Unexpected Mindfulness – MBWP

Dr. Eric Dickson is Assistant Professor of Music, teaching trumpet at Truman State University. Eric participated in the 5-day Mindfulness workshop at IU last summer and will be completing MBWP Teacher certification in July.

Before starting my current position at Truman State University, I spent several years as a freelance musician and educator in the Indianapolis area. Living an hour south of Indy in Bloomington meant that I spent a LOT of time in the car driving from gig to gig and from lesson to lesson. To help pass the time, I listened to a lot of audiobooks, and was always on the lookout for something interesting.

One day, I stumbled upon Mindfulness for Beginners by John Kabat-Zinn. I’ve been interested in the mental side of music since my undergraduate studies, reading (and rereading) books like Zen in the Art of Archery, The Inner Game of Tennis, and Effortless Mastery, and I thought mindfulness might prove useful in performance. When I started listening, I was immediately hooked, not so much by what Kabat-Zinn had to say (although it was pretty cool), but by the way he said it. He delivered everything with a matter-of-fact nonchalance that really struck me. It reminded me of something a former professor said: “People don’t scream about the things which they themselves know to be absolute.” (Imagine a maniac running around, frantically screaming about the impending sunrise tomorrow morning…) I figured, if this guy is this confident about this mindfulness stuff, maybe he’s on to something.

My fortuitous stumbling continued a few years later when I came across the Mindfulness in Teaching and Learning seminar at the IU Jacobs School of Music. Here was an opportunity to integrate these techniques directly into music, without the need to translate concepts from some other discipline. And while I went into the seminar searching for ways that I could integrate mindfulness into my own performing as well as my teaching (maybe I could help my students avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced as a young musician), I’m happy to say I found that and so much more. In fact, perhaps the most profound impact on my teaching has come in the most unexpected place: my jazz appreciation course.

After taking the seminar, I was excited to incorporate mindfulness into my syllabus. I began by replacing online listening quizzes with a number of in-class “mindful listening activities” throughout the semester. After leading students in a breath awareness exercise for a few minutes, I play a jazz recording. When the music starts, students shift the focal point of their awareness from the breath to the music, while continuing to non-judgmentally observe their thoughts. Their only instruction once the music stops is to write about their experience: “Tell me where your thoughts take you today.” The responses have been fascinating: some students choose to write about the music, some describe a scene from a movie (oddly enough, they all tend to describe the same movie), and others write about how they can’t stop thinking about tests, homework, lunch, or the speeding ticket they got on the way to campus that morning.

In a larger assignment, students listen to 20 minutes of Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz, and then write two to three pages about their experience. Reading these reaction papers has quickly become the highlight of my semester! Most are variations on a theme: they hated the first five minutes, but as they continued to listen, they began to find order in the chaos. In fact, many responses are first-rate descriptions of what the avant-garde is all about: throwing out musical structure and evoking a visceral response from the listener. By bringing a little more openness and a little less judgment to their experience, students have been more receptive to the music, and less likely to dismiss it as just “noise.”

For non-majors, having to speak intelligently about music can be as daunting as learning a foreign language. I have found that these activities help students really hear music without having to sift through thoughts like “am I doing this right?” or “I don’t know what I’m supposed to hear.” By allowing themselves to focus on what they can hear instead of what they can’t, most find that they already know more about music than they thought they did. Consequently, they’re more willing to offer their own opinions about the music we listen to in class. More importantly, though, my hope is that, by cultivating a little mindfulness throughout the semester, these students can get a glimpse into how their thoughts function, in a way that will positively impact their day-to-day lives. Perhaps, like me, they’ll be happy they stumbled into mindfulness as well.

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Mindfulness Meditation – How To – Manifestation Miracle

Do you want to unlock your inner power to manifest the life you’ve been dreaming of? Don’t forget to check out the Manifestation Miracle program…

What is mindfulness meditation?   

Mindfulness is the state of being presently aware of everything. It means, if possible, using all our 5 senses to be all active and in a state of awareness.   

It’s doesn’t mean that the only time you have to be mindful is when you’re meditating. You can be mindful when walking by feeling the ground, feeling your shoes, hearing the birds. You can also be mindful while cooking by smelling the food, etc.   

How? Simply by tuning in with your senses.   

So, how does all this relate to mindfulness meditation?   

When meditating, you sit without moving for a few to several minutes. During that time, your mind will have a tendency to wander off. Your mind will go to places even without your intervention. That’s the nature of the mind. Sometimes it’ll feel like it’s not yours because it does things on its own.   

But when you practice mindfulness while meditating…  

…you won’t have any problems with your mind wandering off. You’ll have to accept its nature. You’ll have to be okay with it.   

You’re an observer when you’re doing mindfulness meditation. You’re observing how you feel, how you think. It’s like going out of yourself and look at yourself from the outside. Without any attachment.    

But let’s get in to why first. Why should you do mindfulness meditation?   

Time and time again, it has been proven and tested through studies…  

Meditation and mindfulness meditation can help do the following:   

Now, how to actually meditate mindfully?   

First, make sure that you will try to make this a habit for at least 5 to 10 days when you’re starting out.   

Because you won’t feel any difference if you’ll only do this once or twice.   

Now, as a beginner, you might find it difficult to remember all these steps at the first go.   

And while mindfulness meditation is one of the best types of meditation…   

There are simpler ones.   

You can meditate easily by listening to our meditation tracks.   

These meditation tracks are designed with binaural beats. Binaural beats help your subconscious mind to be in a relaxed state.   

These meditation tracks also have affirmations repeated throughout its duration.  

And binaural beats will also help your subconscious mind accept the affirmations. Making it more effective.  

Listen to these tracks for 60 – 90 days will help you achieve lasting results.   

Get your meditation tracks by clicking here:

Mindfulness For Parents | 5 Quick & Easy Mindfulness Exercises

In my last post, I discussed the incredible benefits of mindfulness for moms. To follow that, I wanted to provide you with some simple and practical mindfulness exercises for parents so you can start making it part of your routine and taking advantage of all it has to offer.

Mindfulness can seem like something that is completely unobtainable or overwhelming, but my goal is to show you that the tools of mindfulness are available to everyone, and not as complicated as you might think.

You don’t need to spend 20 minutes every day meditating to reap the benefits of mindfulness. In fact, none of the exercises in this post involve meditation at all (even though meditating is a great habit to start!).

I am confident that even the busiest parents can carve out time in their day for at least one of these. The best part? most of the suggestions don’t require any extra time at all, just that you are more intentional with the time you already have.

So let’s dive in to these 5 simple mindfulness exercises so you can start experiencing all the benefits they can offer you.

This post may contain affiliate links

Deep Breathing

Perhaps the most simple exercise in this list is taking deep, slow breaths. Breathe in for a count of three and out for a count of five. Make sure your exhale is longer than your inhale.

I take 3 deep breaths anytime that I notice my stress levels are rising. It is a great way to calm the nervous system and works almost like magic. If deep breathing is not already part of your routine, start by anchoring it to something that you already do.

One of my favorite podcasts suggests doing this anytime that you take your car keys out of the ignition. I also take a few breaths anytime I come to a stop light while driving.

Gratitude

Gratitude is a great way to bring your attention to something positive and remind you of all the blessings in your life. It is especially beneficial to do this if it has been a particularly challenging day. You can read more about the amazing benefits of gratitude here.

To start a gratitude practice, you can spend a few minutes writing down 3 things you are grateful for. I think writing it out is beneficial, but if you are pressed for time, even just reflecting on something you are grateful for can work. 

Choose A Time To Be Fully Present

The greatest gift you can give your child is your presence. Choose a time of day and set an intention to be fully present with your child. You may want to consider one of the three most important parts of your child’s day. No electronics, no distractions.

Bring your full awareness to the present moment, and if your mind starts to wander to other thoughts, try to let them go and then bring your focus back to your child.

**Side note: don’t worry if your mind wanders, this is totally normal and to be expected. Just keep working on bringing your attention back when you notice it. 

I like to do this while I’m putting my kids to bed. I spend a few minutes snuggling and talking to each of them individually. They know that they have my full attention. It’s a time that all of us truly treasure.

Designate “No Phone Times”

It is so easy to let our phones and devices take over our whole day. With so much information just a Google search away, it can be really hard to step away. But having intentional times of the day where you put your phone away is a great way to stay present.

