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Parents reading a book to child

Topics addressed in this article:

Practicing mindfulness as parents

Ask any parent and they will tell you how wonderful it is to watch your children grow each day. But they may also say that parenting can be difficult and a little overwhelming at times. And with busy schedules, we know it may be hard for parents to squeeze in personal time. But practicing mindfulness throughout your day can help you feel calm and in control of the situations you encounter such as dealing with tantrums, mediating fights between siblings and more.

Let’s get into everything you need to know about mindfulness and how you can incorporate it into your daily lives as parents.

What is mindfulness?

Being mindful involves focusing on the present moment and taking things slow rather than thinking about what comes next in your long list of things to get done (we’ve all been there!). It also involves letting go of the idea that everything needs to be perfect – mistakes and mess-ups are completely natural and part of what it means to be a parent. Mindfulness practices are designed to help alleviate stress, acknowledge your emotions, and support you in developing patience.

What are some ways parents can practice mindfulness?

By now, you may have guessed that there is no one way to practice mindfulness – and you’re right. Mindfulness comes in many shapes and forms! Methods that work for you may not work for other parents and vice versa. Trying out different mindfulness practices can help you get an understanding of what works best for you. Here are some quick activities you can do to make mindfulness a part of your daily routine.

Breathe in, breathe out

Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to instantly lower any mental stress. Take it one step further by trying out the 4, 5, 6 breathing method. Start by inhaling deeply through your nose all the way down to the bottom of your stomach and slowly exhale through your mouth. Next, breathe in deep once again. But this time, breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 6. Repeat this process as many times as you need to.

So, how does something as simple as breathing help calm us down? Well, if you think about it, when we’re in stressful situations it can be hard to talk your way through these emotions. If someone tells us “calm down” in a heightened environment, it’s not really going to help us. In fact, it may stress us out even more! When we’re stressed, the prefrontal cortex (the rational thinking part of the brain) is impaired, making it difficult to use logic and reasoning. Research shows that changing the way we breathe can signal to our body that we need to relax. Altering the rhythm of our breath slows down our heart rate and stimulates the vagus nerve – the nerve that regulates our “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” modes. This ultimately triggers our parasympathetic nervous system to bring the body to a calmer state and help us regain control of our thoughts once again.

Find mindfulness in the mundane

Brushing teeth, washing dishes, and chewing food– these are things that we do on a daily basis, and sometimes even more than once in a day. These tasks have become so regular that we’re often on autopilot while completing them. But training yourself to be aware while you’re doing these tasks can actually help reset your mind. So, the next time you brush your teeth, focus your attention on each individual tooth. And when you’re having your meal, be mindful of every sensation you feel while chewing your food and tasting the various flavours. Try to be as present as possible and truly connect with yourself during these moments. It may feel silly at first, but it will feel rewarding in the long run!

Fuel your inner child

Father and son painting

Think back to when you were younger. What activities did you enjoy most? It could be colouring, playing a board game, painting, reading a book, making snow angels or creating sand castles. Whatever the activity, try to bring some of that back into parenthood. It can be a great way to connect with your younger self and as an added bonus, a way to bond with your little ones! Participating in tactile activities that require moving your hands can also be beneficial to relieving stress. Research shows that this type of self-paced movement triggers our lower brain and helps us step out of the fight-or-flight response.

On top of that, bringing back the joys of your childhood promotes a sense of nostalgia, playfulness, and as a result relaxation. This can help you take a moment from your daily routine and add a little bit of fun and laughter to your day.

Kids look up to us and follow our every move. This means if they see us stressed, chances are that they might feel tense too. Practicing mindfulness every day not only helps you develop healthy patterns so you can be the best version of yourself for your children, but it also teaches your little ones the same healthy habits.

Sources:
Mindful Parenting
30 Mindfulness Activities for Parents to Help You Relax and Focus on the Present
Mindfulness for Parents
Mindful Eating
Research: Why Breathing Is So Effective at Reducing Stress

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