We have never been as good as today. In the last century, the average income has tripled, infant mortality has been cut down, the duration of life is doubled and the new generations are connected and educated as never before in human history. There are huge opportunities for the future and yet a growing number of people feel sad, depressed and angry.
How can we improve the quality of our lives and our psycho-physical state?
One useful tool I use is mindfulness, a technique of relaxation and stress management that everyone can practice to rest his mind and resume physical energies. The term “mindfulness” has been used for the first time in 1979 by Jon Kabat Zinn at the University of Massachusetts to help patients with long-term diseases to manage stress and anxiety. In fact at that time with traditional drug therapies they seemed to get worse.
Mindfulness is an inner calm space where you learn and become fully aware of your thoughts, your physical condition and yours surrounding and accept the here and now, and reality as it is.
It is just a technique based on deep breathing and has no religious or spiritual connotations. There is not a point of arrival, there is no “Nirvana” to reach and there is no right way or a wrong way to practice it. The important thing is giving it a try!
Being mindful means to be in touch with everything that happens to you. Mindfulness is the art of spotting out, being curious and open and just flow with life. Have more confidence in life and enhance your creativity and personal satisfaction.
Even children under 5 years old can practice mindfulness and getting great benefits. Every night at home we practice five minutes of mindfulness with our baby and he just loves it!
Here is what we use:
• 1 Tibetan bell or a small gong or a deeply relaxing music
• 1 comfortable pillow
• 1 warm and soft plaid
• The baby’s favorite doll/puppet
We position comfortably on the floor or on a couch or in a chair. You should always be comfortable and quiet and away from TV, phones and electronic devices. Those who wish can cover themselves with a warm plaid.
This tecnique begins by getting the baby to play the Tibetan bell with a twist. This is the start of this sort of meditation. We make 3 deep breaths inhaling through the nose “IN” and exhaling through the mouth “ES”. Then again we make 5 breaths to inhale a gold dust cloud full of energy, well-being and joy and exhaling a cloud of coal, toxins … fear, anger and boredom go away. At this point we have one minute of silence to listen to our heart. Tum-tum-tum-tum .. And after this another minute of silence, to hear the noises of the house: perhaps the noise of a car in the distance or the chirping of birds.
Usually a child is able to maintain his focus one minute for each year of age. A 4 year old kid will be very good, if he can keep the focus on the practice for about 4 minutes.
At first this evening practice seems like a game or a diversion, but little by little, day by day, it will turn into an effective technique to handle boredom, anger or physical agitation. You will see your child automatically expire to let out the anger and breathe deeply if, for example, he is provoked or attacked.
Becoming aware of the breath and do this practical exercise to manage an emotional issue will cause your kid, over time, learn to act and not simply react.
If we make the mistake to accustom our kids to manage their stress and emotions by external factors such as TV, a new toy or sweets, they are more likely to develop as adults, addiction on junk food, drugs, alcohol or gambling.
Thanks to recent scientific discoveries, today the concept of neuroplasticity is opposed to the accepted belief, throughout the last century, that the brain structure cannot evolve during adulthood. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change, structurally and functionally, in response to the experience, as a result of cognitive inputs that occur during life. If it is true that the child brain is extremely plastic, it is also proven that, under favorable conditions, an adult brain can reorganize and change for a large extent. The brain can even create new neurons (neurogenesis). Neuroplasticity is a kind of “superpower” and it’s up to us to decide whether and how to use it, depending on how we move and act, on our beliefs, habits and lifestyle, we have the opportunity to constantly shape our brains and ultimately our lives.
If you want to feel more often happiness, joy, tenderness, if you want to increase your focus on what you really like, solve problems creatively and cope better with stress, try mindfulness.
For starters these two books will be helpful: “The art of mindfulness” by Danny Penman and “10 minutes mindful” by Goldie Hawn