If you struggle with putting your phone down, make it harder for yourself to actually use it. You could unfollow people on Facebook (read about my experience doing that here), delete time-sucking apps, turn off your data, or keep it in a completely different room. Try different things and see what works. 

In addition to being more present, it is very important to me to model healthy electronics habits to my kids. I don’t want them to be glued to a screen when they are teenagers, and I also don’t want them to think that my phone is more important than spending time with them. Not to mention I have noticed that I am much more irritable after I spend time mindlessly scrolling my phone.

That is why I try and limit my phone usage when they are around. For my own personal boundaries, I do not bring my phone into the bedroom or to the table during meals. I also try not to touch my phone at all in the mornings until the kids go to school (even though I sometimes will listen to a podcast as part of my morning routine).

Think about ways you can limit your phone and device usage and start making it a habit.

Pay Attention To Your Reactions

This exercise will seem hard at first. Once we get into our lizard brain, it can be hard to step out, and if you usually lean into anger (like me), it will take some practice. But don’t give up!

If your child does something that triggers you, recognize that you have been triggered and pause, take a breath and assess the situation. Doing this allows you to see the bigger picture and respond in a way that has a more positive outcome. 

The more you practice noticing your reactions, the less reactive you will become and the more effective your parenting will be.  It is a great way to manage your anger.

Hopefully after reading through these mindfulness exercises you are feeling more confident about making mindfulness work for you. You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk in order to benefit from mindfulness, you can start small by using these quick and easy suggestions and learn to become calmer and more centered. 

Mindfulness Book Suggestions:

Want more book suggestions? Check out my suggestions for Personal Development Books to help you create a life you love!

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Overcome These Five Obstacles to Your Mindfulness Practice

Many media outlets have been talking for a number of years now about how ubiquitous mindfulness is, the impact it’s having in a variety of sectors and all the wonderful science that continues to be published. But I noticed that many people in the media don’t talk much about the actual formal practice of mindfulness meditation and that’s probably because it can be a hard habit to establish. One thing I’ve learned is if you want to establish a practice you have to look directly at what’s getting in the way, and allow those obstacles to be your greatest teachers.

Here are five common obstacles to meditation, and how to overcome them:

1. Doubt

The uncertainty about whether something will “work” or not often plagues many people in the beginning of their practice. The thoughts is, “this can work for others, but it won’t work for me.” Sometimes doubt is healthy, teaching us to look closely at things before we buy it. But the unhealthy doubt just takes us away from experience before it teaches us anything.

Solution: We have to remember that thoughts are just thoughts; they’re not facts (even the ones that say they are). When we notice this doubt slipping in, just take note of it, perhaps even notice the fear that is often underneath it, and then gently return back to the practice.

2. Restlessness

Let’s face it, it’s hard to sit still for a period of time when the mind can be so busy. We’re trained from a young age to do, do and do some more. The mind may rebel a bit when learning how “to be.” You might catch it running through a million to-do lists and try and count the minutes until the end of the practice. This is all completely natural.

Solution: It’s important to recognize that restlessness and boredom are just sensations like any other. If you look deeply at restlessness or boredom, underneath it is often some form of anxiety or fear. But you don’t need to investigate it to reduce its impact, just naming it as you recognize it can really reduce its impact. You might even try adopting a beginner’s mind and getting curious about the sensation of restlessness. Or, if you really find it too difficult to sit still, why not try a mindful movement practice?

3. Irritation

Irritation comes up for many reasons. Maybe we don’t feel like we’re having a good meditation experience or there’s an annoying noise in the room or it’s a secondary emotion that comes after feeling restless. In other words, we’re irritated that we’re so restless in the practice.

Solution: While our urge is to resist the irritation, we have to remember the old adage “what we resist persists.” The work here is to include it as part of the mindful experience. Our work is to recognize the irritation, allow it to be there and we can either investigate it deeper or watch as it naturally comes and goes.

4. Sleepiness

Being the sleep deprived nation that we are, it’s easy to feel a bit sleepy when we come down from our busy minds. Our body does what it naturally wants to do, go to rest. We also feel sleepy sometimes when an experience is overwhelming, so it’s good to be curious whether the tiredness is telling you that you need more rest or that there’s a feeling that needs to be expressed.

Solution: If from time to time you fall asleep when meditating, consider it a good nap that you needed. However, if this is happening often you might try sitting in a more upright posture, standing up, having your eyes slightly open or maybe splashing some water on your face before starting. Still not working out for you? Try a bedtime meditation, which aims to put you to sleep.

5. Wanting

You’ll notice when you practice that your mind may fall into a state of wanting to be somewhere else than where you are. Or maybe it’s even more innocent, of just craving a bite to eat and so the mind starts drifting onto different food topics. Or before you even get to practice your mind wants conditions to be different than they are so you don’t even get to practice. This state of mind can either stop us from practicing or ignite restlessness, irritation and others.

Solution: If you notice this state of mind before you practice, you might consider what you can practice instead of what you can’t practice. If the mind is busy wanting to be somewhere else during the practice, see if you can be easy on yourself, simply continuing to notice the thoughts straying and gently bringing your attention back. If it’s continues to be a strong pull, maybe intentionally shift your practice to being aware of thoughts.

Ultimately, having a regular mindfulness meditation seems so simple, but practice isn’t always easy. We have our brains to contend with who throw up all these obstacles.

Even if you just made it your intention to be on the lookout for these obstacles and apply the antidotes as best you can, that would be an extremely beneficial practice.

Be forgiving of yourself as you go and remember you can always begin again.

Adapted from Mindfulness & Psychotherapy.

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Mindfulness for singers: tips to get started with meditation – isingmag

