” />Hi everybody,
The words mindfulness and meditation are thrown left and right everywhere and seem to be the cure-all to all human problems and health issues.
People jump on the bandwagon and try the new flavour of the week as new mindfulness and meditation books and courses are sprouting everywhere, promising that it is the latest panacea.
More often than not, people are left disappointed when they try it out on their own with the help of a book, an app or a podcast. Their lives are not changing, and they are left believing that it does not work.
I commonly hear things like:
I can go on and on on the broken promises that many claim mindfulness and meditation will bring.
SO here is what the problem really is.
There is nothing wrong with mindfulness and meditation, these strategies DO WORK.
The problem does not lie there.
Do you want to know what the REAL problem is?
Before I give you an answer, let’s start with an analogy:
You go to the gym 3- 4 times a week. You do yoga every morning. You eat junk food or skip meals, go to bed at all hours of the night, and barely get six hours of sleep, you have no self-care routine. You are still stressed and overwhelmed, and it’s taking forever to lose weight.
What’s wrong with this picture? Exercise and yoga don’t work? Or is it everything around it that is flawed?
It’s no different with mindfulness and meditation. These are strategies to improve your life, but these tools have a limited effect if they are practiced in isolation.
Just like when you are working out and doing yoga (even if the rest of your lifestyle is a mess), they will still be beneficial while you practice them and maybe moments after.
But you won’t get the full benefits if you don’t transform the other areas of your life. What do I mean by that?
Well, if you momentarily practice meditation and mindfulness, but outside of these practices your mindset is very negative, you make poor choices, hang out with toxic people, don’t stand up for yourself, worry too much about what other people think, put everyone first, are a people pleaser, accommodate everyone, have poor self-care, don’t ask for help, stay in an unhappy marriage or job, ignore your gut feelings, live in fear or guilt…
Need I say more? I think you know where I am going with this. After all, you are all smart people.
Mindfulness and meditation are disciplines to implement within more significant changes in your life.
Let’s use another example.
Research has shown that happy people have a gratitude practice. If you are only grateful for five minutes in the morning as you write in your gratitude journal, but throughout the day, you complain, judge, criticize and are a glass half empty kind of person…. Gratitude’s effects will be limited. Happy people don’t ONLY practice gratitude.
If you live in gratitude from the moment you wake up till your head hits the pillow at night, you will reap the benefits of this practice. That means, when you complain, you will catch yourself and shift it and find gratitude even in a challenging moment. Sincere gratitude is not a five-minute practice, it has to become a way of life to feel its effects.
Now back to meditation and mindfulness.
First, meditation is an exercise of focussed attention for the brain. Every time you sit to meditate, you are creating neuronal connections in your brain. Studies have shown that people who meditate daily are more resilient than those who don’t, and it has a preventative effect on various psychiatric disorders and stress.
Meditation is a workout for your brain. We need to take time out of our busy schedules to go to the brain gym. We can’t do this while we are doing something else.
Now, mindfulness, what is that?
Simply put, mindfulness is the act of being fully present and paying attention, without judgment, to whatever is happening inside you and outside of you. It is the act of noticing in the same way a scientist would observe how an experiment is unfolding without trying to control it.
Usually, our minds are busy wandering to the past or the future. Living there is the source of our suffering.
Mindfulness teaches us that, more often than not, what is happening now is all that exists. Only the present moment is real. The past, the future are just thoughts. They don’t exist. They are memories or fantasies.
The here and now is where we live. And quickly, that moment is in the past to make a place for another moment. All there is, is now. This is what mindfulness teaches us.
Children reach that state naturally. As adults, we need to re-learn how to live there. This is why it is easy to teach mindfulness and meditation to children, as it is their second nature.
When we practice being present on purpose, there is no suffering in the present moment.
Of course, there can be pain, that is without saying. But suffering is optional. Suffering arises when we create stories in our minds to narrate, judge, compare, resist, reject, try to control what is happening now. That is where suffering lies.
