Mindfulness is paying full attention to things in the here and now, such as your thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and the world around you, in a non-judgemental way.
There’s no special place of calm you have to reach when you practice mindfulness - it’s not about clearing your mind, it’s just an honest and kind look at what you’re experiencing in this moment. Sometimes, mindfulness happens naturally, such as when you are really concentrating on a task, but a lot of the time it is easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much.
Practising mindfulness can be beneficial to your wellbeing. It can improve sleep, concentration, attention, self-control and ability to manage your emotions. It can also decrease levels of anxiety and low mood.
How do I get started?
Mindfulness is a skill you can learn, but it takes practice! There are lots of ways to practice mindfulness, like eating or brushing your teeth mindfully or even mindful walking.
You can practice using your different senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Try picking different things to focus on that help you practice training your attention.
You can search for free mindfulness videos or audio clips online or try apps like ‘Calm’ or ‘Headspace’.
Here is an example of a mindful breathing exercise.
- Sit in a relaxed, comfortable position. Breathe normally while you simply pay attention to your breath. If you want, you can close your eyes. As you breathe in and out, just notice each breath. Pay attention in an easy way — on purpose, but not forced. Notice how your body feels, such as the rise and fall of your chest or belly and your breath on your lips or nostrils.
- Notice when your mind wanders away from paying attention to your breath. Maybe you start thinking about what's for lunch, or whether you remembered to do your homework, or that funny joke someone told after maths class. That's your mind wandering and getting distracted. It's natural and normal, our minds do that all the time!
- Whenever you notice your attention has wandered, gently guide your attention back to your breathing again. That's how you train your attention.
- Keep paying gentle attention to your breathing. Keep bringing your attention back to the breathing every time your mind wanders. Try to do this for 5 minutes.
Have a WOW moment:
- Write WOW in the centre of a piece of paper
- Think about all the things that make you want to say ‘WOW!’ and how you feel when you think about them
- The WOWs are anything specific to you e.g. family, friends, nature, a place, a sport etc
- Write or draw your WOWs around the word WOW on your piece of paper
- Use this piece of paper to discuss your WOWs with a friend, parent, teacher, school nurse or just as a reminder to yourself about the great things in your life and use them to give you positive feelings.
Adapted from 'Hands on Scotland'.
What are anchors?
Are there times when a particular situation or person makes you feel anxious or lose confidence? Anchors develop when we have had past experience of emotional reactions to particular situations, people or experiences. Particularly when we've repeated experiences, we learn to react in set ways.
In this way, some things start to “push our buttons." It could, for example, be a particular person or group of people; a fire bell or being involved in a particular activity.
Sometimes these reactions can be positive, such as feeling happy or amused. Sometimes these feelings can be more uncomfortable, such as feeling anxious, unhappy or angry.
How to create a helpful anchor
Identify times when you feel really calm and confident. This may be when you're listening to music, stroking your family pet or enjoying time with friends. Perhaps doing something that you feel really confident about.
During these times, using one hand, place your index finger and thumb together. Notice the link between what you're doing with your hand and your calm feelings.
Really focus on this for about 30 seconds at a time and repeat once or twice a day for a couple of weeks. You'll begin to form a connection between holding your hand in this position and feeling calm and confident.
Helpful hint: Set a reminder on your phone to practise the technique at a set time once or twice a day.
How positive anchors can help you stay calm and confident:
When you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety place your hand in the position that you have practised.
Your brain will have learned to relate this hand position to a calm and confident state.
What's helpful is that you can then place your hand in this position under the desk, in your coat pocket or placed down by your side; so you don’t have to worry about people noticing or asking questions.
How can mindfulness help my child?
Children who are resilient are often healthier, happier in their relationships, more successful in school and less likely to become depressed.
What can I do to help my child?
Find five minutes quiet time during your day to spend with your child.
Practice with your child and encourage them to use some simple breathing techniques and exercises. Make this a habit and part of you and your child’s daily routine.
Helping your child to 'bounce back'
When children and young people are able to take a few moments before reacting to difficult situations, they can become more thoughtful, resilient and caring.
As parents/carers you are the most important people to help build children’s resilience. Building resilience can help children manage stress, feelings of anger, anxiety and uncertainty.
Practicing mindfulness exercises can calm and focus your child’s attention. Practice every day for a few minutes until mindfulness is part of you and your child’s routine.
Ways to build your child's resilience (developed by Michelle Bridges 2016)
Caring relationships Building a close, loving relationship with your child is the most important thing you can do. Attention and affection makes your child feel secure, loved and accepted .
Positive role models Your child learns how to behave by seeing how their parents behave. It's important to show your child through your attitudes and behaviours, how you'd like them to behave.
Daily routines Children often want routine and structure and can find it reassuring .
Safety Make sure your child has a place where they feel safe, whether that's at home or school or both.
Good Communication Talk to your children and answer questions honestly in simple language.
Encouragement By supporting your child to keep trying you can develop confidence in their ability. Set them realistic goals and focus on positives.