Do you want to stop worrying and start living in the moment? Abby Ahmad explains how you can find focus and clarity through meditation. Fear, insecurity and doubt are emotions familiar to all singers. We continuously question ourselves, our technique, our artistry and our accomplishments, casting broad shadows on small things. Unchecked, this devours our natural, emotional reactivity and sends our nervous system into a tailspin, depleting the very skills we’re aiming to improve. Succeeding in the music industry while keeping your sense of self in tact is a huge challenge. The voices that move us most embody emotions fully, and the singers who possess such voices have the strength to take criticism without compromising the vulnerability necessary to embody intense feelings. How is this balance achieved? How can we allow our emotions to flow truthfully? How can we moderate the messiness of the mind and liberate our voices to their most authentic? The answer is meditation, a powerful practice that can transform your life and instrument. It provides the equilibrium essential to nurture a voice to become expressive, reliable, dynamic and compelling. By calibrating ourselves to actively feel emotions without bias, we start to repair our tendency toward attachment and expectation. This is a game changer for vocalists. Meditation can be intimidating for a newbie. Some feel they don’t have the time, privacy or disposition for the practice. Additionally, many find it challenging to be still or silent. Luckily, there are many methods available to you which will help incorporate meditation into your daily routine in a way that is feasible and fun. Journaling meditation  Journaling is a fantastic way to urge an active brain toward deepened consciousness. Here’s how to do it. Purchase a new journal specifically for this exercise. Make sure it’s book or notepad that’s aesthetically pleasing and choose a writing utensil that feels good. Set a timer for five to 10 minutes and, using free association, write based on the prompt “right now”. Think of it as a way to purge any thought that arises. There is no right way, only a write way. When you have completed your initial thoughts, return to the prompt and begin again. Repeat until the timer sounds. When you have completed the task, carefully read your writing aloud, allowing any emotions or attachments to arise. Go back and highlight any pertinent thoughts/ideas. Om chanting meditation  Find a calm place where you can sit comfortably. Let your hands rest naturally. Set a timer for your desired length of time (five minutes is a good start). When chanting “Om”, it is important to resign any attachment to pitch, tonality or performance. Om is considered the vibration of the universe, unmatched by any human voice. Let the sound of your voice be informed by your breath and expressed organically and effortlessly. Om is composed of four sounds: “a”, “u”, “m” and the silence that follows. The parts should merge equally to create the sound “OME” (like “home”). Using your voice, chant the sound “Om”, taking as many rounds of respiration in between as necessary. Let it be smooth and unhurried, reflecting the natural rhythm of your body and breath. Repeat until timer rings. Walking meditation Take a solo walk leaving behind the distractions of your everyday life. Abandon your phone, music and bulky backpack, etc. Do not let anything come between you and the vibrancy of the world around you. Focus on feeling untethered and completely connected. Notice your sensory receptors. Feel the heat from the sun, smell the flowers or the garbage. See the people, animals or plants you encounter with clarity. Remain conscious of your breath. Bring awareness to the feet with each step. See if you can create a rhythm with your whole physicality that the mind can follow. Choose a path where you can walk continuously without physical interruption. Walk for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour. Wilfully distracted meditation  This one seems counter-intuitive, but what better way to put your mindfulness to the test than to utilise these principles when in an actively stressful situation? The next time you find yourself in a scenario with a lot of outward distractions (crowded subway, construction noise, kids screaming, heavy traffic) focus your attention on your breath. Notice which emotions emerge within as you are agitated. Notice where tension arises in the body. Notice how long it lasts and if it shifts. Notice what prompts the shift, if any. Tune into the distractions instead of shying away from them. Investigate them with curiosity. Allow the experience of openly embracing frustration and negative emotion to shed light on something new. Guided meditation Guided meditations and conversations on mindfulness/creativity are a salve for the soul. Beginners may find it useful to be led into meditation with the help of a professional. Listening to conversations and interviews regarding life, spirituality, health and mindfulness will deepen your connection to self. I find guided meditation particularly soothing when anxiety rears its head at bedtime. App/podcasts you make like to try  Tara Brach, Simple Habit, Meditation Studio, On Being, Untangle Oprah’s Soul Sessions and Big Magic. Beginner tips for traditional meditation Start in a comfortable position, seated on a chair, cushion, or mat, or lying down. Set a timer for a reasonable duration. (Begin with three minutes and work your way up to 20 plus. You can also do a shorter practice multiple times throughout the day). Begin with gratitude. Find something you are thankful for: family, friends, a pet, a working body, running water – whatever you can muster in the moment. Establish a “mudra” or hand position. For example, palms down on thighs to connect internally, palms upward for receptivity. If you find your body fidgeting in the meditation, try shifting mudras throughout. (For more on mudras  CLICK HERE ). Begin inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Connect to the natural rhythm of your breath without judgement. From there, deepen the breath, allowing the inhalations and exhalations to match in duration and intensity. Assign a mantra to your breath cycle. A mantra is a silently repeated phrase which assists you in transcending the activity of the mind. It can be as simple as “in” on the inhalations and “out” on the exhalations. Other options are “let”/”go”, “I”/”am” or Sanskrit words “sat” (truth)/”nam” (identity). Or create your own. Continue to breathe and repeat your mantra (only if it feels helpful). Notice which thoughts arise. Notice the urges of your body to disconnect. Do not repel these thoughts and sensations. On your inhalations, actively recognise their existence. On your exhalations, let go and allow them to release. Repeat this cycle until your designated time is up. Have patience and compassion for the process. Meditation is not about feeling good immediately or thinking about nothing. It is the progression of allowing all your emotions, sensations and thoughts to play out. Be honest, be consistent, and you will continue to unfold and unravel unto the beauty of yourself.

Free Mindfulness Apps Worthy of Your Attention

There’s no shortage of mindfulness and meditation apps these days, promising to help you combat anxiety, sleep better, hone your focus, and more. We scoured the app stores to find the most comprehensive and easy-to-use mindfulness apps that are available for free. The majority of mindfulness apps include free offerings and starter packs alongside premium packages, so we considered a few of those, too, to see how they stack up.  

1) Insight Timer

insight timer app screenshot

Available for iOS and Android

Price: Free with in-app purchases ($5 per course)

Insight Timer has an insanely huge library of content: nearly 13,000 guided meditations from over 2,600 teachers on topics like stress, relationships, creativity, and more.

Right from the beginning, the app feels like a community—the home screen announces, “420,065 meditations today, 5,059 meditating right now.” In fact, Insight Timer has attracted more than 5 million meditators from around the world. After you finish a meditation, you’ll learn exactly how many people were meditating “with you” during that time—and by setting your location, you can even see meditators nearby and what they’re listening to.
Once you find a teacher you enjoy—like Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, or Sharon Salzberg—you can follow them to make sure you don’t miss any new content. If you prefer a quieter meditation, you can always set a timer and meditate to intermittent bells or calming ambient noise.

Insight Courses

This year, Insight Timer launched Insight Courses, which feature 10-15 minutes of audio per day alongside group discussions. You can start with the free “Learn to Meditate in 7 Days,” but the other 10-day courses will cost $4.99 each. You can also tune in to hundreds of free talks and podcasts for life advice and inspiration, and music tracks to soothe your mind or help you sleep.

Depending on your preferences, Insight Timer’s extensive collection can be either a blessing or a curse—an endless list of choices that leave you overwhelmed or a buffet of tempting options to sink your teeth into.

2) Stop, Breathe & Think

Stop, Breathe & Think app screenshot

Available for iOS and Android

Price: Free or $10 a month

If other apps expect you to dive right in, Stop, Breathe & Think wants to create a more deliberate, intentional experience. A section called Learn to Meditate explains what mindfulness is and why it’s beneficial, including some of the neuroscience and physiology behind it. Each day when you open the app, you’re invited to check in with yourself—to rate your mind and body on a scale of “rough” to “great,” and note up to five emotions you’re feeling. Then, Stop, Breathe & Think will recommend meditations, yoga videos, and acupressure videos tailored to how you feel.

Meditations based on how you feel

The app features 34 free sessions. For many of them, you can choose between different lengths and either a friendly male voice (Grecco) or a calming female voice (Jamie) as your meditation guide. Most of the meditations are short, up to 15 minutes, and feature simple introductory practices like Being Kind to Your Body, Forgiving Yourself, and Joy. You can also simply set a timer and sit in silence, or learn different breathing techniques, or listen to relaxing forest sounds.

Stop, Breathe & Think is ideal if you need to understand why you’re meditating and see how it’s benefitting you in order to keep up the habit.

A progress page keeps track of how your mind and body have been feeling over time, and your most common emotions (before and after meditating, when the app invites you to check in again). Plus, you can earn cute stickers: As a newbie, I’ve collected “Good Start” and “Trio of Tranquility.” Stop, Breathe & Think is ideal if you need to understand why you’re meditating and see how it’s benefitting you in order to keep up the habit.

3) Calm

calm app screenshot

Available for iOS and Android

Price: Free, with in-app purchases ($59.99 annual subscription)

The moment you open the Calm app—rated the 2017 app of the year by Apple—you might feel a sense of…calm. Relaxing sounds of falling rain play automatically in the background, but you could also opt to be greeted by lake noises or birds trilling.

Calm’s free offerings include basic mindfulness practices. These free meditations, about 25 in total, come in different lengths, from a quick 3-minute meditation to a half-hour sit. You can start off with 7 Days of Calm, a week-long beginners’ series that includes practices for cultivating awareness, returning to the breath when the mind wanders, and training for how to bounce back when the brain switches into “autopilot mode.” Other free sessions include 7 Days of Sleep and Calming Anxiety. Plus, like many other apps, you can set a timer for silent meditation or meditate to intermittent bells.

Calm lives up to its name

For nighttime relaxation, Calm features seven free “sleep stories”: bedtime stories for adults that help you transition into slumber with their soothing voices and tranquil nature settings. Calm’s music section—a feature that more and more meditation apps seem to be adding these days—includes over 100 free tracks to help you relax, sleep, or focus.

Calm entices you to subscribe by making the first sessions free in series like 7 Days to Focus, 7 Days to Happiness, and 7 Days to Self-Esteem, which feels like a bit of a teaser. But its subscription is one of the cheapest out there if you do decide to make the investment. And if calm is what you’re after, the design of the app—with its soft lines, soothing sounds, and uplifting photos—lives up to its name.

4) 10% Happier

Available for iOS and Android

Price: Free 7-day series, $99.99 annual fee.

The tagline for 10% Happier tells you the most important thing you need to know about the app. It’s “meditation for fidgety skeptics”—a relatable, no-nonsense way to learn mindfulness for people whose goals veer more toward sharpening their brains than befriending their souls.

It’s “meditation for fidgety skeptics”—a relatable, no-nonsense way to learn mindfulness for people whose goals veer more toward sharpening their brains than befriending their souls.