Even being present to the pain can be easier than resisting it because, in that space, we are more likely to find a solution that can bring us more peace, moment by moment. Sounds like utopia?
Meditation trains our minds on how to be more mindful. Just like lifting weights (an artificial gesture) will train your body to lift heavy boxes, develop a stronger core and back. And yoga might help you generate more flexibility, range of movement and even cope with physical and psychological pain. The skills learned through yoga and exercise improve the quality of our lives.
Meditation and mindfulness improve the quality of our lives by teaching us how to be more present and to declutter our minds. The result is increased awareness, which leads to making better choices, and THAT is where the magic lies.
Meditation and mindfulness without self-awareness and presence outside of these activities cannot transform our lives. But they sure are the first step to total transformation.
We cannot change what we don’t see or acknowledge. Meditation and mindfulness train our minds to make better choices, slow down and not lose our way.
If we apply the principles of meditation and mindfulness, we are closer to transforming our lives by noticing where the changes need to be made in the first place. Allowing us to pay attention to our intuition, or gut feelings, which are trying to tell us something. We need to listen.
It helps us develop the ability to not lose our cool with our kids, our spouse, or the people around us. It teaches us to slow down so we can think before we react and act instead in ways that are in line with what matters most to us- our values.
Meditation and mindfulness is the door you want to open to total transformation. It is not the end; it is the means to an end.
Learning mindfulness and meditation on your own can be easy. Putting them into application in your day-to-day or troubleshooting is the tricky part.
Don’t knock down these practices because they truly work. They will transform your life for the better. My clients can attest to this!
You just need the assistance of an experienced teacher to put it all together. I can help.
You can leave me a short voicemail for comments or questions. Connect here. Directly from your browser!
Those who know me, know that I aim to serve, so please submit any suggestions of content you would love to see in there or in my newsletter. Wishing you all ” />A Mindful Day ” />! With gratitude, ” />
Dr. Gina MadrigranoPsychologist, Transformational Coach & Parenting Consultant[email protected]
” />P.S.: If you are curious about mediation and mindfulness, I am putting together a meditation course for beginners that you can do in the comfort of your home. Stay tuned! In the meantime. I am a teacher on the FREE App Insight Timer. I have guided meditations for kids and adults and a podcast episodes that might be of interest to you.
” />ANNOUNCEMENT.: I’ve been working diligently on my membership site. It will be chock-full of resources of all kinds (online courses, audios, videos, PDFs, book recommendations, resources, helpful lessons AND an online community where we can connect and ask questions, Q & A calls).
I get it. In this day and age of instant gratification, everything moving at the speed of light and the pressure from peers and society to be highly productive, you might be wondering…
”Where does the time go?”
For me, I get caught up in the busy-ness of being a mom and my career. I can easily get distracted with a pile of chores and obligations and an endless to-do list.
We compare ourselves to others and feel we need to keep up, leaving us energetically drained, overwhelmed and possibly feeling as though life is passing you by.
Am I striking a chord?
If I am, I want you to know there IS a better way! Let me explain…
The first step is to stop the spin cycle and start making YOU the priority in your life again.
Admittedly, life was simpler 100 years ago. With no technology, things moved much slower. Not that people didn’t work hard, it was more about fewer things distracting us and filling our mind on a 24/ 7 basis.
For example, what’s the first thing you do when you lay down to rest after work?
Maybe close your eyes for a minute – and most likely pick up your phone/ tablet to check messages and surf the net…am I right?
Here’s the thing…just like a hundred years ago, we still only have 24 hours in a day. Yet we try to cram in more than is humanly healthy or even possible.
We spend more time up in our heads than we do in our hearts – no wonder you might be spinning all the time.
If you haven’t unplugged and taken the time to just BE present, there’s no way to access what’s truly in your heart.
How do you do that? Well, let me tell you how.
Take time to “smell the roses”. Stop and actually notice what is right in front of you and take it in. I mean it, truly take it in!
Savour that coffee and taste it. Sip it slowly. Smell its aroma. Pause. Close your eyes and really taste and smell it. Don’t multitask.
