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How Mindful Meditation Can Improve Your Parenting Style

How Mindful Meditation Can Improve Your Parenting Style

Are you looking for ways to improve your parenting?

Of course; we all are! Anyone who is a parent is always looking to take their parenting skills to the next level and improve the balance in the household. Parenting styles don’t have to complicate our lives, but which style of parenting we choose does have a direct impact on how harmonious our lives with our children are.

Everyone has heard the terms “meditation” and “mindfulness”; but, were you aware that mindful meditation can bring about an amazing transformation in your parenting style?

It’s true! With just a few simple tips on meditation and being more present, your parenting style can see an amazing transformation in just a very short time.

Mindfulness Matters

Meditation is the practice of calming and centering the mind. Mindful meditation originated in India thousands of years ago as part of Hinduism.

Over the centuries, its amazing ability to transform our mind, body and soul have been taken on by Buddhism as well as many other cultures and religions.

Today, countless cultures around the world have embraced the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits that mindfulness can bring to our personal lives.

The Secret of Stress Free Parenting

Let’s face it, parenting can be hard and stressful!

It can also be quite amazing and rewarding to see the best aspects of ourselves standing in front of us in the form of our children.

To be the very best parents we can be, it’s crucial that we find productive ways to manage our stress. After all, our kids learn best by watching our behavior (this is called “modeling”) and if we don’t handle stress well, neither will they.

Adding a mindful meditation practice to your life, even if it’s just a few minutes a day, can transform your parenting style in several incredible ways:

  • You will feel a greater sense of calm and peace
  • You will be able to ebb and flow around daily challenges more easily
  • You will naturally be more patient with your child and yourself

Science Backs Up The Benefits

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD conducted a recent study on the effects of a mindful meditation practice and it’s impact on stress and well-being. Their research looked at over 3500 people, and what they found was astonishing! [1]

They found that “the negative effect (of Anxiety, depression, and stress/distress) is improved in mindfulness programs”.

They also found that “mindfulness-based stress reduction reduces (physical) pain severity to a small degree” and that “Mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety”.

Yet another study published by the National Institutes of Health found that a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program “may have a beneficial effect on anxiety symptoms in generalized anxiety disorder, and may also improve stress reactivity and coping”. [2]

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Clearly many experts recognize the ability of a mindful meditation practice to reduce stress and anxiety; and since parents seem to have an endless stream of stress and anxiety, this can certainly help make some positive changes.

Meditation Changes Our Brains

A recent study by the University of California in Los Angeles examined the links between aging, brain deterioration and meditation.

What they found was nothing short of amazing!

In their study, they reported that “meditation is brain-protective and associated with a reduced age-related tissue decline”. [3]

They went on to say that there is “scientifically solid evidence that meditation has brain (and mind) altering capacities (which can help with) healthy aging, but also pathological aging, such as is evident in mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease”.

In short, if we focus on adding just a few minutes of mindful meditation to our daily rituals we can literally transform our minds and positively impact how our brains age.

We can then apply this to all aspects of our lives, including how we parent.

The Effects on Kids May Surprise You

Children face enormous pressures today compared to when we were kids.

Social media and technology can affect the brain negatively to create anxiety and stress that simply didn’t exist in past decades. We also have epidemics of ADD & ADHD and out of control rates of adolescent depression.

The good news is finding ways to incorporate a mindful mediation practice into your child’s life can have a significant impact.

A recent study by Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that “using the techniques of Sahaja Yoga Meditation . . . showed improvements in children’s ADHD behavior, self-esteem and relationship quality.” [4]

They went on to say that “Children described . . . better sleep patterns, less anxiety . . . and at school more able to concentrate, (and had) less conflict. Parents reported feeling happier, less stressed and more able to manage their child’s behavior”.

While kids may not have the patience for a daily or lengthy practice of seated meditation, just a few minutes several times a week can bring about a profound change in mood, attitude and stress-reduction!

The Magic Behind Mono-tasking

Mindfulness has come into fashion over the past decade.

Essentially it’s the practice of focusing our attention on what we are doing in the moment. With mindfulness, we focus on being 100% present to a person or action, instead of allowing our minds to be scattered across many thoughts and tasks.

