Mindfulness has become something of a buzz word in recent years, in large part because of growing research showing its benefits to mental and physical well-being. But what is it?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the American academic who first popularized the term, describes it as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Bringing your attention to the present moment can be a very useful tool. Whether it’s managing a stressful situation or just an awareness of how you are feeling. Being present with yourself helps decrease anxiety and promote happiness. And not just for adults. There is an emerging body of research that suggests mindfulness can help our children too. It can help improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset, and to make better decisions.
Mindfulness and early brain development
According to this NY Times piece, one reason why mindfulness is so effective for children is linked to brain development. Connections in the prefrontal circuits are created at their fastest rate during childhood. The skills mindfulness promotes, like focus and cognitive control, are controlled in this area of the brain. So teaching these practices at a young age could potentially have a huge impact on the development of skills including self-regulation, judgment and patience.
But teaching mindfulness to kids requires more than just showing them the literature. Kids learn most by example. So if you can bring mindfulness in to your own life you’ll be helping your kids learn these vital skills and also making yourself healthier and happier.