Everyday Mindfulness for Families

Guest Blog by Breon Michel:

Have you ever caught yourself not paying attention in the middle of a conversation with a loved one? You were physically there, but your mind was somewhere else – already thinking about what’s for dinner or what time your son needs picked up from soccer practice. The mind’s ability to plan is essential to family well-being, but so is the ability to stay in the present moment.

In today’s fast-paced, frenetic world, the mind often gets stuck in planning mode. Not only does this heighten stress and worrying about the future, but it also can prevent you from living your life now. Have you ever found yourself wondering, “Where does time go?” Or perhaps more relevant, “How is summer break already two months away?”

One of the best ways to slow down your life – and cut through stress – is to practice living in the moment. When you live in the moment, you remember to appreciate, and feel more joy, for the things that are in your life now. You learn to approach your life from a calmer, clearer perspective. And you remember to connect with what’s most important to you.

Cultivating mindfulness, or present moment awareness, can help you live in the moment, and connect more deeply to loved ones. Learning to be where you actually are takes practice. The mind will be seduced by all sorts of alluring distractions – Smartphones, stress-inducing thoughts, lingering to-do’s, the list goes on. The key is to simply notice when the mind wanders away from the present moment and bring your attention back to it. There are many ways to strengthen your mind’s capacity to stay present, here are a few:

  • Mentally arrive home. Establish a ritual to help your mind arrive home after a long day at work. You can do this by feeling your feet on the ground as you walk to the door, or feeling your hand on the door knob as you enter your home. Another option is to simply pause to listen to the sounds in your environment.
  • Connect with your breath. Taking a moment to connect with the feeling of your breath moving in and out of your body can help ground you in the present moment. If it helps, you can gently rest a hand over your lower abdomen to feel the calming sensation of your breath. Try connecting with at least three full breaths.
  • Multi-task less, listen more. When possible, ask questions of your family when you can fully participate in the conversation. Too often because of being tired or needing to keep things moving along, we multi-task while talking to loved ones. Listening more deeply can encourage family members to open up because they feel heard and understood.

Connection is one of the most powerful ingredients to keeping a family strong – and keeping stress at bay. When we lose touch with the present moment, it’s easy to feel lost in the shuffle of everyday life. Training yourself to be more mindful, just as you’d train your body to be more physically fit, can add a calming effect to your life that allows you to fulfill your many roles with greater ease and enjoyment.

P.S. If you’re curious about how to use mindfulness with children, one simple technique is to encourage them to practice doing one thing at a time. While not necessarily easy, with practice it can improve concentration, memory and learning.