Have you ever made it to the end of a day only to realize you have no idea what book you read to your preschooler before bed? Or what you talked about with your mom on the phone earlier that day? Or even what you had for breakfast that morning?
I’ve so been there. I spend so much time just rushing from one thing to the next and don’t really stop to think about what I’m doing or who I am with. I don’t have time to slow down, right? I’m a mom! <<That’s what I tell myself anyways.>>
Today, for example, I was working on my laptop trying to finish up “one small thing” which we all know takes way longer than we plan for. Well, my son was desperately trying to get me to play with him. He asked me nicely a couple of times and I told him just a few more minutes. Well a few minutes later I was still on my laptop and he got impatient. So he started saying “mommy, mommy, mommy” over and over again. Talk about frustrating!
But it was my own fault. I wasn’t being present with my son. I could have just taken a 15 minute break from my work, played with my son and then he’d get his mama fill and I could get back to work.
Instead I was trying to do my work and play with my kiddo at the same time. He knows that trick and it doesn’t work. I knew that I needed to try something different if I wanted to truly be present and make lasting memories with my loved ones.
What is Mindfulness?
I had learned about mindfulness through a training I completed at work. I knew about meditation and to be honest I thought it was the same thing as mindfulness. And I had thought meditation was reserved for monks and the last few minutes of yoga class. There was no way I’d ever do that on my own. But I signed up for the training in hopes that I would learn something new. And I am so glad that I did!
One of my biggest takeaways from that training was that you don’t need to practice meditation to reap the benefits. What??
->This is where mindfulness comes in.
The book Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) defines mindfulness as “present-moment awareness, an open and friendly willingness to understand what is going on in and around you.”
To me, mindfulness is about decluttering your mind of judgement and thoughts about past or future events. It’s about focusing on the present moment, whatever that may be for you.
My next question was…
How do I practice mindfulness during my daily tasks?
According to an article on be.magazine, “you can bring mindfulness to everyday activities simply by tuning in to your senses, which helps you to actually be present in what you are doing, rather than lost in thinking.”
I was intrigued by this idea so I started to practice mindfulness during every day mom and dad tasks. What surprised me was that I started to notice a change in my attitude towards these menial tasks. Instead of another item to cross off my to do list I started to look forward to story time and diaper changes and feedings. These were times I could slow down a little and really be present with my kiddos. On top of that I noticed that I was more aware of the little details during these tasks as well. For more info on how mindfulness differs from meditation check out this article here.
Now, I am definitely not perfect. I am not mindful during all of these tasks every single day. If there is a diaper change in the middle of the night the only thing on my mind is how quickly I can get both of us back to sleep. 🙂 But when I notice that I am a little anxious or I start forgetting the details of the day, I try to slow it down and focus on being mindful.
Mindfulness and Your Breath
If you have read anything about mindfulness one of the first things you probably learned was that your breath is a good place to begin. By focusing on your breathing you are focusing on the present moment. Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindful Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) encourages you to be aware of your breathing pattern, without trying to change it. Just be aware how you are breathing, whether fast or slow, or if you are holding your breath. Practicing mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment without judging it or letting your thoughts run away with you.
With your breath in mind, I encourage you to pick one of the tasks below and try to pay attention to what you’re doing. See if your own attitudes towards these tasks change as a result of practicing mindfulness.
Practice Mindfulness During These Parenting Tasks
1. Feeding your baby. Notice the weight of your baby in your lap. If you are nursing, notice how it feels in your own body. If you are bottle feeding, think about how the bottle feels in your hand. Think about the sounds you hear – your baby sucking, any other sounds around you. Notice the rise and fall of your baby’s belly as they breathe.
2. Doing the dishes. Notice the temperature of the water on your hands. Notice the feel of the suds. The feel of the dishes. Notice the sound of the running water.
3. While changing/dressing your baby or child. Notice the feel of the clothes. Notice the colors and textures. Is your baby calm or squirmy? Does your baby make any noises? Notice the smoothness of your baby’s skin.
4. During story time. Think about the weight of your child on your lap. Think about the feel of the book in your hands and how it feels to turn the pages. Does your child ask any questions or giggle at the story?
5. While driving in the car. Notice your hands on the wheel. What is your posture like? What noises do you hear? Notice any tension in the body.
Making Mindfulness a Habit
It doesn’t really matter what task you pick, as long as you pick something and stick with it for a few days. Actually remembering to be mindful during the day was a challenge for me. In his book The Habit Guide: Zen Habits’ Most Effective Habit Methods + Solutions, Leo Babauta recommends adding reminders around you such as on your phone’s lock screen, on your computer’s wallpaper, physical reminders on your desk or near your bed. He also recommends having certain cues to remind you to check in and practice mindfulness. For example entering a room, getting in your car, looking at someone’s face, putting on your clothes, or getting in the shower.
For more ways to practice mindfulness in daily life check out this New York Times column “Meditation for Real Life” or this article “Ten Ways to Practice Mindfulness Without Meditating.”
Have you ever practiced mindfulness?
What has your experience been? Share in the comments below!
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