‘They grow up so fast!’ With life seemingly busier than ever before, this statement has never been truer. It’s all too easy to let days pass by in a blur without noticing the small things that make life meaningful. In a world dictated by social media, it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus of what matters most.
Letting our busy lives dictate us doesn’t just affect our health and wellbeing, but can impact that of our children, too. Kids easily pick up on the stresses that are affecting us, but being more mindful can help us improve our relationships with them. Professor Lea Waters, University of Melbourne’s director of Positive Psychology, explains.
“It's about being present and giving each task your full attention,” she says. “Taking the time to listen and understand your child’s problems, promotes trust and emotional connection leading to a richer and more authentic relationship. It also teaches children how to be open and aware of the whole situation including their own thoughts, feelings and sensations, which in turn makes them less stressed.”
But how can you make yourself more ‘present’? How do you actually stop and enjoy the moment, especially when many of us are juggling kids, work and all the things involved in running a happy household?
Marion Miller is a lifestyle coach and mindfulness teacher. A single mother of four daughters, she says that mindfulness practice can help make motherhood a little less stressful and much more meaningful. “Through my mindfulness practice I have not only become a more patient and kinder mother but I have held space for my children to develop their own sense of mindfulness and identity,” she says. “Mindful mothers create ripples and your practice benefits all.”
Here are Marion's top five tips for busy mums who want to become more mindful:
- If you feel yourself getting frustrated or reactive to a situation, step backwards. Focus on your breath and let your attention move inward to your body and deliberately allow your shoulders to drop and knees to be slightly bent. Be curious about the reactivity feels in the body even if it is negative – just be with it without acting on it.
- Whenever you feel you have taken on too much or are being pulled in too many different directions get out your calendar and deliberately cancel plans. Look at what plans engage your values and strengths. Try to either reschedule or cancel those that don’t, or integrate them into other plans that are more fulfilling. Activities that engage your strengths will not use up much energy and, quite often, if you value it, it will give you energy. Create some space for yourself and you’ll be surprised about how less can actually be more – be sure to spend time alone.
- Allow yourself to enjoy your time and be present with your children. Be mindful you’re not somewhere else in your mind when you interact with your children. It is hard not to be worried about something urgent or thinking about what needs to be packed for school, or remembered for the week ahead at work and this type of thinking can become habitual if left unchecked. If you find your mind wandering, gently bring your attention back to the present moment using anchors to remind you.
- Don’t be hard on yourself. If you’re stressed and tired and find you’re not managing things as well as you would like, try not to judge yourself over it. Often mums don’t get rewarded for their constant effort and work and sometimes we can be our own worst critic. Try being a little gentle with yourself, smiling and acknowledging what a great job you do in raising children, and managing a home and career. Be self-compassionate and reward yourself with loving kindness.
- Practice self-care mindfully. How you take care of your mind, body and emotional self can be quite personal, but having a self-care strategy that you’re proud and committed to maintain will ensure you are not neglecting to look after number one. By doing this you will be able to sustain caring for and raising your children. If you don’t have a self-care strategy begin by writing five things you can do that rejuvenate and nurture you and put at least one in your calendar for next week! Prioritise sleep, eating well, exercise and mindfulness practice every week.
For more information, visit Marion’s website www.melbournecoach.com.au. Marion is offering Kids on the Coast readers a FREE copy of her Mindfulness Workbook if they register for her 4 week mindfulness life coaching package ‘Renew’ via Skype. The book is valued at $15. Simply email Marion at firstname.lastname@example.org to register and mention Kids on the Coast. The 4 week ‘Renew’ package costs $480.