Based on Buddhist philosophy, ‘mindfulness’ is a deliberate way of being and research shows that people who practise the art of observation – (deliberately making a point of noticing all the tiny details of each moment) – report decreased stress levels and a greater sense of happiness. The benefits are certainly worth having and with just a little bit of practice you too can begin to live your life mindfully and encourage your child to do the same.
It’s not uncommon for our minds to flip between the past (to things that happened even five minutes ago) and the future (to things that you’re planning). In doing so, it’s possible to completely ‘miss the moment’ in life and stumble through it without ever getting to appreciate the good parts.
How many of us rush through Christmas, for example, with only January’s credit card bill as a reminder?
And this doesn’t just happen to adults – have you ever taken your child to a friend’s birthday party and watched them miss out on the fun and games because they were fussing and obsessing about whether their coat would be safe in the cloakroom, or what they’d be given to eat later?
Exercise No. 1
Next time you go for a walk outside, describe everything that you see on your way, creating a running commentary for your child: ‘The leaves on that tree are very green; there’s a brown dog running past; that lorry has big black wheels; the sun is shining brightly today; there’s a warm breeze on my face, can you feel it too?; I can hear the sound of the gravel crunching as we walk across the path.’
You can also use this technique on simple activities that you do around the house, such as washing hands.
– ‘I can see you turning on the hot tap and now adding some cold water too.
– The soap is very green – I’m wondering, is it cold to the touch?
– You’re squirting the soap on your left hand and rubbing it against the right hand now.
– It looks slippery and I can see you’re making lots of bubbles.
– I can hear the water gurgling down the plughole – that’s a funny sound isn’t it?
To begin with this may feel rather strange, but supplying this running commentary will encourage your child to ‘stay in the moment’ will calm down their thoughts and snap them out of needless worrying and ruminating. This is especially good to incorporate into the bedtime routine when worries about the next school day may begin to surface.
Exercise No. 2
Encourage your child to notice what’s going on around them and actively ‘create memories’ by pretending to have a camera in their mind that takes imaginary snapshots. They can notice all the good things as they happen – for example: a best friend pulling silly faces; a lovely birthday cake; jazzy decorations etc. You can encourage them to do this by simply asking – “take a look around the room now and tell me, if you had a camera, what would you take a picture of?” Find out which moments would they record and why.
Alicia Eaton is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Advanced NLP Therapeutic Specialist based in London’s Harley Street. You can read more about her strategies for success in her latest book: “Fix Your Life…with NLP”. For more details see www.aliciaeaton.co.uk