Not too long ago meditation was thought of as some sort of mysterious ritual conducted in spiritual retreats, rather than at the doctor’s office or psychology clinic.
But in fact meditation and mindfulness are psychological processes and science has discovered many practical benefits to their practice.
Just like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy — one of the most extensively researched and practised psychological treatments — mindfulness addresses the connection between your thoughts, attitudes, behaviour and feelings.
And it can be particularly beneficial in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
So how do our psychologists use mindfulness and meditation in counselling sessions with children?
First, we teach and practice the core skills of meditation during the session and we encourage children to practise at home.
The aim is to help them learn how to relax and gain some mental clarity by themselves.
Then we work on their ability to practise mindfulness techniques in times of worry and stress.
And although it sounds like a somewhat difficult and ‘grown-up’ process, like most skills, the earlier you start learning it the better.
The basic principles of meditation and mindfulness have proven to show large benefits in children from as young as seven or eight years old.
The beauty of learning these skills is that they can be used anywhere — before a stressful exam, during a bad day at school, or even during a ‘time-out’ for bad behaviour.
This helps children learn how to create their own calm, clarity and focus at times when they really need it.
And just a few minutes of daily meditation can provide a welcome and valuable break from our high-tech, fast-paced modern world.
There are (ironically!) many free apps and online guides to help your kids start reaping the benefits of meditation.
However, here are our top tips for encouraging mindfulness at home:
- Don’t go it alone — simple guided meditations in the beginning will help to keep children engaged and on the right track.
- Start small and slow — even as little as a few minutes a day will get the ball rolling, and trying to dedicate too much time too soon may create a roadblock.
- Be patient — the effects aren’t instant or obvious, but they will come!
- Practise — the more you do it, the better you’ll get, and the more obvious the positive effects will be.
- Lead by example — work on meditating yourself, wait until you see and understand the benefits, then share what you’ve learnt with the rest of the family.
Aside from anything else, it never hurts to treat yourself to a few minutes of calm and quiet on a busy day.