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Mindfulness removes the illusion that multi-tasking somehow makes us more productive. Instead it replaces that idea with mono-tasking: being laser focused on one thing at a time.

In doing this, we become more accepting of what we can’t change. We become more patient, caring and empathetic. It also naturally causes our relationships to improve as we will become more present and connected to those we interact with.

To dive deeper into exactly what mindfulness is take a look at the 10 Easy Ways To Practice Mindfulness .

Applying Mindfulness Makes Your Life 10x Better

In terms of how mindfulness can improve your life, let’s review the biggest positive impacts:

  • It helps regulate our emotions
  • It heightens our sensitivity to others and the world around us
  • We will more easily replace expectations with appreciation
  • It can strengthen our feelings of self-worth and self-esteem

In short, by making a choice to practice mindfulness and mindful meditation we are taking charge of our lives, our emotions and our minds. We are no longer simply reacting to the world around us, but taking responsibility for how we want to live our life.

3 Simple Ways to Start Meditating Today

So mindful meditation sounds great, right?

But, how do we incorporate that into our daily lives? More importantly, how can we practice mindfulness in a way that doesn’t eat up a lot of our precious time?

The answers can be surprisingly simple.

There are likely a million different ways to practice mindfulness and no one way is best.

In truth, what works for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa. Therefore, find what works for you and don’t worry if you’re doing it the “right” way.

The primary goal of mindful meditation is to calm your mind and clear away all the distractions and thoughts.

While practicing mindful meditation you may want complete quiet. Others, though, may like the challenge of tuning out a certain amount of background noise. And yet some others may prefer to listen to gentle music in the background.

Listed below are 3 incredibly easy ways to add a mindful meditation practice to your life:

#1 Seated Meditation

The easiest way to add a mindful meditation practice to our lives is to simply set aside anywhere from 5-15 minutes in your daily routine. Almost all of us, no matter how busy our lives, can spare an extra 5 minutes. Wake up 5 minutes earlier to start your day, so that you ensure you have plenty of time to practice.

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Find a place with limited distractions and sit cross legged. The important thing is to try and eliminate all the distracting thoughts and focus your mind on one thing.

Focus on your breath, breathing in slowly through the nose and out through the mouth. Also, focus on a maintaining a strong and upright posture with the crown of your head pointing to the sky.

Many meditators like to focus on the pineal gland, or what’s known as our third eye.

The pineal gland is located inside the brain, but the gateway to it, the third eye, is considered by many to be located on the forehead in between our eyebrows. The pineal gland is where melatonin in our body is produced; thus focusing on it can help improve sleep regulation.

No matter what helps you quiet your mind, stay focused on that one thing.

When you find your thoughts drifting towards what to make the kids for dinner or last’s night’s spat with your spouse, simple breathe out and come back to your focus.

Even the most seasoned meditators occasionally find their thoughts drifting. So, be kind to yourself and clear your mind as often as is necessary. Don’t worry that you aren’t doing it perfectly.

#2 Practice Tai Chi

Think of Tai Chi as a form of moving meditation.

While it is a traditional Chinese martial art, it is a solo practice that does not (typically) involve contact or partner work. It is also a very slow and gentle practice that allows the practitioner to focus on breath and healthy movement.

Of course you can find a local Tai Chi class, but there are also plenty of YouTube videos that allow you to practice at home.

Unless you’re an expert, start with what’s called the Yang style short form which is features 24 different movements rather than the traditional 108 long form.

To dive in deeper, take a look at the 10 Benefits of Tai Chi .

#3 Practice Yoga

Yoga, too, is a centuries old practice.

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It also comes in many styles, some more rigorous than others. What they all tend to have in common, though, is a calming and focusing of the mind through breath and healthy movement.

Like Tai Chi, you can certainly find a yoga studio near your home or work, but you can also find a multitude of videos that will enable you to practice at home.

The more rigorous among you may want to look into Bikram or Hot Yoga classes, which can be a very full bodied workout. For a more gentle approach you may prefer Hatha or a restorative “yin” style yoga.

But like any mindful meditation practice you will naturally see benefits physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Dig deeper and learn What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity .

You’re Never Too Busy to Meditate

We all feel the pinch in our busy weeks of trying to find the time to add one more thing.

