By: Connie Masullo
It’s amazing how anyone can be present in this technology driven, multi-tasking world. Picture this scenario – you leave work, pick up the children and call your husband to decide what is for dinner. When you ask the kids how their day was you barely listened because you are running a tally of to-dos that you want to complete this evening. You usher the children quickly inside, four bags in tow. You start emptying the bags, packing lunches for the next day, when you realize the kids haven’t washed their hands. Without stopping you yell down to the kids, who already have the television blasting, to come back up to wash their hands. After you pack lunches a
nd put their coats, shoes, and belongings away, you start dinner. You have food in the oven and a pot on the stove. You hear the familiar ding of your phone. With the television still blaring and the kids now arguing you look down to see three emails from work and a few text messages from friends. You start replying and smell food burning. The kids finally clamor back up the stairs to wash their hands. At this point, you are in sensory overload and don’t even know it. When washing their hands they spill water all over the floor. You look up from your phone and start yelling and screaming about the mess. Your children look at you shocked and scared. Instantly you feel terrible and realize that you hadn’t been paying attention. You were busy multitasking and trying to get things done that you were not present at all. You didn’t notice how the stress was accumulating. Does this sound familiar? In our constant rush of the run, run, run it would benefit us to slow down and practice the art of being MINDFUL.
Mindfulness – You may be hearing this word everywhere but what does it mean? Mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition)
In the scenario above where did this mom miss the cues? She was not present, nor accepting and missed bodily sensations. It is hard when our attention is being pulled in so many different directions to be fully present and “at the moment.”
Intention – Make an intention to focus on what is happening in the present moment with curiosity and kindness, and without judgment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. How do we achieve mindfulness you ask? Read on to learn how to incorporate small activities into your everyday life to increase mindfulness.
Nature – According to Dr. Bjarte Stubhaug, M.D., Ph.D., Nature is always fresh. Never past, nor future. It is always here and now. You cannot do nature; you can just be there. Being is calming. By merely listening and being aware of nature around you, by letting your senses and sensations of nature fill your room of awareness, you will experience a distance to your emotions, making it possible to let go of them. So take that walk, enjoy the sunset, take a hike and drive to the beach just to sit. Incorporate small doses of nature into your everyday life and you will see your mind making a shift.
Deep breathing – There’s science to show that taking a deep breath and staying calm when your children are pushing you to the edge causes positive changes in the brain. The most common way is to use the breath as a focal point for the simple reason that it is always with us. This means that wherever you can breathe, you can practice mindfulness. Try it right now: feel your breath as it comes in your nose. Feel your chest expand. Notice what the exhale feels like.
The breath is also a great focal point because it is a physical sensation. Your attention is like a spotlight, so as you focus it on the physical sensation of breathing, it turns that spotlight away from rumination and worry. As soon as you become present in your physical reality, you feel better.
Focus on your thoughts. It’s important to know that, at first, becoming aware of your thoughts can feel crazy because it seems like your mind is like a runaway train. Don’t worry! That’s normal. Because you were lost inside these thoughts before, you were not so aware of them. Now that you’ve become aware of them, your mind may seem more unsettled than before. It’s all part of the process of becoming present. Remember that simply noticing is a win. It’s more than half the work, so celebrate it when you notice your distraction. Always ask yourself are you being mindful or is your mind full!
Unwind- Enjoy your mindfulness practice! This is a time for rest, renewal, and rejuvenation. Discover how you can make mindfulness a joy for yourself. If you’re doing a sitting meditation, get nice and cozy! Wrap yourself in your favorite blanket. Cuddle your favorite teddy! Do whatever you need to feel happy in your space.
Living fully-For many parents, the most important reason to remain mindful is the ability to show up for your family and for life without all the layers of anxiety and depression that used to prevent living fully. When you practice the art of being mindful, you will be more aware of the beauty in the world, calmer and happier. And with those benefits, you will really be there to love your children. Even better, your calmness is contagious, so a happier mommy and daddy instantly means happier children. And isn’t that our biggest goal of all, raising happy and healthy children? Happy practicing!!