Do you know what “mindfulness” is? Why should you even care? If you’re curious to know more, read on.
“Mindfulness” has become somewhat of a buzz word lately. The February 3, 2014 issue of Time magazine ran a cover story called “The Mindful Revolution: the science of finding focus in a stressed-out, multitasking culture”. Check with your public library to see if they may have a hard copy of this particular edition of the magazine.
There are also organizations that promote the practice of mindfulness in schools such as Mindful Schools in the USA and The Mindfulness in Schools Project in the UK. I’ve had the privilege of working with students on experiencing mindfulness at various schools over the years so that they can be more successful when concentrating, feeling more calm and ready to learn more effectively.
Individuals and groups can take courses to get acquainted with the practice of mindfulness with a qualified teacher of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction). Taking an in-person MBSR course with a qualified and trusted teacher is probably the best way to dive into understanding mindfulness from a secular, research-based perspective.
There are many online and offline resources you can consult for a definition of “mindfulness”. Free resources on mindfulness are available at The Greater Good website created by the Greater Good Science Center based at the University of California, Berkeley. There is even a magazine called Mindful that publishes articles on mindfulness for the general public.
You may have heard of mindful eating, mindful walking, mindful sitting, mindful breathing and other techniques and methods for experiencing yourself in a mindful state. If you haven’t, these are some ways to get a practical start with mindfulness and begin to grasp what it is.
However, the most relevant and personally meaningful definition of mindfulness comes from within yourself when you’ve had some time and experience practicing it. Like anything, deep understanding involves a complex interaction of feeling, thinking and experiencing.
3 Ways Mindfulness Benefits Your Parenting Life
Working with various mindfulness techniques and practices over the years has had a tremendous impact on my experience of parenting and also on my personal sense of wellbeing. There are many ways mindfulness can be a welcome addition to your life. If I had to identify the top 3 practical parenting benefits of regular mindfulness practice, I’d include the following:
1. Less Stress, More Joy
Without a doubt, taking time for yourself is a great way to find more small joys in a busy life with a family. Parents often neglect themselves when leading hectic lives – juggling childcare duties with daily work and staying on top of their child’s or children’s education. Taking up one of the many mindfulness practices available to you can reduce any sense of overwhelm and negative stress you may have. Sometimes all you need is some time to tune into yourself for a few minutes to find even more joy in your role as a parent.
2. Better Family Relationships
Because mindfulness is NOT about trying to control or change anyone, it can have a tremendous positive impact on your personal relationships – especially those in the family. I had an actor friend who would often wish aloud that stressed out people would “step out of the drama of their lives”. This is a benefit of mindfulness practice. It allows you to focus on the present without the drama. When you consciously take the time and make the effort to practice mindfulness regularly, the side effect is often more happiness and joy in your day-to-day life and in your family relationships.
3. More Confidence and Clarity
When you practice mindfulness, you gift yourself with the conditions that support increased clarity and confidence in your daily living. The more committed you are to having a life-long learning attitude through moment-to-moment mindfulness techniques, the more you develop the practical skills necessary for coping with a fast-paced world of complexity, change and challenges. Clarity of thought and self-confidence are not accidents. Mindfulness can help you be a more confident, conscious and intentional parent. Mindfulness is a tool you can rely on for enhanced wellbeing.
Where Do I Start?
A good place to start with mindfulness is through simple self-questioning and some short investigations. How can mindfulness make you feel? How can it influence your thinking and what are some ways to experience it?
To answer these questions for yourself, create a plan of action to get to the bottom of those important questions. First, explore the ways you might learn about how to practice mindfulness. A self-help book? An online course? Or perhaps an in-person course? It’s important to choose a method that appeals to your preferred way to learn so that you can be most successful.
Second, do it. You simply need to make a choice and then do it. Go out and buy a book and teach yourself the practice of mindfulness. Purchase an online course with virtual guidance and practice mindfulness. Join an in-person course with a small group of like-minded people to learn the practices together.
Finally, keep doing it. It takes time and experience to get to know and understand mindfulness enough to have a clear sense of the benefits. Simply reading a book isn’t the path to understanding mindfulness. Nor is signing up for an online class and then multitasking when you log in to practice. Signing up for an in-person course with others and then not showing up to all of the classes or failing to fully participate is another way to miss the path to learning mindfulness.
Be present, see and feel without casting judgement and you will be well on your way along the path to mindfulness.
What is mindfulness? (Greater Good Science Center, Berkeley)
The Mindful Revolution (Time magazine online)
Why does the Government want to teach mindfulness in schools? (The Telegraph online)
Bringing mindfulness to the school curriculum (MacLeans magazine online)