Take a moment to notice your beautiful space, that smile on your child’s face, your partner lying next to you. Be in that moment fully. Be truly present.
This simple daily ritual will make you feel more grounded and connected to the people around you. If you do this throughout your day, your stress levels will go down.
The next step is to carve out 15-30 minutes just for you first thing in the morning. If you have to, get up before everyone else. Don’t grab your phone as soon as you open your eyes.
Before you dial into production mode, create a morning ritual as a gift to yourself. Doing things just for you. Be in the receiving mode.
You’ll notice the benefits add up over time. It will set the tone for the day. You will feel energized and you will take better care of yourself.
As the last step, a few times a day, start noticing what you are thinking about and how you are feeling.
Half the time we are not present and we are lost in our thoughts. Worrying, planning, ruminating, replaying. You name it.
Stop the time travelling and bring yourself back to this moment in time. Just immerse yourself fully into what you are doing without allowing your mind to wander elsewhere.
The easiest way to do that is to place your focus on the information inputted by your five senses. Right now.
Stay there a while. You’ll see. In that place, there is no struggle or resistance.
See your relationships improve. Life has more meaning. You will be happier.
Try these steps out and keep me posted on the results you notice.
P.S.: Don’t miss my bi-weekly podcast episodes and submit questions or topics of interest
With gratitude 🌿
Mindfulness and meditation have proven beneficial for both parents and children. More and more studies are uncovering the short- and long-term benefits of incorporating mindful parenting practices into families’ lives (1).
Meditation and mindfulness are not mere techniques. They are states of being that bring less suffering, more presence, and peace into one’s life. Once a person has experienced the benefits of these practices and the ways in which they permeate our daily life and being, there is no going back. Mindfulness and meditation practices have a positive impact not only on the practitioner but also the people that surround this individual, including our children.
A Google search offers this simple definition of mindfulness: “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Renowned meditation teacher John Kabat-Zinn also emphasizes the importance of noticing “nonjudgmentally” (2) because suffering is caused by the judgments we place on our perceptions.
Individuals who have chosen to apply these practices to their parenting have seen improvements in their own lives and the lives of their children. If you are not convinced of the value of these practices and wonder if they are just a fad, here are 40 benefits meditation and mindfulness can provide for parents and children.
For parents, a meditation and mindfulness practice offers numerous benefits:
- Develops more patience because we do not mix in our problems with those of our child.
- Reduces reactivity because we respond from a calm place instead of from past wounds when children push our buttons.
- Cultivates emotional awareness.
- Allows us to exercise self-regulation.
- Slows down time because we become more fully involved in our child’s life, and so do not miss out on the wonderful and simple moments of their childhood, which goes by too fast.
- Develops gratitude for all the mundane and extraordinary moments with our child.
- Helps us to become in tune with and accepting of our child’s actual needs, thus allowing us to make better choices.
- Promotes secure attachment with our child and a trusting relationship.
- Enables us to be more present, which allows space for us to listen with full attention and be able to validate our children.
- Develops compassionate and non-judgmental awareness in all interactions.
- Facilitates finding pleasure in and appreciating simple things.
- Helps us cope during stressful moments, such as tantrums or emotional outbursts.
- Promotes our ability to model proper emotion management, and this is how children learn best: by imitation.
- Prevents our children from becoming fearful or traumatized by our out of control reactions or screaming.
- Improves parenting interventions (3).
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Improves the immune system, which means parents are healthier (4).
- Promotes greater satisfaction with our parenting skills and therefore with our relationships with our children.
- Facilitates incorporating mindfulness into all aspects of our lives (5).
Children can also experience many benefits from a meditation and mindfulness practice:
- Develops the area of the brain responsible for emotion regulation and impulse control.
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and fears.
- Allows for a less reactive state to emerge.
- Promotes feelings of safety and security.
- Improves self-esteem and self-confidence because children feel heard, seen, and validated.
- Develops problem-solving skills by developing self-reflection and self-awareness, instead of being reactive and living on autopilot.
