No doubt you’ve heard of the word ‘mindfulness’ in recent years. There is a lot of buzz about these skills, and you may have even heard amazing stories about the possible physical and emotional benefits. If not, you can read more here.
Many people are put off from learning mindfulness skills, as they assume they need hours to sit around and meditate, Buddha-style. But you don’t. Any time spent mindfully, is time well spent. And let’s face it, by the time you have brushed the small people’s teeth and hair and made lunches and wiped a bottom or two before your morning coffee, you won’t feel like there is much ‘spare’ time.
So what exactly does ‘mindfulness’ mean? A definition I like is ‘paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally’ (Jon Kabat-Zinn). Or put simply, it is about moment to moment awareness.
All good so far. But how does a mum find time to ‘be mindful’? Firstly you might want to stop thinking (if you are) that you somehow need loads of extra time. In fact, you don’t really need any extra time to start to see some benefits. Every moment is an opportunity to be present. And hence more focused, less distracted.
So I’ve put together a few ideas of how a busy mum might take opportunities each and every day to show up more in her life (and of course that can only help the kiddies as well as your other half if there is one).
1. Take 10, or even five slow mindful breaths at the start and end of the day
Just bring your awareness to your breath – noticing as the air enters and leaves your body.
2. Pause for 5-10 mindful breaths before entering a stressful situation
Before you go in to settle a crying baby or break up a fight between your children, pause for 5-10 mindful breaths. To make this even more powerful ask yourself this question, ‘What is required of me in this moment?’ For me the answer is often very simple such as ‘patience’ or ‘love and support’.
3. Get into the habit of ‘justing’
For example, just eat lunch or just have a shower. Really taste your food or feel the warm water on your body. Notice how your mind wants to jump all over the place planning tomorrow or reviewing yesterday, rather than just focus on the moment you are in.
4. ‘Just’ plan
When you need to plan, do so and try to catch yourself when you are planning at other times, knowing that there is time for planning later as needed.
5. ‘Just’ eat or drink
This is so important for many reasons. You might choose to take even 30 seconds at the start of a meal or coffee to really notice what you can see, smell, touch, taste and even hear. With our toddler we have a giggle every time one of us eats something very crunchy as I often make a joke of it in an exaggerated voice saying ‘crunch’. With older kids, you might want to talk to them about the food they are eating and the process it takes to get it onto your plate… the farmers, the trucks, the people selling it in the shops and perhaps this could be a family exercise in gratitude.
6. Really read to your kids
Look at the pictures, read the words and as best you can and stay focused on the story. You might be surprised what you see even in books you have read 100 times before.
7. Listen to the birds
This is a personal favourite. Ever since my oldest girl was very young I have been hoping to enhance her mindfulness skills by simple suggesting that she notice. ‘Sweetheart can you hear the birdies singing?’ (or the wind rustling the trees or the church bells etc).
8. Notice your posture
This is particularly relevant for breastfeeding mums who can get all sorts of aches and pains from poor positioning, but really it might be relevant for many of us when we are busy and trying to juggle children and groceries. Take a few moments to check in with your body and see how you are standing or sitting or holding your child. Your body will thank you and it might mean less trips to the physio or chiro too!
9. Notice habits
It might be how frequently you pick up your phone to check for messages, or how you don’t always really listen to your child as they tell you about their day at school. Just bringing awareness to our habits can help us to start to shift them if we feel they no longer serve us well.
If you’d like to read more about mindfulness skills and/or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for mums, here are a few of my favourite books:
- Mindful Motherhood: Practical Tools for Staying Sane in Pregnancy and Your Child’s First Year (Cassandra Vieter)
- The Joy of Parenting: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Effective Parenting in the Early Years (Lisa W. Coyne & Amy R. Murrell)
- Buddhism for Mothers (Sarah Napthali)
And if you want your kiddlywinks to learn mindfulness skills, the following might be of interest: