By Marissa Parker Gold of Intuit Parenting

If I said, “Give me 3 minutes each day for a simple self-regulated activity and you will decrease the possibility and frequency of your headaches, stomach aches, anxiousness, and/or depression, would you do it?”  Why or why not?  I’m guessing that you spend at least 3-minutes (if not many more) taking care of your physical body and hygiene.  We all do.  We brush our teeth, take showers, eat, and get dressed.  What about your mental health?  How do you take care of your brain, your emotions?  Are you worth 3 minutes a day?

It’s All About the Benefits
The practice of Mindfulness has been shown to have enormous benefits on our social and emotional well-being.  It can reduce pain, anxiety, depression, stress, and Psychosomatic symptoms, such as nausea, constipation, shortness of breath, brain fog, sweaty palms, and more.  But what is Mindfulness and how do we begin to incorporate it into our everyday lives?  I’m a strong believer in setting realistic expectations so I’ll keep this simple.

What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your entire self – your brain, your body, your emotions, and your physical being – into the present.  In a calm, reflective moment where you’re able to leave your busy mind and consciously drop down into your body.  Some people think of it as unplugging or tuning in or accepting and letting go.  I view it as connecting calmly and peacefully with my present moment.

It can be accomplished in a 5-step approach.

  1. Set realistic expectations – If you’re a busy person (and who isn’t), telling yourself that you’re going to do a 30-minute meditation from the outset probably isn’t the best way to get started. Start with 2 minutes.  Remember, it’s about the practice and DOing it.  If you set a goal for a 2-minute meditation and you get it done, you did it!
  2. Schedule it – When you start a new behavior, it’s hard to keep the momentum going unless you tie it to an established routine. So, tie your “mindful moment” to something you already do.  Wake up and journal for 5 minutes; Color before bedtime; Practice visualization and belly breathing during your child’s first nap of the day.  Just find a consistent time, schedule it, and stick to it.
  3. Know what tools you’re going to use – Do you need an App? A CD? (I know…old school); A quiet room?  Water?  A journal?  Think about what tools you need for your practice and make sure to prep and have them nearby.  You want to have everything ready to go so there are no unnecessary distractions.
  4. Model it/Teach it/Achieve it – Learning and teaching (to a child, for example) is a 3-part Practicing Mindfulnessprocess. First, you have to show someone, then do it with them, and finally empower them to try to tackle it on their own.  Learning Mindful practices is no exception.  Teaching your little one how to journal?  First, show them your own journal, how you write in it, and what types of things you write about.  Next, write a few entries together so they get the hang of it.  Finally, as they seem ready to take this on as a solo experience, empower them to run with it and make it their own.  This 3-pronged approach can be applied to teaching any Mindful practice to someone other than yourself.
  5. Be consistent and reflective – Creating new habits takes time. Don’t get discouraged.  We don’t know for sure whether that magic number is 10 times, 17 times, or more.  What we do know is that changing behaviors have to do with creating and reinforcing neural pathways in the brain.  This doesn’t happen overnight.  So, be kind to yourself, practice patience, and be consistent with your new Mindfulness practices.  In time, it will become a habit and feel like a completely organic part of your every day.

Keep Going!
Know that it can be challenging, in the beginning, to practice “perfectly”.  It can be easy to get distracted, feel that the practice is forced or not working.  Self-critical thoughts can derail a mindfulness practice.  Don’t give up.  As Dory sings in Finding Nemo, “Just Keep Swimming.”  Before you know it, you will reap the rewards of your practice and find your inner peace and calm.

So, now I’ll ask you again – do you have 3-minutes for me today?
In the time it just took you to read this, you could have practiced two Mindfulness strategies, thereby lowering blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration among many other health benefits.  I only want the best for you and your health, so I genuinely hope your answer is, “of course, I have 3 minutes”.

Marissa recently spoke to our parents about Mindful Parenting and Positive Discipline as part of our Virtual Parent Speaker Series. To register for future parent speaker events, visit our events page at www.stratfordschools.com/events.

Marissa Parker Gold
Child Behavior Specialist, Parent Coach, and Founder IntuitParenting
Social @intuitparenting