It’s clear from what we’ve learned that the benefits of adding a mindful meditation practice into our lives can be an amazingly transformational experience!

But how do we fit it into our busy and ever-increasing schedules?

Like anything else it has to be simple and it has to be something that doesn’t feel like we’re sacrificing.

We also need to be willing to fake it until we make it. In other words, like any new practice it may feel unnatural at first and it can take anywhere from 21-28 days (or longer) to form a new habit.

So be patient and stick with it.

Once you’re past the initial stages and the new habit is formed, mindful meditation will naturally and seamlessly become part of your new everyday routine. Here’s how to begin:

  1. Set a clear parenting goal or intention (to be more patient, to be more loving, to be more calm, etc.)
  2. Make your goals 1-3 things (remember we’re keeping this simple!)
  3. Write down your goals somewhere (the fridge is a great place)
  4. Start by dedicating just 5 minutes each morning to meditation (use whatever method you prefer; seated meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, etc)
  5. Push through on those mornings when you don’t want to do it (we all have those mornings)
  6. No matter which practice, focus on your breath and emptying the mind
  7. Close your eyes (to minimize distractions)
  8. Be kind to yourself (when you get distracted)
  9. With every breath try and release more tension in your body

As you start to get the new habit ingrained, you’ll start to see the tangible benefits of mindful meditation. Then you can begin to devote more time to it.

Just a few minutes a day really can make a big difference!

If you can meditate with your kids, then it becomes a family tradition and you all grow stronger together!

Become a Model Parent with Meditation

Meditation reduces stress and anxiety while bringing a greater sense of calm and patience to both you and your child. You will see amazing benefits from starting a mindful meditation practice.

In truth, adopting a mindful approach to life can not only improve your parenting style, but can bring about a positive change to all aspects of your life. So, don’t delay, begin practicing mindfulness meditation today and reap the incredible benefits for both you and your children.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Jeff Campbell

A husband and father trying to help other dads and moms navigate through the worlds of mindfulness, health, parenting, marriage/relationships& more.

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Published on August 15, 2019

15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

As an overwhelmed working mom, you get a lot of intelligent ideas from magazines, friends and the internet about how to manage work, children, and a household.

Unfortunately, you may still feel exhausted and insufficient at work and home despite the advice to organize, cook efficiently and pamper yourself .

How great would it be to wake up tomorrow knowing that you can begin to feel better without all of those overwhelmed feelings?

The sensation of feeling overwhelmed when you wear a lot of hats: mom, professional, household manager, partner, friend, etc. has its roots in reality. You are absolutely doing a lot of important jobs. But here’s the thing:

If feeling overwhelmed has become your knee-jerk or chronic reaction, this emotion is now literally a part of you that needs your attention so that you can move forward more confidently.

If helping yourself sounds too difficult, never fear. These tips come straight from therapy and neuroscience to hack into your nervous system. You will learn deeper ways to calm down and feel more confident about yourself, your life and your choices.

1. Breathe and Notice What Your Body Feels like Inside and Out

By using body-centered therapy techniques, you can better understand your overwhelmed feelings and offer accurate and practical help.

As you’ll learn, when you feel stressed out, your thinking brain is not your best resource. In fact, simply thinking about and bolstering your efforts to “get rid” of overwhelmed feelings might actually make them worse.

The first step to help when you feel overwhelmed is to simply slow down and breathe. This does not mean that you should suddenly take in huge gulps of air or breathe rapidly. That will send you into panic!

Breathe normally and naturally. Make your breath comfortably slow, extending the exhale. Count 5 to 10 breaths.

2. Get a Little Curious

Ask yourself: How do I know I’m overwhelmed? Close your eyes or soften your gaze if you are able. Imagine shifting your awareness from your outside world and sending it into your body along with your breath.

You might notice the signals right away. For example: My chest is tight, my heart is beating rapidly and there’s a sense of frustrated energy in my legs and arms. Or you might just hear some words like: I’m freaking out, failing or cannot do it!

If it’s possible, get a little curious about this sensation. Consider that while it may be a big feeling, you probably have other parts of you that feel differently.