Unlike some other mindfulness apps, 10% Happier comes with a tour guide. Dan Harris is a news anchor who famously had a panic attack on live TV, an experience that eventually led him to pursue meditation.

Authoritative conversations about meditation

There are sparse free offerings on 10% Happier, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in accessibility and authority. What’s free is The Basics series, a one-week orientation to mindfulness. Each day features an introductory video by Harris (often in conversation with instructor Joseph Goldstein), and a meditation by Goldstein.

Harris uses his journalistic chops to take these conversations with Goldstein to the heart of the most pressing questions new meditators have—like how to know you’re doing it right and how to deal with boredom. Goldstein, who is a seasoned meditator, offers wise answers based on his decades of experience.

Harris also hosts the 10% Happier podcast for free (outside the app), featuring conversations with people from Richard Davidson to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Arianna Huffington to the Dalai Lama. If other mindfulness apps don’t speak your language, 10% Happier might be the app for you.

5) Meditation Studio

Available for iOS and Android

Price: Free with extras you can buy, $49.99 annual fee

Meditation Studio is a more traditional offering. The app features an introductory series with Dr. Elisha Goldstein—a licensed psychologist and co-founder of The Center for Mindful Living. Goldstein guides you through ten days of meditation to cultivate calm, energy, and compassion, mostly by focusing on the breath.

You can also preview what the paid app has to offer in the Discover series. Discover is a selection of popular tracks on anxiety, sleep, negative thoughts, and more, featuring teachers like Chrissy Carter and Faith Hunter. At the moment, it includes a meditation for kids and one for college students (while the paid version has targeted content for moms, veterans, entrepreneurs, and even first responders).

An app for experienced meditators

Meditation Studio might be more suited to people who are familiar with the basics of mindfulness and breath awareness techniques, such as using the breath or an external object as an anchor for your attention. For example, the end of the first session invites you to take one minute to “completely be,” being present to your whole experience—breath, thoughts, life—which feels like a tricky practice for a novice. The free meditations last up to 33 minutes, a long time to sit still for someone who’s not used to it. More advanced meditators can also set a timer and pick some background music for an unguided session.

If you’re more of a seeker than a skeptic, and you enjoy the experience of completing a series and getting to know different teachers, Meditation Studio could be a helpful resource on your journey.

The post Free Mindfulness Apps Worthy of Your Attention appeared first on Mindful.

25 Fun Mindfulness Activities and Exercises for Children and Teens

“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being” (Eckhart Tolle).

Mindfulness can add to the quality of our lives in numerous ways, from nurturing a sense of inner peace to improving the quality of a workout, from enhancing self-confidence to facilitating deeper and more meaningful relationships with others.

In children specifically, mindfulness has been found to:

It’s important for caregivers and educators to provide age-appropriate mindfulness practices for children.

Fostering mindfulness through small tools such as pictures, objects, food, simple movements, and music for preschoolers can help them develop an ability to focus attention at a great level.

For instance, in a study by Flook et al., (2015), they had an activity called ‘’Belly Buddies’’ in which kids listened to music while being asked to notice the sensation of small tone on their stomachs rising and falling as they breathe. Simple activities like these can have long-lasting developmental benefits when practiced regularly.

To get started, check out the fun mindfulness activities designed specifically for children below.

Oh, and enjoy! These exercises are extremely fun to do with kids.

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4 Fun Mindfulness Activities and Exercises for Children

Mindful Posing

One easy way for children to dip their toes into mindfulness is through the simple method of body poses. To get your kids interested, tell them that doing fun poses can help them feel strong, brave, and happy.

Have them go somewhere quiet and familiar, a place they feel safe. Next, tell them to try one of the following two poses:

Spidey Senses

While you’re on the subject of superheroes, there is a fun and easy way to introduce your kids to paying attention to the present.

Instruct your kids to turn on their “Spidey senses”, the super-focused senses of smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch that Spiderman uses to keep tabs on the world around him. This will encourage them to pause and focus their attention on the present, opening their awareness to the information their senses bring in (Karen Young, 2017).

This is a classic mindfulness exercise, packaged in a fun and easy to understand format that kids will find no difficulty in trying out.

The Mindful Jar

This activity can teach children about how strong emotions can take hold, and how to find peace when these strong emotions come up.

“Imagine that the glitter is like your thoughts when you’re stressed, mad or upset. See how they whirl around and make it really hard to see clearly? That’s why it’s so easy to make silly decisions when you’re upset – because you’re not thinking clearly. Don’t worry this is normal and it happens in all of us (yep, grownups too).

[Now put the jar down in front of them.]

Now watch what happens when you’re still for a couple of moments. Keep watching. See how the glitter starts to settle and the water clears? Your mind works the same way. When you’re calm for a little while, your thoughts start to settle and you start to see things much clearer” (Karen Young, 2017).

This exercise not only helps children learn about how their emotions can cloud their thoughts, it also facilitates the practice of mindfulness while focusing on the swirling glitter in the jar.

The Safari exercise is another fun way to help kids learn mindfulness. This activity turns an average, everyday walk outside into an exciting new adventure.

Tell your kids that you will be going on a safari, and their goal is to notice as many birds, bugs, creepy-crawlies, and any other animals as they can. Anything that walks, crawls, swims, or flies is of interest, and they’ll need to focus all of their senses to find them, especially the little ones (Karen Young, 2017).

A similar exercise for adults is the mindfulness walk. This exercise provokes the same response in children that the mindful walk brings out in adults: a state of awareness and grounding in the present.

If you’re interested in more information on how to encourage the practice of mindfulness in children and teens, you can check out the other exercises from this website. Otherwise, head on to the next section where we lay out some tips that you may find helpful.

15 Tips for Teaching Mindfulness to Kids and Teenagers

When you are trying to teach your kids or young clients about what mindfulness is and how it can benefit them, it’s best to start off with a few simple guidelines:

Megan Cowan, co-founder, and co-director at the Mindful Schools program in Oakland, also has some tips on how to successfully teach mindfulness to kids (2010):

Cowan (2010) also includes a short script if you’d like to use her mini-lesson.

Relay the following instructions to your kids:

For more in-depth tips and ideas on teaching mindfulness to children, check out the book Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community. The website from editor and children’s book author Annaka Harris also provides some great ideas for exercises that teach mindfulness to children.

8 Mindfulness Games, YouTube Videos, and Apps to Support Your Teachings

Technology is having a profound impact on learning and development, sometimes in a positive direction and sometimes by bringing new challenges. To ensure that you are using technology to your advantage when it comes to teaching children mindfulness, give some of these resources a try.

Mindfulness for Children: Meditations for Kids

This is an application that can be downloaded through the Android app store, iTunes, Google Music, or the Apple app store, with multiple versions available. There are a few versions that must be purchased and one free version, which offers fewer conveniences than the paid versions.

This app is centered around guided meditation that is designed to help children wind down before bed. It includes relaxing nature sounds and instructions in a plain language that children can easily understand. The app can guide the user through a body scan, visualizations, and breathing exercises.

Reviews for this app have been positive, and the developers report that parents have seen some reduction in ADHD symptoms through using this app.

For more information or to give this app a try, visit the website.

Smiling Minds App

Another application that is popular for children as young as 7 is the Smiling Mind app. This app is available through the Apple app store as well as the Google Play store and is free to download and use.

This app offers similar features to the Mindfulness for Children app, including a body scan activity. There are dozens of modules with hundreds of sessions available, customized for well-being, education, and the workplace (for adults).

If you’d like to check out the reviews for this app or learn more about it, visit the website.

Still Quiet Place

If you’d like to use a video to help your kids learn how to engage in mindfulness, the Mindfulness Exercises for Kids: Still Quiet Place video is a great resource. This animated video includes cute characters, fun colors, and imagery, and can help students learn how to go to a “still quiet place.”

Check out the video here, and scroll down to the link below the video to see more activities from GoZen.com.

Mindfulness Games for Kids

If you want to try to get kids interested in practicing mindfulness with fun and interactive games, try these ideas from the Kids Activities Blog:

If you want to know about more games you can play with children to teach them about mindfulness, check out the book Mindful Games: Sharing Mindfulness and Meditation with Children, Teens, and Families by Susan Kaiser Greenland.

3 Mindfulness Training Classes For Children with Anxiety

Mindfulness practice can be an especially important component of a child’s life if they suffer from anxiety. Learning about mindfulness and how to engage in mindfulness can help a child realize that while a little bit of worrying is normal, there are useful coping methods and strategies to decrease anxiety based on mindfulness.

Aside from the Mindful Schools program mentioned earlier, there are some classes and programs designed especially for children, and even a few that are structured for children dealing with anxiety.

While a course isn’t strictly necessary for teaching children mindfulness, it can be a great help to have a format, lessons, and exercises laid out in an easy-to-administer package.

The Basics: Teaching Essential Mindfulness Practices and Skills

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is a staple of practicing mindfulness and is often the foundation of other exercises. To help kids learn how to engage in mindful breathing, you can use a video like the one below:

This video guides children through a breathing meditation by instructing them to imagine a sailboat that rises and falls as they breathe; with each inhale and exhale, the boat moves gently on top of the water. They also get an opportunity to envision their breath as a color and focus on the experience of their breath moving through their nostrils.

Finally, the video ends with the exercise of the children pretending they used to be a fish and paying attention to how it would feel to breathe through their lungs for the first time.

Body Scan

The body scan is one of the basic practices in mindfulness, and it is an easy one to teach to children.

kid doing body scan in grass - Teaching Essential Mindfulness Practices and Skills body scan kids
This simple exercise gets kids to be more aware of their bodies and helps them find a way to be present in the moment.

Heartbeat Exercise

Paying attention to one’s heartbeat has a role in many mindfulness exercises and activities. Kids can learn how to apply this mindfulness practice to their own lives as well.

Tell your kids to jump up and down in place or do jumping jacks for one minute. When they have finished, have them sit down and put a hand over their heart. Instruct them to close their eyes and pay attention only to their heartbeat and, perhaps, their breath as well (Roman, 2015).

This easy exercise shows children how to notice their heartbeat and helps them practice their focus. These skills will come in handy as they start engaging in more advanced mindfulness activities.

Mindfulness Meditation for Very Young Children

You might be thinking that these tips and exercises could be excellent for teaching mindfulness in elementary or middle school, and you’re right! These are wonderful resources for helping a child discover the benefits of mindfulness.

But you can start even sooner than elementary school when it comes to teaching mindfulness. Some mindfulness exercises can even be started before Kindergarten!

For example, one blogging mother laid out her five strategies for teaching young children mindfulness, which she has used with a child as young as three.

Her strategies are:

breathing kid - mindfulness activities

The Benefits Of Mindfulness In Schools (K12) + Videos

Teaching mindfulness in schools Childhood and adolescence are important developmental stages that construct the groundwork for mental health in adults. In recent literature, mindfulness-based school programs using age-appropriate techniques have demonstrated a range of social, cognitive, and emotional benefits for elementary and middle-school students.

Cognitive Benefits

Executive function is a set of mental skills that constitutes attention, switching focus, planning, organizing and remembering details. Research in education suggests that mindfulness practice can lead to improvements in executive function in children. For instance, in the study of Flook et al., (2010) conducted on 3rd graders, students who went through an 8-week mindfulness program showed significant improvements in behavioral regulation, metacognition and focus compared to the controls group who didn’t go through the mindfulness program.

In another study, students who went through a 24-week of mindfulness training also scored higher in attentional measures after the intervention in elementary school (Napoli et al., 2004). In another recent study conducted on preschoolers, children who went through mindfulness curriculum for 12 weeks earned higher marks on academic performance measures and showed greater improvements in areas that predict future success (Flook et al., 2015).

Social Benefits

A social skill is any skill that we use to interact and communicate with others. Deficits and excesses in social behavior can affect learning, understanding, and the classroom climate. A recent research conducted on lower-income and ethnic minority elementary school children show that a 5-week mindfulness curriculum can lead to better participation in activities and caring and respect for others in 9th-grade children (Black et al., 2013).

Emotional Benefits

Emotional health, which is a positive sense of well-being, is an important component of child and adolescent development. Emotional problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression can affect self-esteem, performance, and social interaction to a great extent in students. Recent findings suggest that mindfulness practice may facilitate the ability to manage stress and lead to improved well-being in students.

According to a study by Schonert-Reichl and his colleagues (2010), mindfulness practice leads to higher scores on self-report measures of optimism and positive emotions in elementary school students. Moreover, in a study conducted by Wall (2005), self-reported findings showed children feeling calmer, had an enhanced experience of well-being, and improved sleep after a 5-week modified mindfulness-based stress reduction program in 11-13 years of age.

Videos on Mindfulness in Schools

A Take Home Message

Plenty of research shows that mindfulness is capable of improving mental health and well-being, attention, self-regulation, and social competency when well taught and practiced in children and adolescents.

Introducing mindfulness-based programs in schools and in everyday practice can have a life-long impact on the psychological, social, and cognitive well-being of children and teens. So go out and help your child to practice and enjoy simple mindfulness exercises when they are young.

Children as young as pre-school age have successfully completed mindfulness exercises and enjoyed their experiences as well.

Do you have kids or work with kids on a regular basis? Try these tips and activities out, and let us know how they worked in the comments section below.

Good luck, and remember this old saying:

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

  • Beach, S. R. “Baby Buddhas – Five strategies for teaching mindfulness to children. Retrieved from www.leftbrainbuddha.com.
  • Cowan, M. (2010, May 13). Tips for teaching mindfulness. Retrieved from www.greatergood.berkeley.edu
  • Crescentini, C., Capurso, V., Furlan, S., & Fabbro, F. (2016). Mindfulness-oriented meditation for primary school children: Effects on attention and psychological well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 805. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00805
  • Daigneault, I., Dion, J., Hébert, M., & Bourgeois, C. (2016). Mindfulness as mediator and moderator of post-traumatic symptomatology in adolescence following childhood sexual abuse or assault. Mindfulness, 7, 1306-1315. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0571-3
  • Karen Young. (2017). Mindfulness for children: Fun, effective ways to strengthen mind, body, spirit. Retrieved from www.heysigmund.com
  • Garey, J. (2017). Mindfulness in the classroom: How it helps kids regulate behavior and focus on learning. Retrieved from https://childmind.org.
  • Harris, A. “Mindfulness for children.” Retrieved from www.annakaharris.com
  • “MonkeyMind and me: A mindfulness course for children”. (2017). Published by MeetTheSelf and YesCreative. Retrieved from www.meettheself.com/classes
  • Roman, K. (2015, April 2). 7 fun ways to teach your kids mindfulness. Retrieved from www.mindbodygreen.com
  • Zhang, D., Chan, S. K. C., Lo, H. H. M., Chan, C. Y. H., Chan, J. C. Y., Ting, K. T., Gao, T. T., Lai, K. Y. C., Bögels, S. M., & Wong, S. Y. S. (2016). Mindfulness-based intervention for Chinese children with ADHD and their parents: A pilot mixed-method study. Mindfulness, 8, 1-14. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0660-3
  • Zhou, Z., Liu, Q., Niu, G., Sun, X., & Fan, C. (2017). Bullying victimization and depression in Chinese children: A moderated mediation model of resilience and mindfulness. Personality and Individual Differences, 104, 137-142. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.07.040

Mindfulness in Schools references:

  • Black, D.S., & Fernando, R. (2013). Mindfulness training and classroom behavior among lower income and ethnic minority elementary school children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1-5.
  • Flook, L., Smalley, S. L., Kitil, M. J., Galla, B. M., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., … & Kasari, C. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology26(1), 70-95.
  • Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., & Davidson, R. J. (2015). Promoting prosocial behavior and self-regulatory skills in preschool children through a mindfulness-based kindness curriculum. Developmental psychology51(1), 44.
  • Napoli, M., Krech, P. R., & Holley, L. C. (2005). Mindfulness training for elementary school students: The attention academy. Journal of Applied School Psychology21(1), 99-125.
  • Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lawlor, M. S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre-and early adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness1(3), 137-151.
  • T, K. A. (2014). Kinder kindergarten: Mindfulness tips for preschoolers and their families. Retrieved from here
  • Wall, R. B. (2005). Tai chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction in a Boston public middle school. Journal of Pediatric Health Care19(4), 230-237.
  • Wisner, B. L. (2014). An exploratory study of mindfulness meditation for alternative school students: perceived benefits for improving school climate and student functioning. Mindfulness5(6), 626-638.

