20 Aug Family Mindfulness Activities
There are infinite ways to practice mindfulness. Well-known mindfulness practices include breathing exercises, sensory activities, meditation and mindful movement like yoga. But any activity can be made mindful by “paying attention, on purpose” to it and maintaining non-judgmental thoughts about the activity.
My strong interest and belief in the power of mindfulness for families stem from my role as a child therapist with CHRIS 180’s School-Based Mental Health Department and as a parent myself. I know the value of doing mindful practices together to model the behavior we want to see in our children and help stressed parents stay regulated (calm). This is why I share with families the mindset of mindfulness and specific practices and activities that caregivers and children can use to flex their mindfulness muscle.
Mindfulness, defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally,” has been shown to decrease anxiety, depression and help with emotion regulation. Research has shown that mindfulness also helps to increase well-being, positive emotions and concentration.
Since mindfulness is a mindset that needs to be developed, I encourage families to create habits that increase mindfulness. This is a mindset I am still developing with my four-year-old daughter.
I have learned a lot about mindfulness from my daughter. Like most young children, she practices mindfulness all the time by being absorbed in her play and the wonder of the natural world. I find myself simply guiding her genuine interests: stopping to watch a butterfly in flight, noticing the body sensations in a bath or a pool or sitting quietly and paying attention to the sounds around us. Reading books about mindfulness like Alphabreaths has been a fun way to teach mindful breathing to focus attention and settle the energy in one’s body. I have not successfully gotten her to sit and meditate yet, but I believe it will just take some practice, patience and help from guided kids meditation apps like Insight Timer.
Many families I work with do not know where or how to start developing this mindful mindset in themselves and their children. Below is a list of ways to incorporate mindfulness into your day as a family.
Tune into your five senses. Before getting out of bed, ask yourself: What do I see, hear, touch, taste, smell?
Do a body scan from head to toe, focusing on how different parts of your body are feeling.
Use the time together at the table to check in about feelings using a feelings chart posted on the wall.
Practice mindful eating – no phones and little talking.
Practice mindful listening by listening to a book about mindfulness.
Use progressive muscle relaxation to get your body calm and ready for sleep. To practice progressive muscle relaxation, tense a group of muscles as you breathe in and relax them as you breathe out.
Use a gratitude journal to review your blessings from the day.
Read a mindfulness book with your child. One of our favorites is A World of Pausabilities, a lesser-known book that illustrates how to pause amidst our day and enjoy a moment of mindfulness.
Listen to a guided meditation to help get to faster, deeper sleep.
Alexandra Gellin, LAPC, is a counselor with CHRIS 180’s School-Based Mental Health Department, which offers on-site therapy and mental health support services on 70 campuses throughout Metro Atlanta. Visit our website to learn more about School-Based Mental Health.