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Being Mindful
 
 Mindfulness is simply being aware of the present moment.
 Mindfulness is simply being aware of the present moment.
 

It seems like everyone is talking about Mindfulness lately, but what does it mean to be mindful? Mindfulness is simply being aware of the present moment.

Being mindful allows us to witness our experience without getting swept up in emotions or judgments or whatever is happening around us. It is the intentional and non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.

In The Whole Brain Child, Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson tells us that being mindful is “waking up from a life on automatic and being sensitive to everyday experiences.”  Every one of us can be mindful, as it is an innate quality. But we just may need to nurture and cultivate being in the moment if we have been living on auto-pilot for a while!

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. 

PRACTICING MINDFULNESS

So how do we start to begin a mindfulness practice?

  • Start each day with a moment of mindfulness which can be as easy as taking a few deep breaths before you get out of bed. It can be a walk or a run, journaling or coloring, reading, meditating, or praying. Just take a few minutes for yourself before starting your day.
  • Eat Mindfully: Instead of inhaling a breakfast bar in the car on the way to work, sit at the table, give thanks, and enjoy your food.
  • Go Outside: Take a few minutes to enjoy the sights, sounds, and sensations of being with nature.
  • Get Vitamin D: Many of us in the Midwest are deficient in Vitamin D. Grab a little sunshine between clients by walking a little further to your car or taking a walk around the block between kiddos. Step into nature.
  • Unplug: Is it necessary to check your emails and texts every few minutes? Do you need to “multi-task” or can you focus on one task at a time. You may find that you are more productive when you do only one thing at a time. Remind your parents of your “office hours” to avoid getting 10:00 pm non-emergency texts.
  • Breathe: Remember to take a few slow breaths between tasks, before you get out of the car, between sessions as a reminder to Stop and Just Be.

When partnering with families, consider the following mindfulness practices:

  • Re-evaluate your environment.  Try to limit distractions that pull your focus away from families.  Remember discomfort can be a distraction, so be aware of how you feel in your workspace. 
  • Be present. Remain aware of your surroundings, open, ready and willing to listen.
  • Consider your own well-being. Are you in a place to hold space for the family? Have you put on your own “oxygen mask” before helping others?
  • Take a deep breath. It's your body's built-in stress reliever.
  • Be positive and smile. Even if they can’t see you! it will impact how you speak/present yourself and may even change your mood. 
  • Be mindful of your language. Knowing words can create happiness or suffering reminds us to
    choose words and express a tone that reflects support and respect.
  • Listen without judgment. The key to listening without judgment is to listen empathetically.

Check out EITP's tips for Partnering with Families during Live Video Visits (pdf) or Consultation Time (pdf) for more suggestions.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON MINDFULNESS

Being Mindful in a Busy World (pdf) from the University of Illinois Extension

"Feeling Frazzled? Remember M.I.N.D.F.U.L" Infographic from Shamash Alidina

Mindful.org for additional resources, such as newsletters and practice guides.

Mindfulness, Breathe and Yoga in Early Intervention resource page from EITP

Mindful Parenting Resource Guide from the Illinois EI Clearinghouse

Resource List for Calm in the Chaos of COVID-19: Helping the Helpers from EITP Webinar 

The Getting Started With Mindfulness Toolkit from Zero to Three 

The Power of Mindfulness: Practical Tips to Help Children Feel Safe and Secure from Dr. Kristie Pretti-Frontczak for Brookes Publishing

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind (Book) by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

 
 
 
 
 

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