 

Mindfulness in Schools references:

Related Posts

Harvard researchers study how mindfulness may change the brain in depressed patients

First of two parts

In 2015, 16.1 million Americans reported experiencing major depression during the previous year, often struggling to function while grappling with crippling darkness and despair.

There’s an arsenal of treatments at hand, including talk therapy and antidepressant medications, but what’s depressing in itself is that they don’t work for every patient.

“Many people don’t respond to the frontline interventions,” said Benjamin Shapero, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Depression Clinical and Research Program. “Individual cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful for many people; antidepressant medications help many people. But it’s also the case that many people don’t benefit from them as well. There’s a great need for alternative approaches.”

Shapero is working with Gaëlle Desbordes, an instructor in radiology at HMS and a neuroscientist at MGH’s Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, to explore one alternative approach: mindfulness-based meditation.

In recent decades, public interest in mindfulness meditation has soared. Paralleling, and perhaps feeding, the growing popular acceptance has been rising scientific attention. The number of randomized controlled trials — the gold standard for clinical study — involving mindfulness has jumped from one in the period from 1995‒1997 to 11 from 2004‒2006, to a whopping 216 from 2013‒2015, according to a recent article summarizing scientific findings on the subject.

Studies have shown benefits against an array of conditions both physical and mental, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But some of those findings have been called into question because studies had small sample sizes or problematic experimental designs. Still, there are a handful of key areas — including depression, chronic pain, and anxiety — in which well-designed, well-run studies have shown benefits for patients engaging in a mindfulness meditation program, with effects similar to other existing treatments.

“There are a few applications where the evidence is believable. But the effects are by no means earth-shattering,” Desbordes said. “We’re talking about moderate effect size, on par with other treatments, not better. And then there’s a bunch of other things under study with preliminary evidence that is encouraging but by no means conclusive. I think that’s where it’s at. I’m not sure that is exactly how the public understands it at this point.”

Researcher Gaelle Desbordes is probing mindfulness meditation’s effect on depression, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to take before and after images of the brains of depressed patients who’ve learned to meditate. The work seeks to understand the internal brain processes affected by mindfulness meditation training in this population.

Video by Kai-Jae Wang/Harvard Staff

Desbordes’ interest in the topic stems from personal experience. She began meditating as a graduate student in computational neuroscience at Boston University, seeking respite from the stress and frustration of academic life. Her experience convinced her that something real was happening to her and prompted her to study the subject more closely, in hopes of shedding enough light to underpin therapy that might help others.

“My own interest comes from having practiced those [meditation techniques] and found them beneficial, personally. Then, being a scientist, asking ‘How does this work? What is this doing to me?’ and wanting to understand the mechanisms to see if it can help others,” Desbordes said. “If we want that to become a therapy or something offered in the community, we need to demonstrate [its benefits] scientifically.”

Desbordes’ research uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which not only takes pictures of the brain, as a regular MRI does, but also records brain activity occurring during the scan. In 2012, she demonstrated that changes in brain activity in subjects who have learned to meditate hold steady even when they’re not meditating. Desbordes took before-and-after scans of subjects who learned to meditate over the course of two months. She scanned them not while they were meditating, but while they were performing everyday tasks. The scans still detected changes in the subjects’ brain activation patterns from the beginning to the end of the study, the first time such a change — in a part of the brain called the amygdala — had been detected.

Functional MRI (left) showing activation in the amygdala when participants were watching images with emotional content before learning meditation. After eight weeks of training in mindful attention meditation (right) note the amygdala is less activated after the meditation training.

Courtesy of Gaelle Desbordes

In her current work, she is exploring meditation’s effects on the brains of clinically depressed patients, a group for whom studies have shown meditation to be effective. Working with patients selected and screened by Shapero, Desbordes is performing functional magnetic resonance imaging scans before and after an eight-week course in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT.

During the scans, participants complete two tests, one that encourages them to become more aware of their bodies by focusing on their heartbeats (an exercise related to mindfulness meditation), and the other asking them to reflect on phrases common in the self-chatter of depressed patients, such as “I am such a loser,” or “I can’t go on.” After a series of such comments, the participants are asked to stop ruminating on the phrases and the thoughts they trigger. Researchers will measure how quickly subjects can disengage from negative thoughts, typically a difficult task for the depressed.

The process will be repeated for a control group that undergoes muscle relaxation training and depression education instead of MBCT. While it’s possible that patients in the control part of the study also will have reduced depressive symptoms, Desbordes said it should occur via different mechanisms in the brain, a difference that may be revealed by the scans. The work, which received funding from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, has been underway since 2014 and is expected to last into 2019.

Desbordes said she wants to test one prevalent hypothesis about how MBCT works in depressed patients: that the training boosts body awareness in the moment, called interoception, which, by focusing their attention on the here and now, arms participants to break the cycle of self-rumination.

“We know those brain systems involved with interoception, and we know those involved with rumination and depression. I want to test, after taking MBCT, whether we see changes in these networks, particularly in tasks specifically engaging them,” Desbordes said.

Desbordes is part of a community of researchers at Harvard and its affiliated institutions that in recent decades has been teasing out whether and how meditation works.

In the 1970s, when transcendental meditation surged in popularity, Herbert Benson, a professor at Harvard Medical School and what was then Beth Israel Hospital, explored what he called “The Relaxation Response,” identifying it as the common, functional attribute of transcendental meditation, yoga, and other forms of meditation, including deep religious prayer. Benson described this response — which recent investigators say is not as common as he originally thought — as the opposite of the body’s adrenalin-charged “fight or flight” response, which was also identified at Harvard, by physiologist Walter Cannon Bradford in 1915.

Other MGH researchers also are studying the effects of meditation on the body, including Sara Lazar, who in 2012 used fMRI to show that the brains of subjects thickened after an eight-week meditation course. Work is ongoing at MGH’s Benson-Henry Institute; at HMS and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’sOsher Center for Integrative Medicine; at the Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance, where Zev Schuman-Olivier directs the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion; and among a group of nearly a dozen investigators at Harvard and other Northeastern institutions, including Desbordes and Lazar, who are collaborating through the Mindfulness Research Collaborative.

Among the challenges researchers face is defining mindfulness itself. The word has come to describe a meditation-based practice whose aim is to increase one’s sense of being in the present, but it has also been used to describe a nonmeditative state in which subjects set aside their mental distractions to pay greater attention to the here and now, as in the work of Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer.

Another challenge involves sorting through the many variations of meditative practice.

Recent scientific exploration has largely focused on the secular practice of mindful meditation, but meditation is also a component of several ancient religious traditions, with variations. Even within the community practicing secular mindful meditation, there are variations that may be scientifically meaningful, such as how often one meditates and how long the sessions are. Desbordes herself has an interest in a variation called compassion meditation, whose aim is to increase caring for those around us.

Amid this variation, an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course developed in the 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center has become something of a clinical and scientific standard. The course involves weekly two- or 2½-hour group training sessions, 45 minutes of daily work on one’s own, and a daylong retreat. The mindfulness-based cognitive therapy used in Desbordes’ current work is a variation on that program and incorporates elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves talk therapy effective in treating depression.

Ultimately, Desbordes said she’s interested in teasing out just what in mindful meditation can work against depression. If researchers can identify what elements are effective, the therapy may be refined to be more successful. Shapero is also interested in using the study to refine treatment. Since some patients benefit from mindfulness meditation and some do not, he’d like to better understand how to differentiate between the two.

“Once we know which ingredients are successful, we can do more of that and less, maybe, of the parts that are less effective,” Desbordes said.

Research funding includes the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

For more information about the Mindfulness & Meditation program at Harvard University, visit its website.

The Best Books To Teach Kids Self-Control, Mindfulness, and Regulation

One of my favorite ways to talk about regulation with my son and to give him insight into new self-regulation skills is to read books.

Books are such a powerful tool for parents — they are a way to connect, a way to calm down, and a way to teach life lessons.  I’ve listed some of our favorites below.

The first list includes books that directly teach children about self-control strategies and are great to help children reflect on their own ability to self-regulate in various situations.

The second list below includes books that teach children to breathe through emotions, to be able to pause before acting, to be mindful of their bodies and more. Through the methods of mindfulness, children can learn self-awareness and self-calming strategies that will become life-long skills for handling stress and emotions.

