
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Makes us feel better, happier
  • Increased patience and compassion
  • Lowers blood pressure and regulates our heart rate
  • It calms and balances us in mind, heart and body
  • Increases our energy levels
  • Increases the strength of our immune systems

One of my students in my mindfulness class was sitting at the kitchen table after school one day doing her homework with her mum and brother. As often is the case, the battle for completing homework commenced and tempers started to wear thin. This little girl instructed them to calm down, take a breath and be mindful of how they were acting. She was FIVE at the time!! She shared her awareness an instantly diffused the whole situation and brought some light and laughter to a day that could have ended in tears and frustration for everyone.

2017-11-19 20.56.24Mindfulness and meditation also helps children (and adults) become more emotionally resilient. Emotional resilience means not getting overly angry, worried, frustrated or stressed over something and if you do having the tools and techniques at hand to help you to calm down instead of reacting in a way that won’t help the situation and or make it worse. Mindfulness and meditation can help children to relax and calm down and keeps things in perspective while encouraging positive self-talk and action.

Whether your child is dealing with anxiety, emotional challenges or is happy and carefree, practising meditation and mindfulness can have many positive benefits and rewards.

Top tips for mindful practices with children

  • Chill Out Zone

cosy cornerCreate a cosy corner where they can relax, chill out, reflect and calm down if feel the need to. Help them arrange, set it up and it will really feel like their own and they will want to use it then. Have a calm down teddy, worry teddy also works really well for the little ones. This will be a great tool to help them calm down independently and be more aware and mindful of how they are feeling.

  • Take 5

Using the sense is a quick and easy way to help calm and relax your child. Take 5 – Sit down, be still, take a big deep breath and uses your senses. What can you feel right now? What can you hear right now? What can you see? (images can be inside their head or in their environment) Can you smell anything? Can you taste anything?

This is a lovely one to do when you are out and about, at the playground, at the park etc.

  • Just Breathe…

Breathing techniques are one of the best tools to use as often it is useful to have something to focus on. I use these breathing techniques in  my class all the time, they directly engage our nervous system to help calm down the whole body.

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star breathing               1+-+6+Steps+to+Belly+Breathing+Poster+(K-5)-1

  • Attitude of Gratitude

Helping children to practice gratitude everyday can help them to have a more positive outlook but also move away from frustrating or worrying thoughts. It can be easily incorporated into the bedtime routine – what 3 things are you grateful for today?

  • Quiet mindful time

Most adults are too busy to slow down and be creative or sit with their thoughts. For many it is their worst nightmare. But it is in these moments of quiet and clarity that we have our light bulb moments, our creative thoughts or emotional awareness.

Children are constantly on the go or engaged in a game, toys, TV and when they are not they have the complaint that they are bored. Encourage and enable your child to take some quiet time for themselves, to be creative. Ensure them that you are still there if they need any help while allowing them to be more aware of their responsibility in their happiness. They could do things like draw, colour, doodle, write, journal, jigsaw, cook, bake, play instruments, crafts, knitting – anything really that is quiet and calming and not on a screen.

 

HAPPYdef

Light & Love,

Mel

 

Top Tips to a healthier Diet

Making the right food choices is somewhat of a mine field these days. It seems that every article and advertisement is telling us conflicting information. It is hard to know who to believe or what to do to ensure our nutritional needs are being met. We also have so much access to information ourselves that every second person has an opinion on what is best for you and your body.

This new age of information serves as a double-edged sword. We are more informed than ever before in relation to food and diet however it is often information overload which confuses rather than helps us.

Diets, food and nutrients are constantly being researched, reviewed and updated that we shouldn’t take anything as gospel. How long did we believe that ‘low fat’ was good for us only to realise that the information from those studies was misinterpreted to suit the needs of those in certain food industry’s that would benefit the most?  Remember that food is a product at the end of the day and there to make a profit, not all research, marketing and advertisement is for your health benefit. It is more likely there to ensure you buy their product over another. This includes the superfoods and the health foods, which is another multimillion euro industry.

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No matter what you eat, always have a few dates lined up for the weekend!

As we try to make a conscious effort to make better, more informed choices about the food we put in our bodies and the food we feed our children, here a few tips that I think are useful.

  1. Observe and bring your awareness to your diet.

What are you eating or not eating? If you were to keep a diary for 3-5 days (including the weekend) of what you ate and how you felt afterwards you probably wouldn’t need a qualified nutritional therapist to tell you where you might be going wrong. Seeing your diet written down on paper is a great way of seeing patterns in your eating habits and how the food you are eating is making you feel.  If you do need direction and guidance from a coach or therapist they will have an excellent starting point to begin working from, with you.

2. Keep it simple

You don’t need to change everything in the one day. Adding in new healthy habits one at a time will ensure that these habits last in the long run. When you decide to make positive changes to your diet there are more things at play than just your decision to do so. Hormones, stress levels, blood sugar balance, sleep patterns and life in general will test your new way of eating. A healthier eating plan doesn’t have to be restrictive, by adding in new healthy habits you will be surprised at how quickly you notice the positive changes to how you feel. You have most likely being eating a certain way for many years, it will take time to change those deeply ingrained habits. What small change could you make for the next week to start a new healthy habit?

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Sunday lunches with a difference

3. Eat more whole foods

The Wholly Grail is all about looking at things as a whole and embracing the fact that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Eating foods in their whole form will ensure we get as much of the nutritional quality as possible form them. Nature provides the perfect balance of vitamins and minerals within the whole food that we need because it is so infinitely knowledgeable and synced so that everything has a purpose. The minute we start to change or process the food we are losing some of its nutritional quality. How often do you eat food in its natural state? How much of your food shop is packaged or processed? How much fresh produce are you consuming?

4. Ask some questions…

Are you influenced totally by fancy packaging or clever labelling? Have you ever stopped to look at the back of the packet and see what ingredients are in the products you are putting into your trolley? We are so vigilant with the fuel we put into our car or creams we put on our face but often we don’t question the list of ingredients that is on our favourite foods. You may be surprised at the amount of additional ingredients that are present, that you firstly cannot pronounce and secondly have no idea what they are or what they do to your body.

5. Eat more vegetables

No one can deny that vegetable intake is paramount to a healthy diet. Vegetables are loaded with all the nutrients and minerals that our bodies need in abundance to thrive. As vegetarianism, Veganism and plant based diets are hitting the headlines as the new go-to diet, there is a multitude of recipes and suggestions to incorporate more veggies into your diet. Low in calories and high in nutritional value, I think vegetables are the catalyst to a healthier life. As a veggie loving vegan, myself I will be posting lots of tried and tested recipes that will help you and your children to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Can you think of one way you could incorporate an extra portion of vegetables into your diet each day?

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Keeping it green!