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Mindfulness meditation has recently grown in popularity largely because the field of neuroscience has increased our understanding of the brain, and it has shown that practicing mindfulness increases activity in parts of the brain that relates to bodily sensations, attention, and regulation of emotions. Set aside some time in your busy schedule to be more mindful so that you and your family may reap some important benefits.
You might be asking yourself: How can I be more mindful and how can it make me a better parent? This may sound a bit hippie to some, but be assured that it can help. If you need to be more connected to the present moment (rather than lost in your thoughts about the past or future), then mindfulness is for you. If you can use help accepting what is and noticing the positives in life, then mindfulness is for you. If comparisons, criticisms, worries, and things-to-do consume your thoughts, then mindfulness is for you.
Once you are practicing mindfulness regularly, you can focus more on what is important, and you will be less apt to let your negative thoughts and emotions take over. Who hasn't had the experience of her toddler screaming and crying in public? Mindful parents will be aware of their feelings, show themselves (and their child) compassion, and be able to accept the situation as it is, not get caught up in feelings of frustration, embarrassment, anger, etc. With a deep breath, mindful parents can then confront the situation with a clearer head and stay true to their values and what they know to be best for their child.
Here are some simple ways to be a more mindful mommy:
Guided meditations can be found online. Start with two minutes and gradually increase sessions as you get better at meditating.
Start a gratitude journal (learn to notice and appreciate the positive aspects of life on a daily basis).
Practice at bedtime, paying attention to the sensations of each part of your body starting from the top of your head going down to your toes. Relax any tension you might feel as you go (if you can). Some sensations to notice are coolness, warmth, tingling, pressure, tension, etc.
When you go out for a walk with your little one, focus on your breathing and match your breathing to your footsteps.
When you are in the shower, practice mindfulness by noticing the temperature and pressure of the water as it runs over you. Take in the scent of the soap. Notice your breathing.
While you nurse or bottle-feed your baby, take note of your feelings, body sensations, and focus on your breathing (notice your breath going in and out of your nostrils or pay attention to your belly rising and falling with each breath).
It’s important to remember that mindfulness is not about suppressing or changing your thoughts, but rather about “changing how you relate to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.” (Vieten, C. Mindful Motherhood: Practical Tools for Staying Sane During Pregnancy and Your Child’s First Year)
The goal of being mindful is not to change who you are as a person/mother/wife/sister/daughter, but rather to help you become more connected to what is happening inside and around you in the moment.
“We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take time to enjoy where we are.”
― Bill Watterson
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