meditation-609235_640Once a practice associated mostly with hippies, mindfulness meditation has thrown off its flower power poncho and is being reimagined as a real way for families to connect, bond and grow together.

In fact, a few minutes of mindfulness a day can help parents rediscover their childhood sense of curiosity and prevent those mini meltdown moments when the kids get a little too nuts.

The science

Scientifically proven to help focus the mind, mindfulness is about being aware of your thoughts and actions in the moment and being open and curious.

It helps to bring the mind back from default mode – that place where you dwell on the past, worry about the future and get a bit judgemental and critical.

Default mode isn’t a place you want to live in. It’s associated with stress, anxiety, depression and attention problems that affect study and work and it can contribute to mental illness.

What mindfulness meditation does is form new connections in the prefrontal regions of the brain that let us experience life through our senses. It basically rewires our brain to be present – and healthier and happier.

But if the practice of mindfulness meditation is no longer about sitting cross-legged and chanting to the gods, what is it?

New-age makeover

In recent years Mindfulness Meditation has had a new age makeover to become more relevant to our busy lives.

These days there are scores of downloadable apps providing guided meditations including free mindfulness meditation app Smiling Mind – meaning it’s now a practice that travels with you. Just bring earphones!

Just five minutes a day hooked up to a guided meditation app can dramatically change your outlook, lower blood pressure, decrease stress and even make music sound better!

Curiosity boost

One little-known benefit of mindfulness meditation is curiosity. As adults, over time we lose the natural curiosity we had as a child, processing the world through thoughts and taking things for granted.

But simple exercises can help you practice curiosity, in turn relearning how to relate to your children.

Try this: Bring your attention to your feet on the floor and become curious about whether the weight or pressure is more on your heels or toes, or is evenly distributed.

Then bring the same curiosity to your breathing, noticing the parts of your body expanding and contracting as you breathe. If you are really curious as the air enters and leaves your body through your nostrils, you’ll notice it is cooler on the way in and warmer on the way out.

Then start bringing this curiosity to everything in your day!

Coping with kids

Every parent gets a bit frazzled from time to time. The kids might have just decided to help you do the shopping, tipping over a stack of cereal boxes as they grab for their favourite brekky treat. It’s enough to make you lose your temper.

Losing your mind as a parent and telling the kids off or snapping at your partner, is really losing your mindfulness.

Actually focusing on what you are feeling and what the kids are doing is a good way of staying calm. Thinking: “I’m really feeling extremely frustrated with Master Seven right now” and giving yourself permission to process that will help avoid an explosive eruption.

A big part of being a mindful parent is paying genuine attention to your kids – living in the moment with them. Most parents know how just a few moments of genuine connection with their kids results in the kids getting the attention they were looking for and then going off to play.

Give yourself permission to pay full attention to your kids and you’ll notice immediate changes – both to them and the enjoyment you get from spending time with them.

Try this: Tune into the sound of your child’s voice, the feeling of their skin or smell of their hair. Or tune into their breathing when reading them a story at night.

This is a powerful meditation practice and really great for busy parents who have trouble putting aside time for formal meditation. Remember, mindfulness is about engaging with what is happening in the senses, from moment to moment.

By investing time into living life mindfully in the present, through mindfulness meditation, you can dramatically change the tone and happiness of your family time, discovering a peace within the mayhem of family life that you may not have thought possible.
About the author

Dr Richard Chambers BA (honours) DPsych (clinical) is a clinical psychologist and mindfulness consultant.

He is the director of the Melbourne Mindfulness Centre and an ambassador for Australian not-for-profit mindfulness meditation app Smiling Mind.

In addition to private practice, he is a mindfulness consultant at Monash University and co-author of Mindful Learning, a how-to book for people interested in using mindfulness to improve student performance and wellbeing.