- Develops conscious individuals.
- Improves emotion management.
- Improves resilience.
- Cultivates better self-awareness of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Children become better skilled at communicating their needs to others.
- Promotes healthy psycho-social development in children. Improved social skills and interactions emerge because children become skilled communicators. Conversely, they become good listeners themselves.
- Creates grateful children able to live in the present moment.
- Fosters compassion and empathy for others; they become less self-centered.
- Diminishes behavioural problems, while improving emotional health and behavioural functioning (6) (7).
- Improves attention, focus, concentration, memory, and learning (4).
- Improves emotional intelligence.
- Reduces reactivity to others’ anger. They do not take it personally.
- Promotes self-reliance by teaching them to accept and tolerate their own emotions, feelings, sensations, and thoughts. In turn, they find comfort within by learning to soothe and calm themselves without depending on external factors.
- Allows children to find happiness from the inside, independent of external circumstances.
- Improves parent-child relationship during adolescence.
- Cultivates more emotionally and socially competent youth(8)(9).
If you are new to mindfulness, start small. Choose moments throughout your day where you can pay attention to the unfolding of each moment. Become the non-judgmental observer of the experiences taken in by your five senses. Moreover, take in the beauty of your life. Incorporating mindfulness and meditation into our family life can only prove beneficial to all those involved.
- Many of the benefits covered in this post are also summarized here : Duncan,L.G., Coatsworth, J.D. & Greenberg, M.T.(2009) A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent–Child Relationships and Prevention Research Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2009 Sep; 12(3): 255–270.doi: 10.1007/s10567-009-0046-3.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice,10, 144–156. doi:10.1093/clipsy/bpg016.
- Dumas, J. E. (2005). Mindfulness-based parent training: Strategies to lessen the grip of automaticity in families with disruptive children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology,34, 779–791. doi:10.1207/s15374424jccp3404_20. [PubMed]
- Mindfulness Web Site: Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. www.greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness
- Coyne, L. W., & Murrell, A. R. (2009). The Joy of Parenting: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Effective Parenting in the Early Years. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
- Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Fisher, B. C., Wahler, R. G., McAleavey, K., et al. (2006). Mindful parenting decreases aggression, noncompliance, and self-injury in children with autism. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders,14(3), 169–177. doi:10.1177/10634266060140030401.
- Singh,N.N, Lancioni, G.E., Winton, A.S.W., Singh, J., Curtis, W.J.Wahler, R.G.,& McAleavey, K.M. (2007) . Mindful Parenting Decreases Aggression and Increases Social Behavior in Children With Developmental Disabilities, 31 (6) , 749-771. doi: 10.1177/0145445507300924
- Eisenberg, N., Cumberland, A., & Spinrad, T. L. (1998). Parental socialization of emotion. Psychological Inquiry,9, 241–273. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli0904_1. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
- Katz, L. F., Wilson, B., & Gottman, J. M. (1999). Meta-emotion philosophy and family adjustment: Making an emotional correction. In M. J. Cox & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Conflict and cohesion in families: Causes and consequences. The Advances in Family Therapy Research Series (pp. 131–165). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
A simple tool as mindfulness can help your child feel calm and relaxed. More and more schools are starting to incorporate mindfulness and meditation practices in their curriculla because they have witnessed their beneficial effects on children’s behaviour and wellbeing.
It not only can improve attention, concentration and focus, children feel happier, calmer, more fulfilled, relaxed and creative and it impacts their academic performance. It also improves mental states such as depression and anxiety, and ruminative thoughts. It helps children to cope with the everyday stresses such as exams, relationships, sleep problems, and family and social issues.
In addition to a daily practice of mindfulness, I believe that there are two additional habits we can instil in our children that will not only improve their wellbeing, but will also make them more compassionate and grateful individuals, thus less likely to be entitled little brats. These practices are daily acts of kindness, which helps the child feel good about himself and the impact he has on others, and the practice of gratitude.
