3 Simple Steps to Mindfulness for Non-Meditating Moms
From yoga teachers to Fortune 500 executives, everyone and her brother seems to be talking about Mindfulness singing its praises.
So, what’s the deal? What is “mindfulness” and why is it seemingly the answer to all of our problems, including our parenting challenges?
Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention to what’s happening in the here and now in an open, curious, accepting and discerning way.
The concept is rooted in a 2600-year-old Buddhist tradition which holds that the acceptance of life’s inevitable suffering is a crucial component of achieving happiness.
Sounds a little pessimistic at first glance, but if you think about it, it’s not really our experiences that cause us to suffer, it’s how we think about those experiences.
It’s not the fact that my child is refusing to put his shoes on and now we’re going to be late that causes me to suffer. It’s that having a child who doesn’t listen makes me feel like I’m a “bad” parent, being late is my biggest pet peeve in the world and I swear to god if he doesn’t put that damn shoe on right now!!!
You get the picture. It’s our story about what’s happening, not what’s actually happening that causes us to suffer.
Being in the present moment, in a non-judgmental way or being “mindful” helps you tune into what’s actually happening without getting caught up in the story you have surrounding it. This translates into you being able to better handle life’s curveballs, which means less suffering.
Mindfulness = Let go of your story = Be in present moment = Handle stress better = Happier!
Now for the hard part: How to practice mindfulness in your daily life.
The “formal” way of practicing mindfulness is through meditation. If you've found your way to this blog post, I have a feeling you’re thinking- “You know, the mindfulness thing sounds great and all and I’m sure it’s helpful, but the mere thought of meditating irritates me, so I’m pretty sure it’s not for me! Also, just for the record, if one more person tells me that meditating changed their life, I’m definitely going to lose it.”
I don’t blame you (I’ve felt the same!) and I have good news for you: There are lots of ways you can practice mindfulness that don’t involve meditating!
Here are 3 simple ways to practice mindfulness for non-meditating moms:
1. Take a breather. Right when you wake up in the morning and/or before you go to bed, take two to three minutes to breathe. Literally just breathe. Focus on taking nice, big, “belly breaths” and practice keeping your attention on your breath. When your mind wanders, as it will, just gently bring your focus back on your breath. It’s amazing what a mere two minutes of deep breathing will do for calming your nervous system and helping you feel grounded.
2. Anchor the good. I got this one from psychologist and mindfulness expert, Dr. Rick Hansen. To counteract our predisposition to seek out the negative (left over from our saber-tooth tiger hunting days), Hansen proposes that we get in the habit of intentionally “anchoring the good.”
Here’s how it works: When you’re experiencing something that brings you joy/makes you smile/ gives you the warm fuzzies, take a moment to tune into your body and notice what you’re feeling. Once you locate it- a warm sensation in your heart, a lightness in your normally tense neck and shoulders, butterflies in your belly- notice it, breath into it and “anchor” it.
In other words, don’t gloss over those joyful moments, really take them in and feel them. Doing this regularly increases your happiness, improves your well-being and helps you become more… mindful.
3. Get in the zone. If you’re not familiar with the Zones of Regulation, click here for a quick rundown. In our house, we use a modified version of the Zones- instead of using all four, we use three: green is when we’re calm and regulated, yellow is when we’re starting to get triggered and red is when when we’ve lost it.
Teach your kids the zones and give examples of what types of behaviors/feelings accompany each:
Green- sharing, cooperating, listening, being kind and respectful/ happy, calm, engaged, relaxed
Yellow- whining, complaining, saying something unkind, grabbing a toy, purposely antagonizing/ agitated, irritated, annoyed, hyper
Red- hitting, yelling, throwing toys, kicking, slamming doors/ angry, hurt, sad, irate, rageful
Your goal is to notice and call out when you and/or the kids are in the yellow and then model ways to get back into the green.
Here’s what it looks like:
Scenario 1: Your kids are playing when your older child grabs a toy from your younger child which causes him to start screaming.
“Oh no! It sounds like you are in the yellow! How can we get back into the green? H, instead of grabbing, use your words and ask. C, instead of screaming, take a deep breath and use your words to tell H how you’re feeling.”
Scenario 2: Your kids are rough-housing and the noise-level is starting to drive you insane (my life every day!).
“You guys, the noise-level is causing mommy to go into the yellow. If you’re going to rough-house, I need you to do it upstairs so I can stay in the green.”
Scenario 3: You’re trying to get out the door, your kids aren’t cooperating and you’re about to snap.
“Boys, I’m feeling very frustrated and I'm in the yellow. I don’t want to go into the red, so I’m going to take three deep breaths (cue your big belly breaths). Ok, I’m a little more calm. Now, get your damn shoes on and get in the car!” Kidding- more like, “Ok, last one to the car is a rotten egg! Ready, go!” (my boys respond well to games and for some reason the whole ‘last one is a rotten egg’ thing totally works with them!).
When you practice “ the zones,” you’re noticing when behavior and feelings have “wandered” and then you’re modeling ways to bring them back to the present. A real-time, non-meditative mindfulness practice!
You don’t have to be a Tibetan Monk to practice Mindfulness! There are simple ways you can incorporate it into your daily life that, over time, will increase your ability to be present, decrease your reactivity and make parenting much more enjoyable (read: less crazy, more calm!).
For more practical and tangible tips on how to be a more mindful parent, check out this episode of the Exceptional Parenting podcast with parent expert extraordinaire, Wendy Bertangole. In it, Wendy and I talk all things Mindful Parenting and I give more simple, practical, non-meditating ways you can practice mindfulness in your daily life.
Wendy has created this FREE printable
If you need more support, CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE 30-minute parenting strategy session. I’ll help decode your child’s challenging behaviors and give you some tools to decrease the crazy and increase the calm.
What are your thoughts on Mindfulness? Is it something you practice? How has it helped your parenting? Leave your comments below, the Sensory Mom community and I would love to hear from you.