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3. Offer Some Loving Care to Stressed-Out Parts of You

Richard Schwartz, developer of Internal Family Systems Therapy defines our personalities as made up of sub-parts that interact within us. This explains why a “part” of you can feel one way and yet, you have another part that feels differently.[1]

Gently acknowledging the part of you that feels overwhelmed and offering it some support and compassion (as you would a frightened child) can soothe your body and mind. “I’ve got you,” is a great mantra to breathe in when you’re overwhelmed.

4. Get Smart About Your Wise Nervous System

You may have heard of the “gut” brain or “body” brain. The science of Polyvagal Theory shows that the entire nervous system impacts how you think and feel – not just your thinking mind.

In fact, did you know that your wise nervous system generally picks up information from your environment before your brain can interpret it?[2]

When you feel overwhelmed, just one tiny cue of “danger” felt in your nervous system is often the unconscious trigger that tips you from busy but competent to feeling freaked out and exhausted.

This cue could be as simple as a song on the radio that feels overly-stimulating, a child’s bad mood (even if it has nothing to do with you) or your spouse forgetting an unimportant errand.

5. Remind Yourself That a Feeling Can Just Be a Feeling

When you’re feeling agitated, your physical body is naturally on high alert. Any information or stimulation you receive at these times will feel overwhelming.

This is not your fault, but it is helpful to understand that usually, when you feel like you’re not good enough, it is not objectively true. Your mind may just be creating a reason for the signals of danger coming from your body.

Allow your body to feel without making a negative judgement about yourself or your life. This technique will help you break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed, then creating negative thought about the feeling resulting in overwhelming yourself even more.

6. Learn Your Most Common Unconscious Responses to Stress

Why is this important? When you feel stressed, you probably respond unconsciously in the same ways throughout your life.

For some, too much stress will quickly create a numb, hopeless sensation. For others, the thought that life is just “too much” leads to bouts of panic or anger. Still, others might freeze completely, feeling highly anxious but not able to do much at all.

From a biological perspective, all of these experiences are pretty normal. When you recognize that your body’s reactions are not faulty or foolish, it’s much easier to reassure yourself and move forward confidently.

7. Exercise the Part of Your Nervous System That Provides Wellbeing and Social Connection

Did you know that you can actually tone your ventral vagal nerve, the nerve responsible for feelings of safety and social connection?[3]

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As often as you are able, allow yourself to linger on your favorite memories that invoke feelings of wellbeing, connection to loved ones, times of beauty in nature or your favorite memories of pets or places. Use all of your sense to really feel the experience in your body.

By doing this, you’re activating and toning your ventral vagus nerve as you might tone your muscles. Make a kind of “body bookmark” of these purely content sensations to which you can return when stressed.

This practice may feel silly, like an indulgence or even a fantasy. But it is supported by science and is important for you to create a strong and healthy response to stressors.

8. Give Baby Parts a Break

No part of you is trying to hurt you. But parts of us do feel extreme feelings and carry burdens from our past.

For example, if you are feeling overworked in the present, it may activate parts of your personality that felt similarly earlier in life. Deep anger, fear, resentment or sadness provide a signal to you that something from your past could benefit from your attention.

I know this may sound strange, but the next time you feel very overwhelmed, take a breath and notice if you feel like a child trying to do an adult’s job. If so, spend a moment calmly and compassionately reminding all of your inner child parts that you are indeed grown, capable and doing something appropriate.

9. Address Critical Messages You Give Yourself

What do you hear yourself saying to yourself when you feel overwhelmed? You may notice parts of you that sound critical or even cruel.

Statements like “I’ll never catch up,” “Why do I try,” or “I can’t do anything right,” are very common to hear when you’re under stress. Believe it or not, these inner messages are likely misguided protective parts of your personality.

These parts are normal and try to help you by “whipping you into shape” so you won’t fail, alerting you about scared feelings inside, or avoiding shock or disappointment by anticipating how others might criticize you.

If it’s possible, acknowledge these parts as protective. Maybe express a bit of gratitude. Notice how the critical voices inside you, even though they likely mean well, cause exhaustion and even more stress.

When you acknowledge these messages inside, letting them know they are part of you and you see their positive intention, the critical messages calm.

10. Take Small Moments to Express Gratitude

Everyone is talking about gratitude, I know. But there are good reasons for this trend.