And finally, the last list below includes fun picture books that show characters in laughable and relatable situations. Kids will want to read these books over and over, and maybe they will learn a few self-regulation skills along the way.

Books That Teach Regulation Strategies To Kids
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Best Books That Teach Regulation Strategies To Kids

1.What Were You Thinking? A Story about Learning to Control Impulses – This book follows a day in the life of Braden, a 3rd grader who is learning how to control his impulses. Braden wants to be funny and blurts out things he shouldn’t, reacts to things he believes to be unfair without thinking, and eats a bunch of cupcakes without thinking about who or what they might be for. Luckily, Braden has some pretty understanding adults in his life who give him some tips on how to start controlling his impulses: Stop, Think and decide if your actions will make the situation Better or Worse.

This book opens a lot of opportunities to talk about -self-regulation in the school setting. Things like when you can be funny when you should be serious, how to react to situations when you are angry, and thinking through issues.

My son especially likes the Better or Worse? question, this is something he says to himself often and I believe helps him think through the consequences of his actions before he acts. If you like this book, there are a few others by the same author which address the executive function skill of flexible thinking: Of Course, It’s a Big Deal and My Day is Ruined!

2. What Should Danny Do? – This book also goes through several choices a boy named Danny makes over the course of his week. He loves soccer, superheroes, and ninjas and he has his very own superpower –The power to choose!

The reader gets the power to choose in this book too. The story follows along in a “choose your own adventure” style. Your child gets to help Danny make decisions and sometimes those decisions lead to good outcomes and sometimes not.

The first time we read it, my son made the “right” decisions. It was pretty obvious which the better choices would be. Then he wanted to go back and pick some of the poor choices. This shows kids how actions and choices have consequences.

Many of the consequences are natural and encourage empathetic thinking, but some of them don’t fit perfectly with a positive/gentle parenting style. That was okay for us, my son seemed to understand that those were Danny’s consequences and his consequences wouldn’t necessarily be the same. Overall, he got the idea that your choices lead to certain outcomes.

Where the book really shines is when Danny makes good choices and is proud of his day and also when Danny doesn’t make good choices, the passages where his parents reinforce the power to choose. For example, Danny’s Dad says: “I heard your day wasn’t so good, Danny…Every superhero makes mistakes, and that’s okay. But the best superheroes learn from their mistakes and use their Power to Choose Wisely.”  

I recommend this book — the concept of choosing your adventure is great and the overall tone of the message is positive. Just be aware that if you follow positive/gentle parenting, some of the consequences (going to your room, no chocolate for a week) are “punishment” consequences.

There is a new book in this series that follows Danny throughout a day a school: What Should Danny Do? School Day

3. How to Be a Super-Hero Called Self-Control – Following along on the super-hero theme, this book features a hero called self-control who teaches children (aged 4-7 years) how to handle difficult feelings like anxiety, frustration, and anger. The back of the book has resources for parents.  There is a book by the same author older children (aged 7- 14 years) too, The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control: Simple Stuff to Help Children Regulate their Emotions and Senses

4. What To Do When You Are Mad: A Workbook for Kids- If your child struggles to regulate big emotions like anger or has a big temper, this workbook is for them. This workbook helps kids mindfully identify signs of anger in their body, how to vent their anger in healthy ways, and how to use their angry energy to solve problems. Based on self0regulation theory, this is a great book to learn how to work through big mad emotions.

Best Books About Mindfulness for Kids

Mindfulness is the ultimate self-regulation tool. If we can help our children become aware of how their bodies react when stressed and how to calm that stress and the chatter of the mind we are giving them a skill that will use for life. In fact, developmental psychologists have found that mindfulness training has been shown to increase attentional self-regulation in children.

These books capture the essence of paying attention to the inside and living in the moment. We often focus on teaching our children to pay attention to what’s going on around them, but really first they must be able to tune in to themselves. This is the first step in mindfulness.

5. My Magic Breath – What a gorgeous book this is! I love this book which teaches children to breathe out their thoughts and feelings right onto the pages of the book. This book introduces the concept as breathing as a way to recenter oneself when thoughts and feelings race through your mind. “Do you have a magic breath? When you are worried, or nervous, or sad, take a deep breath. Now let it go. Did that help you feel better? See? It’s magic!” Learning to mindfully take a breath when our thoughts and emotions are out of control is a core self-regulation strategy. Once you have read this book with your kids a few times, the next time they are upset, say — “Let’s find your magic breath!”

6. A World of Pausabilities: An Exercise in Mindfulness – Written by Psychologist Frank J. Sileo, Ph.D., this book is a wonderful introduction to mindfulness for children. Children do tend to live in the moment — but like the rest of us, they spend much of there time racing from one activity to the next, never pausing to enjoy something. This book will help your child and your family find some quiet moments in the day — and with it some calm. Learning to pause is an essential component of self-regulation — and it is important to teach our children this skill at times when they are not upset, which is exactly what this book encourages children to do, to learn to pause just like they would learn to play an instrument or ride a bicycle.

7. The Lemonade Hurricane – A Story of Mindfulness and Meditation – This book takes mindfulness one step further, it shows how it can be a calming influence. From the synopsis: “Henry is a lot of fun when he’s not storming through the house, so Emma decides to teach him how to be still. By showing him how to sit, bow, and breathe, Emma is able to calm the hurricane within Henry.” This book is a good one to help teach kids a balance between go, go, go and stopping and resting themselves and their minds.

8. Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree – This is a brand new book that hasn’t been released yet at the time I am writing this post. I am excited about this book because mindfulness is a great tool for children with anxiety. In this book, Bea gets herself all worked up before the start of a birthday party, but after stepping outside in her backyard and breathing mindfully and doing visulations, she able to calm down and join the party. I love that Bea has a worry tree, research shows that being in nature helps calm the mind. This book will be a good tool for parents of children with worries.

9. I am Peace: A Book of MindfulnessThis is a sweet book that teaches children the steps of mindfulness and the beauty of living in the here and the now in a gentle story-book fashion. In the back, there is also a guided meditation for kids that is a nice before bed activity, especially for children with stress or worries. It is a good one to have on the bookshelf that you can pull out when your child has had a trying or stressful day,There are times when I worry about what might happen next and what happened before. The thoughts in my head are like rushing water and I feel like a boat with no anchor being carried away…I give myself a moment and take a breath. And then I tell myself: It’s alright.”

10. Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems –  This is also a wonderful book to read when you and your child need calmness and relaxation, “What am I thinking? What comes and goes in my mind? I watch my thoughts. They swim by like little fish. They shine blue, green, red, yellow… there is a quiet place inside my head like an egg hidden in a nest. A place I go when the world is loud.” This book teaches the steps of mindfulness, breathing, being aware of thoughts and letting them go by, refocusing on the breath, and finding your own quiet place. This is true for emotions as well. 

11. A Quiet PlaceThis book is a relaxing one to read at the end of a hectic day. It is about finding your own quiet place — by the shore, by the pond, on a mountain, in the snow — or maybe the one just inside of you. This is a great book for showing your child that everyone has a quiet place inside themselves. Teaching your child that they can go to that quiet place is a giving them the gift of peacefulness.

12. My Incredible Talking Body – This book teaches children the first step in being mindful — awareness of the body and how emotions feel physically. “It tells me I am sleepy when my eyes are droopy and I just can’t stop yawning.” The book goes through the feelings of hungry, thirsty, sleepy, angry, sad, scared and calm. “When I am calm, my muscles feel relaxed like my arms and legs have turned into spaghetti noodles. My breathing is slow and deep like when I blow up a balloon.” The book also discussed how to return to calm after feeling anger or sadness and give strategies for calming down. Learning to listen to the body is a good first step in mindful awareness and emotion regulation.

13. Mind Bubbles: Exploring Mindfulness With Kids – I love books that give kids a concrete example of how to deal with abstract thoughts and feelings. This book teaches children how to focus on their breath while letting thoughts, feelings, and worries pop away like bubbles. “Mind bubbles may float around for awhile, but the interesting thing is that they always pop. Thoughts and feelings change and new ones come along.” This is a great book to introduce mindfulness meditation to children.

