At Julia Gabriel Education, mindfulness has been an important part of our culture for decades. Being conscious of the way we behave, speak and interact with others is organically merged into our programmes, our approach to teaching and our relationships. As with all meaningful developmental practices, mindfulness is a work in progress, for us all; part of our passionate belief that being open to continual learning and growth with joy, respect and love, makes us better as individuals and as a whole.
Practising mindfulness is not difficult when we set the intention. It is not something that is out of reach to anyone. We believe mindfulness can be taught to children from a young age. Here are five things you can practise at home as a family, no matter the age of your children, to encourage mindfulness:
You are what you eat!
Sit down as a family at the dinning table and enjoy a meal together. If this is not possible every day then at least make it a regular occurrence. Plan what you will eat together. Set the table together. Most importantly, as you sit at the table and share your food be aware of what food you have in front of you. Speak your gratitude out loud for the food. Serve one another and eat your food mindfully. This involves taking your time, not rushing the occasion. Chew slowly and savour every mouthful.
Explore the senses
Simply stand still, wherever you are (assuming it is safe to do so of course!) for just one minute. In the Botanical Garden, on the beach, in the void deck of your apartment block or, even just in your living room – stand or sit still, close your eyes, take a few mindful breaths in and out. What can you hear? What noises do you notice when you stop to listen? How far away are the sounds? What can you smell? What sensations do you feel throughout your body during those few moments? Then do the same exercise but this time with your eyes open. What do you hear, smell, feel and see this time? The more you practise, the more you will attune your senses.
Screen free day – or at least half!
Set the intention for the whole family to have at least one completely screen free day per week. If once a week feels too scary to begin with then schedule this for once every two weeks; even once a month at first, gradually increasing the number of days. Be sure to schedule this into your calendar, at least initially! It may sound mechanical but if it is something that pops up in your calendar you are more likely to do it! And parents – you must role model. There is no way around this. Your children must see you engage in screen free time too to convince them it is something worth doing! Replace passive screen time with creative or physical activities that instil calm or provide meaningful, enjoyable and ‘in the moment’ experiences: reading a book, drawing, walking in the rain forest, riding bicycles along the East Coast, planting seeds in a pot on the balcony, cooking together…
One task at a time
Hands up if you think multitasking is an efficient way to work! We all do or at least try to because we feel pressurised with work, studies and life! We think we will get things done quicker if we perform several tasks at the same time. The fact is, this is a myth. Numerous studies have shown that multitasking decreases performance success and reduces efficiency. When we juggle various tasks all at the same time we are less able to filter out unwanted information, making us less organised. The brain, which is designed to perform one task at a time, simply put, gets muddled! And in some cases, studies have even found that multitasking lowers IQ! So, practise doing, and completing, one task at a time!
Listen! Listen! Listen!
This one is hard! Be honest, when you are in conversation with someone, do you always wait until they have finished their sentences before you interrupt with a response, start a story about yourself or proffer your own idea on the topic of discussion? It is very easy, and commonplace, to unwittingly disrespect another’s viewpoint, thoughts or feelings, or trip off at a tangent, unless we patiently listen and observe our own thoughts objectively. The next time you are chatting with a friend, relative or co-worker, become aware of if you are truly listening to them or not. Are you thinking of something else? And can you calmly and quietly listen to them, fully and whole heartedly, for the duration of what they are saying? Give it a try!
If actioning all five tips seems like a mountain to climb then just focus on one until it feels natural and becomes part of your daily life. Although mindfulness in itself is not difficult, starting and maintaining the practice can be. It does require intention, determination and a level of discipline. But practice makes perfect and the whole family will reap the benefits.