More and more studies about gratitude show valid connections between gratitude and lowered stress and mental health. A 2018 multi-university research study concluded that gratitude not only has direct effects on quality of life, but also has indirect effects through perceived stress and mental health.[4]

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There are many reasons that gratitude impacts our nervous systems in positive ways, but the best way to discover this impact is to simply try it yourself.

Take a minute each day to write down one to three things for which you feel grateful. These can be large or small, important or trivial, but they must be true. Make this a habit and watch your stress-relief grow.

Or you can try some of these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

11. Play with Time

In Gay Hendrick’s 2010 book The Big Leap, he talks about the concept of Einstein time vs. Newtonian time.

Newtonian time is the clock time we all watch all day. Einstein time is more about what you make with your moments, realizing that your perception can slow or speed time up.

For example, if you are spending time with someone you love and doing something you enjoy, time moves very quickly. Conversely, if you are doing a miserable job in uncomfortable weather, each second can feel like an eternity.

The next time you feel stressed for time, take a slow breath and remind yourself that you make time. Time belongs to you. Then, enjoy the pace and do what you need to do. With practice, this little tool will become valuable for overcoming the mental pressure of time.

12. Don’t Be Tricked by Perfection

When you’re in the thick of raising children and working, sometimes nervous energy presents as perfectionism. In an effort to feel in control, you may make arbitrary but unreasonable goals for yourself that feel like they are necessary or true.

Make a quick inventory of every job you are expecting of yourself and your family. Now question it all. What is really important and what is just preferable? What jobs can be left to someone else’s discretion, done well-enough by the children or dropped completely?

Keep any jobs that give you joy and do them joyfully. Let go of jobs that feel like standards or expectations with little or no payoff. Save them for retirement if you like.

13. Give Yourself Credit for Quality Time with Your Kids

Think of the time you spend relaxing with and enjoying your children as a $100,000 per hour job. Very small amounts are still incredibly valuable.

Showing your children that they are important is just as likely to happen in a ten-minute game of catch as in a whole day at the water park. A shared snack time, a book before bed, a half hour away from your phone to allow loving eye contact with your babes adds up to a lifetime of security and wonderful memories.

Imagine your child someday saying, “Mom worked hard, but she always had time to hug me, to hear about my day, and to offer me guidance. I always knew that I mattered to her.”

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14. Meditate for One Minute a Day

Yes, you may do more. But if you can’t afford any more than one minute, go ahead and sit comfortably, breathe and be in your body for this time. It’s such a simple but powerful exercise and the kids can do it too.

While you meditate, notice your loving heart. What does it need from you today — patience, compassion, creativity, caring, play? Remember to show up for yourself and you will show up for your work and your family as well.

15. Guard and Celebrate Sleep

From tinies to teens, there are many unavoidable reasons that kids interrupt your sleep.

Here’s the thing: Unexpected sleeplessness due to childhood growth or illness is normal and not easy to control. If you are feeling overwhelmed, though, sleep is crucial.

There are two things you can do to improve your mindset toward sleep so that you set yourself up for confidence rather than collapse.

One, prioritize and protect your sleep time. If you tend to wait until the kids go to sleep to complete work or finally relax, that’s okay. But don’t let these activities cut into your sleep time.

Given the choice between another load of laundry, Words With Friends, binge watching Game of Thrones or eight hours of sleep, consistently choose sleep.

Two, appreciate and express gratitude for any sleep you get. Sometimes, it’s impossible to get seven or eight hours of sleep. However, allow yourself to enjoy any time when you are laying in a comfy space allowing your body to rest and repair.

When you wake up saying “I didn’t get enough sleep last night,” you put your mind on alert that there is something lacking. This thinking alone can trigger feelings of overwhelm.

Set your nervous system up for success by appreciating any amount of rest.

Final Thoughts

Life as a working mom is not an easy one. Overwhelmed feelings are natural and normal but, they can take over and cause chronic stress and dissatisfaction.

Allow yourself just a few moments a day to reorganize your thoughts and feelings using the steps above. You’ll soon discover your calm and capable self.

Take a lesson from your growing children: small changes create big results now and in the future.

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Featured photo credit: Bruno Nascimento via unsplash.com

Reference

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