If you suffer from anxiety, you know how difficult it can be, with all the thoughts running through your mind. If you have a child with anxiety, you know it can be even more difficult to hear their fears and be unable to take them away.
Enter mindfulness meditation, which can help to ease anxiety — and is simple enough even children can do it.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is, according to Psychology Today, “paying precise, nonjudgmental attention to the details of our experience as it arises and subsides [and] doesn’t reject anything.” It sounds counterproductive — why would pay attention to the experience of anxiety help to relieve it?
Those with anxiety disorders often waste time in their heads coming up with impossible escape plans for future events that will probably not happen. Mindfulness teaches people to be in the moment instead of worrying about the past or the future.
By learning to accept anxiety and then deal with it or set it aside instead of fighting it, those who practice mindfulness may be able to train their brains to better separate real dangers like an injury, which can be dealt with, from imagined threats such as a meteor rushing to strike your home, which cannot.
How to cultivate mindfulness through meditation
One way to begin cultivating your mindfulness skills is through meditation. Meditation helps practitioners learn to focus their attention on their breathing and their senses, and teaches them to let go of thoughts that are not relevant to the current moment.
There are a number of ways to begin practicing mindfulness meditation, alone or as a family. Your therapist may have some recommendations, and it’s a good idea to check in before you begin.
For adults and adolescents who want to start with more traditional mindfulness practice but don’t know how, websites like UCLA Health and Mindful.org and apps like Stop, Breathe & Think offer free guided meditations, explanations, and other tools to begin meditating.
Annaka Harris, a volunteer with the Inner Kids program that teaches children about mindfulness, has posted a number of exercises geared for the younger set on her website. These turn lessons about listening, mindful breathing, and compassion into kid-friendly games.
The goal of all of these practices is to help you learn to turn anxiety into positive action or let go of anxiety you are unable to address. Incorporating meditation into your day can give your brain and body a break from stress.
Of course, if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder or are in treatment for one, please contact us and consult with your therapist before beginning a mindfulness meditation practice.