BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS
Research tells us that there are many benefits to being mindful. When adults practice mindfulness, they can be more emotionally sensitive to the children in their care. So how do we build our capacity to stay present and mindful? How can mindfulness practices help parents and providers respond compassionately to a child who may be having big feelings when we too are experiencing big feelings?
Mindfulness can improve our focus, which will help us make conscious choices about where we should focus our attention. This can help us to be more consistent with following through on the tasks which may demand our attention. The ability to remain focused for sustained periods has been linked to positive emotions, creativity, problem-solving and psychological flexibility (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010; Mrazek et al., 2013).
Mindfulness may help us self-regulate, allowing us to provide supportive, nurturing co-regulation that young children need to develop a strong social-emotional foundation. According to Getting Started with Mindfulness: A Tool Kit for Early Childhood Organizations from Zero to Three, when we can respond calmly and model this consistently, we can “share our calm” with parents to strengthen the parent-professional relationship. When caregivers are sensitive to a child’s feelings, they can help the child begin to understand their feelings and become sensitive to the causes and consequences of their emotions. Daniel Siegel reminds us to “connect first” then “name it to tame it”. We can remember that we ‘download our calm’ into the children and families we serve.
Mindfulness can help us consider another’s perspective to respond without judgment and with empathy. When we are able to observe our own experiences without judgment, we can begin to identify our habitual patterns of thinking and shift our perspective, engage in objective listening and receive another’s point of view to consider their perspective. Mindfulness interventions can increase empathic response (Block-Lerner et al., 2007).
Mindfulness helps us to recognize when we are being self-critical or experiencing feelings of distress, allowing us to gain self-compassion. We realize that we are all imperfect beings and this can help us connect to others, and ourselves, more deeply.