If there is one thing I’d like to give my children more of during cold and flu season, it is better immune function. Sure we eat nutritious food and focus on healthy lifestyle habits, but what if there was more I could do for my kids to support immune function? It turns out there IS something I can do and the answer is surprising. New research says meditation can reduce your chances of getting sick. How? By suppressing expression of the genes associated with inflammation. This new study, to be published in the Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology in February 2014, studied two groups of people. One group practiced mindful meditation while the other group practiced a quiet non-meditative activity. The results were interesting. The meditators actually showed “down regulation” of the genes responsible for inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the basis of almost every disease out there today including; heart disease, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disease and cancer. Interested in learning how to incorporate mindfulness into your child’s daily routine? Try these 4 child-friendly practices today.
Encourage Present Moment Awareness.
The practice of mindfulness encourages us to maintain a present moment awareness of our surroundings, body sensations, thoughts and emotions…without judgment. This concept can be too complex for little children to grasp verbally however taking moments throughout the day to stop and notice sounds, sights and smells is a wonderful way to develop present moment awareness through experience. For example, while your child is playing in the park take a few minutes to stop and listen. What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel?
Several times throughout the day, encourage your child to stop and practice mind and body check-ins. What emotion are you feeling? What does that feel like in the body? Perhaps your child is nervous for the first day of school. What does nervous feel like in the body? Maybe your child is excited for a birthday party. What does excitement feel like in the body? The practice of body/mind check-ins will help your child to develop a deeper understanding and awareness of how thoughts and feelings affect the physical body.
Stretch It Out.
When I feel my son and I need a quick reset, we get out our yoga mats for a 5 minute stretch session. We begin on our backs and take three deep breaths. Then we take turns coming up with stretches and we talk about how the stretches feel as we do them. In as little as five minutes we are calmer, present-minded and centered. Sometimes 5 minutes of focused attention is all that’s needed to enhance present moment awareness.
Practice Deep Relaxation at Bedtime.
For many children the act of winding down after a long day full of stimuli can be difficult. Sometimes when my son first gets into bed at night I can actually FEEL the energy buzzing around his brain and body. To calm him we practice deep breathing and often talk through a body scan to encourage relaxation. Body scans relax even the wiggliest of children. Working from the head to the toes, take time to relax each and every part of the body by bringing focus and breath to the body part. This is a wonderful way to bring relaxation and healing to your child. A lovely “body scan” guided meditation for children can be found in the book, Planting Seeds with Music and Songs : Practicing Mindfulness with Children.
Want to start meditating but don’t know where to start? Check out this simple meditation how-to.
Do you practice mindfulness with your child? Tell me more in the comments below!
Heather Haynes, MA, is a nutrition and wellness educator working in the field of whole foods nutrition and holistic health. She is passionate about the health of all children and believes raising happy, healthy kids starts with getting back to basics and cooking with REAL food. You can find her blogging most days on her website www.kulamama.com sharing holistic health information and recipes for kids. Find her on Twitter, Facebook and G+!