Mindfulness practise is one of the most effective ways to take care of our mental and physical health. Regular mindfulness practice has been found to enhance emotional regulation, diminish stress and anxiety, elevate mood, improve quality of sleep and even lower blood pressure. More than a relaxation technique, mindfulness keeps us engaged with the present moment, guiding us away from autopilot living. But how can we weave this practice into the whirlwind of parenting? Let's explore.
The early days of parenthood are a whirlwind of emotions. We want to absorb every fleeting moment with our little ones. Yet, it’s also a time we are being pushed to our absolute limits while also navigating sleep deprivation, boredom, frustration, isolation, countless tedious moments, and endless steep learning curves. The desire to sail through these moments gracefully and savor the sweet ones is strong. However, the notion of fitting mindfulness into an already-packed schedule often seems unrealistic and almost impossible to add to an already time poor schedule that allows for minimal self-care, let alone an uninterrupted shower. This is because we have a common misconception that to effectively practise mindfulness, we will require an uninterrupted 20 minutes in a quiet space to sit cross legged with our eyes shut. This is where we are going wrong.
The real beauty of mindfulness is that is can be practiced anywhere, at any time… sitting, standing, eyes open, with a whole lot of noise and distraction. In fact, learning how to purposefully refocus our attention amidst noise and chaos is much more practical for supporting us through real life moments; as opposed to only learning how to practise mindfulness in a dimly lit yoga studio and then feeling the stress creep straight back in as soon as we return to the noise, mess and demands of looking after little humans.
So you may be wondering, if we don’t have to sit cross legged with our eyes shut, then what do we actually have to do? And the answer lies in the premise that mindfulness is a state of mind and way of being that involves being open, curious, kind, non-judgemental and observant. The more we practice this state of mind the easier it is to stay in the present and stop our mind creating unhelpful stories about the past or the future. And to start practising all we have to do is stop and purposefully bring a curious, open, non-judgemental and observant awareness to our senses in that specific moment. And when our mind wants to wonder back to usual patterns (such as worry/rumination/planning/ stressing), gently and kindly redirecting it back to what we were purposefully noticing.
Here are 5 simple examples of how to practise mindfulness on the go:
1. Shower Symphony
2. Queue Calmness
3. Breath by Breath
4. Sensory Stroll
5. Feelings Unveiled
Whilst experiencing a strong, uncomfortable feeling you can notice the physical sensations of that feeling. It can be helpful to start by naming the feeling, e.g. “I’m feeling anxious”, then really bring in your curious, kind, non-judgemental mind to start examining where the feeling is sitting in your body, how big it is, the shape of it, if it’s still or moving, if its heavy or light, what colour it would be if it had a colour, what it would feel like if you touched it. You can then use breath to breath into that area and imaging soothing it, shrinking it, making room for it so that it doesn’t feel as intense.
All these examples and practices are simple and easy to implement whilst on the go, without having to schedule in 20 minutes of uninterrupted kid free time. What they all have in common is that whilst practising them, they all provide us with a break from worrying and allow us to practise being present and peaceful in the moment. The more we practise having a calm and non-judgemental state of mind throughout our day, the easier it is to access this state during times of high stress such as a toddler meltdown in a supermarket or an unsettled teething baby that has just woken up for the 847th time during the night. So, I encourage you to start practising whenever you remember, even if it’s just for a minute at a time. It’s never too late to start mindfulness practice and it really is a superpower worth having.