14. Mindfulness for Vikings: Inspirational Quotes and Pictures Encouraging a Happy Stress-Free Life for Adults and Kids – This one is a little different, but I love it. These are more things and inspirational sayings to think about during mindful moments. It encourages living in the moment — being mindful and appreciating the little things. Being able to be quiet enough to appreciate those things. “Even the little moments are big moments.” 

15. The Mindfulness for Kids Mandala Drawing Book Research shows that coloring mandalas induces a meditative state and decreases anxiety in college-aged students. This coloring book for kids introduces mandalas and the concept of mindfulness while coloring or drawing. Then the book goes through different types of patterns and provides grids so children can draw their own mandalas. Using art as a self-regulation tool is a great life-skill. I would recommend this book for kids 8 through 12.

Best Picture Books About Self-Control for Kids (or lack of self-control!)

These last books are all stories — pictures books with stories that illustrate how regulation happens (or doesn’t happen) in many kinds of situations. Your child will be able to identify with the characters as they overcome frustration, problem-solve, resist impulses, and wait for something worth waiting for.

16. Nanette’s Baguette – This Mo Willem’s rhyming book follows Nanette on her first time being responsible to “get the baguette.” But will she be able to resist the baguette? It is warm, it smells wonderful!!! You will love the twist ending of this book that shows that sometimes it’s okay to give in to our impulses and enjoy. Learning to regulate is not just about suppressing, but also about being able to enhance emotions, savor life — to know when to be able to let go a little.

17. Waiting is Not Easy – Another great Mo Willems books, this time with Piggy and Gerald. Waiting is not easy and your kids will be able to relate to Gerald’s discomfort while waiting. But, they will also learn that some things are worth waiting for…

18. The Most Magnificent Thing – Oh to know what you want to do, to be able to picture it exactly how you want it in your head and not be able to build it. This is a feeling our kids are all too familiar with as they are gaining coordination and skills. The main character in this book gets frustrated when her invention doesn’t come out– she fumes!! But then, she goes for a walk. She begins to feel different, she calms down. Then she is able to think more clearly again. Will she be able to go back and look at her work with fresh eyes?

What a life-skill! To be able to take a break and go back and try again. This book teaches kids that things don’t always happen on the first try, that you can get emotional, but you can regulate that, take a break and persevere.

19. Argle Fox – This is a great book about overcoming the big feelings of frustration and trying again and again. The story is captivating to young children, written with a sense of anticipation. The story highlights big emotions, critical thinking, creativity, and perseverance. Kids will be able to relate very well to Argyle fox’s frustration and rejoice when he comes up with a solution at last.

20. Remy the Rhino Learns Patience – Remy is a grumpy Rhino and is irritated by all of the other animals. He angrily tries to get his own way and one day makes a mistake. Will anyone come to his aid? Children will see that anger makes Remy’s predicament worse and if he can relax, he might discover a way to solve his problem and make a friend!

21. The Very Impatient Caterpillar – The librarian read this to my son’s 1st class on a recent field trip and the kids loved it! This is a highly relatable story about a caterpillar who cannot wait to become a butterfly. Literally, CAN NOT WAIT. Perfect to read before any situation in which your child will have to learn that good things come to those who wait.

6 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today – Pocket Mindfulness

In this busy world of ours, the mind is constantly pulled from pillar to post, scattering our thoughts and emotions and leaving us feeling stressed, highly-strung and at times quite anxious.

Most of us don’t have five minutes to sit down and relax, let alone 30 minutes or more for a meditation session.

But it is essential for our wellbeing to take a few minutes each day to cultivate mental spaciousness and achieve a positive mind-body balance.

So if you are a busy bee like me, you can use these simple mindfulness exercises to empty your mind and find some much-needed calm amidst the madness of your hectic day.

I’m going to cover 6 exercises that take very little effort and can be done pretty much anywhere at anytime:

Let’s get started…

6 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today

1.Mindful Breathing

This exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and pretty much anywhere at any time. If you can sit down in the meditation (lotus) position, that’s great, if not, no worries.

Either way, all you have to do is be still and focus on your breath for just one minute.

If you are someone who thought they’d never be able to meditate, guess what? You are half way there already!

If you enjoyed one minute of this mind-calming exercise, why not try two or three?

2. Mindful Observation

This exercise is simple but incredibly powerful because it helps you notice and appreciate seemingly simple elements of your environment in a more profound way.

The exercise is designed to connect us with the beauty of the natural environment, something that is easily missed when we are rushing around in the car or hopping on and off trains on the way to work.

3. Mindful Awareness

This exercise is designed to cultivate a heightened awareness and appreciation of simple daily tasks and the results they achieve.

Think of something that happens every day more than once; something you take for granted, like opening a door, for example.

At the very moment you touch the doorknob to open the door, stop for a moment and be mindful of where you are, how you feel in that moment and where the door will lead you.

Similarly, the moment you open your computer to start work, take a moment to appreciate the hands that enable this process and the brain that facilitates your understanding of how to use the computer.

These ‘touch point’ cues don’t have to be physical ones.

For example: Each time you think a negative thought, you might choose to take a moment to stop, label the thought as unhelpful and release the negativity.

Or, perhaps each time you smell food, you take a moment to stop and appreciate how lucky you are to have good food to eat and share with your family and friends.

Choose a touch point that resonates with you today and, instead of going through your daily motions on autopilot, take occasional moments to stop and cultivate purposeful awareness of what you are doing and the blessings these actions brings to your life.

4. Mindful Listening

This exercise is designed to open your ears to sound in a non-judgmental way, and indeed to train your mind to be less swayed by the influence of past experiences and preconception.

So much of what we “feel” is influenced by past experience. For example, we may dislike a song because it reminds of us of a breakup or another period of life when things felt negative.

So the idea of this exercise is to listen to some music from a neutral standpoint, with a present awareness that is unhindered by preconception.

Select a piece of music you have never heard before. You may have something in your own collection that you have never listened to, or you might choose to turn the radio dial until something catches your ear.

The idea is to listen intently, to become fully entwined with the composition without preconception or judgment of the genre, artist, lyrics or instrumentation. Don’t think, hear.

5. Mindful Immersion

The intention of this exercise is to cultivate contentment in the moment and escape the persistent striving we find ourselves caught up in on a daily basis.

Rather than anxiously wanting to finish an everyday routine task in order to get on with doing something else, take that regular routine and fully experience it like never before.

For example: if you are cleaning your house, pay attention to every detail of the activity.

Rather than treat this as a regular chore, create an entirely new experience by noticing every aspect of your actions:

Feel and become the motion when sweeping the floor, sense the muscles you use when scrubbing the dishes, develop a more efficient way of wiping the windows clean.

The idea is to get creative and discover new experiences within a familiar routine task.

Instead of labouring through and constantly thinking about finishing the task, become aware of every step and fully immerse yourself in the progress. Take the activity beyond a routine by aligning yourself with it physically, mentally and spiritually.

Who knows, you might even enjoy the cleaning for once!

6. Mindful Appreciation

In this last exercise, all you have to do is notice 5 things in your day that usually go unappreciated.

These things can be objects or people; it’s up to you. Use a notepad to check off 5 by the end of the day.

The point of this exercise is to simply give thanks and appreciate the seemingly insignificant things in life, the things that support our existence but rarely get a second thought amidst our desire for bigger and better things.

For example: electricity powers your kettle, the postman delivers your mail, your clothes provide you warmth, your nose lets you smell the flowers in the park, your ears let you hear the birds in the tree by the bus stop, but…

Once you have identified your 5 things, make it your duty to find out everything you can about their creation and purpose to truly appreciate the way in which they support your life.

Would you like to download these exercises in PDF format?

Why Mindfulness Exercises?

The cultivation of moment-by-moment awareness of our surrounding environment is a practice that helps us better cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings that cause us stress and anxiety in everyday life.

With regular practice of mindfulness exercises, rather than being led on auto-pilot by emotions influenced by negative past experiences and fears of future occurrences, we harness the ability to root the mind in the present moment and deal with life’s challenges in a clear-minded, calm, assertive way.

In turn, we develop a fully conscious mind-set that frees us from the imprisonment of unhelpful, self-limiting thought patterns, and enables us to be fully present to focus on positive emotions that increase compassion and understanding in ourselves and others.

For more advanced mindfulness exercises, and two 30-minute meditation music mp3s to accompany your practice, you can download my book of the same name.