Monday Mindfulness: Act like a child

19 Nov

Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is. -Yoda

Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year. Buy some presents, get your work done, be nice to your family, don’t eat too much, don’t get snippy… Yeah so it can be pretty stressful. I often find that I’m lost without structure and routine and much like a child, that can leave me listless and grumpy. Although the holidays may mean time off and/or traveling, that doesn’t mean that all is lost.

Children are inspirations for mindfulness: they live in the present moment, they use their senses to experience things fully and they are rarely bogged down with judgements or stressed out about possible future events. We can cultivate mindfulness by taking a cue from the kids. So try to act like a child! Don’t have tantrums like your toddler companion, but approach the world with wonder and joy. And if you do have a tantrum, well then just wipe your tears and move on, just like the little ones do.

Here’s some mindfulness tips, inspired by the kiddos:

-Stick to a routine. I recently attended a lecture about the intersections of mental health and physical health, given by a naturopathic doctor. She frequently returned to the theme of treating your body like a three year old: eat at the same times, eat regularly, go to sleep and wake up at the same time. I find that I tend to feel best when I snack or have a meal every 3 hours or so, just like a toddler. Ditto with the regular sleep. (as I write this, I’m 2 time zones away from Seattle and still a bit disoriented.)
-Do one thing at a time. This is a common mindfulness practice and the little tykes approach this with natural ease. You won’t see a three year old juggling a sandwich, some Legos and a conversation about puppies simultaneously, so why try to eat breakfast, check email and catch up with a loved one all at the same time? Pick an activity and just do that one thing. I often notice a pull to distract myself during these moments, for example when my brain yearns to read the label on the yogurt container while I’m eating breakfast. Just notice such temptations but try not to indulge them. Then again, if you do all the sudden notice you’re doing several things at once, just get back to your original activity. There’s no cause for harsh judgement here. So if you’re eating- just eat! Walking? Just walk.
-Use your senses. Kids really take things in. Adults seem to rarely notice small changes like a haircut or a rearranged room. But kids? Oh, they notice things. They will tell you what happened last week and they will certainly notice if there’s a weird smell somewhere. They don’t avoid sensory information, or become so distracted by social conventions. Notice what things taste like, how they smell and how they look. Whatever you are doing, experience it fully and really take it in.
-Move around. Parents tend to take their kids out and about at least once per day (or so I have observed). They go on a walk, to the park or enjoy time walking around while tackling errands. I do the same with my dogs. It just isn’t right to not take them out, so why am I any different than the small children or the dogs? Even if the weather isn’t great it can be a nice break to get outside and walk around. A short walk can be a great way to simply get some fresh air and to get a bit of exercise. Lately I’ve been taking morning walks shortly after waking and I’ve noticed a general boost in energy as a result!
-Be silly! Laugh, smile and enjoy. Don’t be so serious! We all feel better when we laugh. Even if you don’t feel happy, at least try it- chances are that putting a positive face on will help to shift your mood, even just a bit. I’m visiting relatives and my cousin stopped by with her one year old tonight. We played an intense game of peekaboo and at one moment, I became so enthralled with the game I hid behind paper are goofily stared at her- she laughed so hard! Let me tell you that I was acting like a silly fool, but my heart just about skipped a beat while sharing that silly laughter.

What else can you do to cultivate the curious and present-focused mind of a child?

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