Ahhh, summer. The weather is warm, the sun is shining, the days are long, and the kids are out of school. The end of the school year was exhausting, and you are ready for a restful and relaxing break. Although you’ve vowed to be more present this summer, the daily demands of life continue to get in the way of that promise. Between camp carpool, work deadlines, and packing the family for the beach, your stress level (and your family’s) isn’t any different than it is during the school year. If this sounds like your version of summer vacation, mindfulness can help!
What is mindfulness?
Sometimes when people hear mindfulness, their initial response is to picture a skilled yogi sitting cross-legged in a candlelit room chanting “ohhhmmm.” Often, this preconceived notion gives mindfulness a bad rap. Mindfulness is, in fact, the act of consciously focusing your mind in the present moment without judgement and without attachment to the moment.
Why be mindful?
Research has shown that mindfulness can help with a variety of issues stemming from depression, emotion regulation, and anxiety to sleep disturbances and self-esteem. It can help us bring our awareness to what is going on for us externally and internally. We can then become much more attuned to what’s happening in the present. Mindfulness practice can also help our kids learn to pay attention to their minds and their bodies and to better understanding their feelings.
How can I introduce mindfulness to my family?
Mindfulness practice looks different for everyone. It can include yoga, meditation, or deep breathing and can be practiced individually or with others. A wonderful benefit of practicing mindfulness as a family is that it can fuel connection and create fun memories. It also gives our kids (and us for that matter) a much-needed break from screen time. Now that we know what mindfulness is and how it can be beneficial, here are three ways to incorporate it into your family’s daily life, starting this summer!
Observe the Sky
Spread a blanket out on the grass and take some time to stare at the clouds. What shapes do you see? Are there any animals or people? Spend about 15-20 minutes really studying and observing the sky. Take notice of how the clouds roll along. Are there any changes in the shapes that you saw initially? Did a cloud look like a dog and change to a giraffe? This is a wonderful way to introduce the idea that our minds can act like the sky: thoughts float through and change on their own. We can take the time to watch our thoughts in our minds like we watched the clouds.
Change it up: Try this on a particularly starry night! How many stars can you count? Do you see any constellations?
Get Outside for the Popsicle Challenge
Eat a Popsicle on a hot day! Except this time, do it mindfully. Challenge your family to be completely silent until they finish the whole popsicle. Really encourage them to use their senses while eating. What flavor do they notice? Do they hear anything while they’re eating? What does the popsicle smell like? Does the popsicle start to feel different in their mouth as it starts melting? Was it hard to stay quiet the whole time?
Change it up: Try this mindful eating with delicious summer berries or some refreshing lemonade after a fun family bike ride.
Take Your Senses on a Walk
Go for a walk in your neighborhood and ask your family to notice 10 things they’ve never paid attention to before. Maybe it’s the color of the neighbor’s front door or how many different types of flowers they can find. Maybe there are different sounds or smells that they notice too! Start a conversation about why these things have gone unnoticed. Mindfulness involves slowing down and observing, so this activity is great to turn movement into mindfulness practice!
Change it up: On a particularly stormy or steamy day, try a listening walk at the mall! What sorts of foods do you smell at the food court? How many voices do you hear walking through the halls? Are there stores you’ve never noticed before?