Believe it or not but my biggest teacher of mindfulness is my two and a half year old daughter, River. She’s at the age now where her entire world is an adventure, with curious questions and never ending exploration. She lives moment to moment, learns from the past with gentle caution and doesn’t stress about the future. I’ve been taking her to baby/toddler yoga since she was one year old and we regularly practice calm breathing techniques. I didn’t really think she understood it until recently when she actually used it on me. I was in a rush to get her ready to make nursery on time and was beginning to get short and frustrated with her for not listening to me. I was just about to start telling her off when she sat down beside me crossed her legs and began to breathe in and out. I couldn’t believe it. After taking a moment of breathing in and out, she looked at me, smiled and asked if I was happy and ok? It got me thinking about how often she teaches me to be mindful, and how much she teaches me every day.
Here’s how my toddler taught me to be more mindful. Anyone can adopt these techniques so it’s not just for you parents out there. These are great for people who don’t really like the idea of mediation, but still want to practice mindfulness.
- Mindful walks – Instead of just walking to get from A to B really notice and look at everything you are surrounded by or walking past. We’re all in the habit of rushing from one activity to another that we barely notice our surroundings. Walking with River, I’m reminded how much we disengage from life. She will notice people, animals, smells, sounds, shapes, colours and even the atmosphere, things I have learned to block out.
- Colouring Books – I used to call paint, colouring pens and play doh “contraband” in my house. The thought of the mess would stress me out so much that I would only allow for creative play for special occasions. One day during one of these rare occasions, I decided to join in and realised how calming and fun it actually was. I was so caught up in the after the mess that I was actually preventing this great activity from happening. Now when River asks to paint and colour in I don’t think about the mess, I just enjoy. There are so many mindful colouring in books out there so you don’t need to borrow your child’s cartoon ones. The point of this activity is that it helps you to focus on one thing; colouring in. It can help stop the stressful thoughts and any other to do tabs playing in your mind, giving you a well-deserved rest! It’s a really lovely way of being present.
- Say Thank You – I used to instruct River to say thank you all the time. “Say Thank you”! I’d repeat about a million times a day. It’s just something you know to teach your child, right? She would say thank you for everything including things that I didn’t expect a thank you for. She made me realise that I don’t say thank you enough! How often do we say thank you as adults? Something I thought was just for manners is actually a practice we all need to do, to be more mindful. Practising gratitude reminds you that you have so much to be grateful for, keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to practice this. When you realise that you can have so much to be grateful for your worries and stress will shrink away
- “What is this”? River asks me this question every day. What’s this? What’s that? It’s never ending. Because of this, I’m so mindful of what ingredients and chemicals are in products I use on her, which has made me more conscious of the products I use on myself. Before buying anything practice reading the label, you will be surprised how much of it is unnatural or loaded with chemicals.
- Emotion scan – I tell River all her emotions. You’re sad because you fell down and hurt yourself. You’re happy because we went to the park. I know you’re frustrated because your cousin took your toy and won’t give it back, It’s ok. I would tell her all the emotions she was feeling so she could understand her emotions better. This sounds crazy I know, but it really does teach children to identify their emotions, and also comforts them because you the adult can empathise with them. As adults, we are expected to just deal with our feelings and we sometimes ignore our emotions altogether. We don’t realise how much our emotions affect our choices. Being more mindful of our emotions allows us to identify them which enables us to manage our reactions. So the next time you feel off or wound up, take a moment and talk to yourself. Tell yourself how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. You will be surprised at how fast you can help yourself with your own mindful conversation and inner emotion scan.
– Maloy xoxo