4 tips for everyday mindfulness

Ah, fall. With the first breath of those crisp autumnal breezes, minds turn to all the promise that September brings: apple harvests, comfort food, cozy sweaters…and the excitement of the back-to-school season. But if the first sight of fall on the horizon has you dreading the demands of balancing work and school, sports practices and extra-curricular activities, and all the little items on your to-do list that keep family life ticking over day to day, you’re not alone.

After all, as much as we may welcome a fresh start after a summer of adventuring, fall can be stressful and chaotic, too. As you’re thinking about those new fall routines, here are four activities to consider adding to the list to help yourself stay grounded as the school year gets into gear.

Get a new perspective
Mindfulness is all about staying grounded in the present moment, rather than agonizing over the past or fretting about the future. If you need help staying focused on the here-and-now, try making a photo walk part of your routine. What’s a photo walk? Think of it like a mini scavenger hunt: go for a walk and look for tiny natural wonders. Wildflowers growing in the cracks of the sidewalk, a snowflake on an old brick wall, a wind-blown bird’s nest: anything qualifies.

You don’t need a fancy camera – your phone will do just fine. If your kids want to join you, so much the better; they can use a toy camera or an old point-and-shoot, if you’ve still got one hanging around. Just head outside with your camera and make a point to take photos of things you see – the possibilities are endless.

Make use of the time available
Adding even five minutes of mindfulness practice to your day can help you feel calmer, more in control, and more resilient, and what parent doesn’t occasionally find themselves with five minutes to spare in the school pickup line, waiting outside the hockey arena or waiting for dance class to be over? Instead of scrolling social media while you wait, use that time to do a quick meditation, either guided by an app or just by focusing on your breath while you breathe in and out. If that’s not your style, consider taking a few minutes to jot down thoughts in a gratitude journal (aka the notes app on your phone) –another quick way to elevate your mood and sense of connection to others.

Expand your practice
If mindfulness is already part of your daily routine, take a look at how you might expand your practice. If you usually meditate for three minutes before daycare pickup, look at your weekly schedule to see if you can find half an hour to sit in meditation. If you normally practise alone, consider joining a class, in person or online. Or branch out and commit to eating one mindful meal a week, where you really focus on the taste and texture of the food, instead of eating in the car or while you read the internet.

Make it a family affair
Kids benefit from mindfulness practice, too, and there are many points during the day when a little break can help them transition from one thing to the next. Over time, mindfulness meditation might help your kids deal with the dreaded after-school restraint collapse or even make it easier to fall asleep. Practising mindfulness with your kids offers a natural connection point during a busy day and helps them build resiliency for the future.

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