Mindfulness has become somewhat of a “buzzword” lately. Most everyone I have come in contact with knows generally what it means: “To be present in the now.” There’s countless books, seminars, life coaching, and apps that are given as tools to help us attain this, but to some, mindfulness can feel superficial, like a “quick fix” or a band aid approach. Is sitting down trying to calm our thoughts REALLY going to change our life? There have been multiple scientific studies that prove an 8 week MSBR intervention ( mindfulness stress-based reduction) shows an increase in grey matter ( a region in our brain), which is associated with learning and memory processes, emotional regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. So overall, it sounds like we should be implementing it, right? So then why is it so hard to put into practice and why are more people finding it’s not “changing their life”?
I have a few theories about why people struggle with understanding and implementing mindfulness; one theory is that as a present day society, we live on the crux of instant gratification. We aren’t practicing these strategies for a long enough period, therefore aren’t actually changing our brain matter. The second theory is based around the idea that people don’t truly believe that if we focus on ourselves, the world will change. Ronald Purser wrote on The Guardian Magazine, “It is sold as a force that can help us cope with the ravages of capitalism, but with its inward focus, mindful meditation may be the enemy of activism”. He states, “Reducing suffering is a noble aim and it should be encouraged. But to do this effectively, teachers of mindfulness need to acknowledge that personal stress also has societal causes. By failing to address collective suffering, and systemic change that might remove it, they rob mindfulness of its real revolutionary potential, reducing it to something banal that keeps people focused on themselves”. The part I agree with is that we should try and utilize mindfulness to create systemic change by working with our local government to update outdated structures that are no longer serving us. However, I do believe seeing a large magnitude of change externally has to start with each specific individual creating that change from within, or it will not last. So how can we create these changes and teach them to children, and how does mindfulness play its role?
For starters, being conscious of our day to day, moment to moment thoughts is KEY! Half of the time we are so concerned with things that haven’t happened yet, or things which already did happen, we forget to ‘check in’ where we are in this moment! Sure, we all have a laundry list of things we need to get done in one day ( which also includes piles of piles of laundry, am I right?), but being aware of what we are doing in the moment will help calm the anxiety around getting those things accomplished. Once we are aware of our own moment to moment thoughts, we can help implement that into our children’s lives. A few ways to do this are: talking walks together and asking the child to point out 5 things that they see around them, making a ‘calming jar’, coloring; these are a few exercises to work through together to start awareness of the present moment.
As adults, it’s a lot harder to implement these changes in our pre-programmed thoughts and patterns, which is why it’s extremely important to teach our children these tools to navigate their way through this fast-paced life we live in. Technology is only increasing, workloads are becoming larger, and our children are our future. So let’s work together to build a happy, healthy, and mentally sound future together. I’ll be discussing further strategies in my 9 part series on the curriculum I am working on to implement these social emotional skills to children.