There are many instructional videos online that teach children and adults the practice of mindfulness.
When you teach children to practice daily acts of kindness, it moves them away from selfishness and teaches them the meaning of being of service, of being helpful and kind. Acts of kindness do not need to be any actions which require purchasing something, although those can be welcomed as well (e.g., donating food to the food bank, giving money or clothes to a family in need, donating money for research, etc.). Daily acts of kindness can be as simple as writing a loving note, preparing breakfast in bed, helping with chores, giving a hug, walking the dog, cleaning a mess, opening a door for someone, carrying a heavy bag, etc).
When you practice this and you teach this to your children, often children will find opportunities on their own to do acts of kindness because they see how good it makes people feel and as a result they feel good as well.
Finally, if many times a day you model to your kids the value of gratitude, even for the smallest things in life that we tend to take for granted, you will as a result reduce whining, complaining, and a sense of entitlement in children.
I am a strong proponent of prevention… Focus on the outcome you want to see in your children and become a role model of the value you hold true. This will have so much more weight than lecturing to your kids when they complain about not getting the latest iPhone or having to help out around the house.
When parents and children alike can practice on a daily basis mindfulness, acts of kindness and gratitude, these three simple practices will significantly improve the quality of your life in a significant manner. Those are three of the many practices of happy people.
There is a caveat to all this… you can’t expect your kids to develop these habits if you don’t embody them yourself. Always remember these simple pieces of advise as part of the parenting journey:
- BE the man or the woman you want your children to become by embodying the values you hold on to the most. It is never too late to start! As Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”… (the world here being your children).
- Don’t worry so much about what other people do or say. We all have different values. If it does not feel right in your gut, even if you are the minority, don’t do it or don’t allow your kids to talk you into it. It is OK to be different and to be proud of who you are. If you fear what others think, how can your kids be confident around their friends and not worry so much about rejection?
- Be driven by your values, not by fear, and don’t worry so much about what other people think. Remember this: on their death bed one of the things the dying regret the most is that they wished they had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them!
- Make it a daily practice to take time to be mindful and live in the present moment, be grateful, and practice daily acts of kindness and reap the benefits!
Hope you enjoy the videos below:
That lucky 13!
December 13th…. a date forever engraved in my mind. How can I ever forget that Monday morning that changed my life forever…
Five years ago today, at the tender age of two and a half my beautiful daughter Beatrice was diagnosed with High Risk Leukemia. I won’t get into the story of what happened that day, nor the story of her illness because it was all documented on a blog I created just for her. I did this so that she could remember how courageous she was and all that she had been through. It was also very therapeutic for me to get it out of me because the pain of seeing her suffer was literally unbearable. Finally, the blog allowed people close to me to be updated without me having to be tortured by repeating our daily struggles over and over again… going through it once was traumatic enough…
This post is a positive post. It is a post about love, about cherishing every moment with your kids. It’s about taking the time to stop and smell the roses, and watching the butterflies or fairies as they fly by.
When I catch myself telling my daughter to “Just hurry up!”, whether it’s to get to bed, or rushing out the door for an appointment or school, I quickly remind myself of how precious every minute with her is. All too often when we were stuck in the hospital (her treatment lasted almost 3 years), how I wished we could be home doing the “boring” things. Because she was so weak and tired by the illness and the chemo, she had no energy to do what normal 3 year olds do. How I longed to see her jump around, run and scream, and be “annoying”…
I can truly say that I do cherish every moment with her and when I stray.. .Whether it’s wishing I had more time to write my blog posts, or when I feel rushed, I quickly ask myself if I’d rather be in 2010 when I was forced to live each moment to the fullest because I never knew what tomorrow might bring. Certainty no longer existed in my world… That was taken from me, December 13, 2010! I knew all too well, that our lives would never ever be the same.
What really matters!
I went from a busy successful career, to an unemployed stay at home single mom, living off donations ! I quickly found out what was really important in life, and that I could truly be happy with little.. really. I got rid of my 40K truck, avoided stores and became creative when it came to entertain my daughter and bond with her. Forget fancy cars and restaurants, buying clothes, decorating the house, going to the the hairdresser, etc. Getting her back to health, and enjoying life to the fullest were my only priorities. Since then I realized that all we need is health and the rest will follow, because without it… well… your options are limited.
I was never a big spender, not into useless luxuries, but still, I’d spoil myself from time to time. I tell people that, although it was truly the worse time of my life, I had never been happier. No small feat for a naturally anxious mom who worried a lot.
Decluttering my life!
Being in the helping profession, I was always into self improvement and getting my act together, and just like everyone else…. I am always a work in progress and I always have something to work on. Well, the gift of Beatrice’s illness was to teach me to live in the moment, to let go of resentments and of a past that is long gone, the importance of forgiveness to be able to move on, to not spend too much time worrying about a future that doesn’t yet exist, and to clean up shop when it came to relationships that no longer served me. It taught me to appreciate every single moment as a gift because it truly is. You never know how in an instant it can all be taken away, just like that, in the blink of an eye! Trust me.
The gift of patience!
I have always been ambitious professionally and striving to do more, and better my craft and also keep reinventing myself. That has not changed. What has changed is the urgency to get things done, to do more. It has taught me to be patient: all in due time. Sure I get frustrated when I don’t get to the end of my To Do list or reach my goals’ timeline, but I quickly set myself straight, and bring myself to the present moment, and live it fully, in gratitude and acceptance. I constantly have to remember “all in divine timing” and I try to let go of trying to control the outcomes. And finally… when I lose my way, get frustrated or down, I sing to myself the chorus of the song “Unanswered Prayers”, or I repeat this very helpful mantra that has served me well so many times “Man’s rejection is God’s protection”.
(Lyrics that touch me : Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers ; Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs ; That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care; Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers )
I try not to resist what is anymore, you know the “bad” stuff… So it is not that I don’t have all the human emotions and struggles that most of us face.. I have just found a better way to cope with them when they arise. I have tried to start seeing that everything happens for a reason and I wait for the gift to show up. That is a major change for me: my immediate reaction naturally tends to always be anxiety!
It is inevitable that through every tiny or major hurdle lies a gift. Whether it be a better opportunity, catching my daughter’s special moves, bonding more, there is always a silver lining.
What’s the rush?
All this to say that, when we rush we are really chasing the future which has not yet happened and by doing so, we miss out on the beauty and the gift of this present moment. And if we don’t cherish that present moment, it is forever lost. So we need to live NOW. We need to slow down.
Before you know it your child will grow up and many things they do now will be gone forever due to the mere fact that they are maturing. And then… you will look back with nostalgia or regret. All too often parents can’t wait for their kids to walk and be independent, but with independance come distance. They no longer want to snuggle, they no longer need your help, they slowly but surely need you less and less. This is why, to be able to let go, you truly need to cherish all these mundane moments as they arise because in their simplicity they are special because they are fleeting, and quickly pass you by.
So slow down… Instead of rushing the bedtime and morning routines, grant them more time. Allow children to be their natural selves, which is to live each moment as they arise (as we should) mindfully, playfully, full of awe with the simplest things. As a result, there will be less nagging, less screaming, less arguing, less repeating for compliance because they will have had the time to live fully at their pace, not yours. And when it is time to go, time to sleep, they will be ready…
Slowing down and being a participant in their lives instead of a referee will also bring you closer. And there is nothing more important than the parent-child bond. Love is truly at the core of a healthy relationship.
It is us that need to slow down. WE have lost our way and forgotten what is important in life. We need to see the world through children’s eyes, and hear the message they are attempting to pass on : “simple is better; now is what counts”.
When we slow down, we can truly learn from our children by simply being a witness of how they approach life and get back to that state from where we come from, but have forgotten our natural state. They know how to be mindful, they know what living life fully means, they know the importance of the present moment… we are the ones who need to learn these skills once again. And once we do, life will be so much more pleasant!
To read about Beatrice’s journey and mine, click on this link.