I have written and talked about mindfulness extensively in the past. Today, I had a different experience on the subject when I read a quote from mindfulness researcher Lisa Flook of the University of Wisconsin: “This is the way of nurturing the seeds of kindness in children”. I am sure, these tender emotions can be inculcated in grown ups too.
20% of children in the US have anxiety, a predictor of depression. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) show no signs of waning. Rather, it has gone from 7% in 2003 to 11% in 2011. 18% of the adult population suffers from anxiety disorders, costing us 42 billion dollars every year.
These numbers may seem like Goliath, but, as David, we have been given a small stone – Mindfulness. Let’s use it. New evidence has emerged from the studies on Mindfulness on how it reduces anxiety, depression and ADHD. Studies with children as low as age 4 have shown how this technique improves attention and test scores. Mindfulness improved their attitude and awareness; and reduced bullying among children. Deep breathing in mindfulness triggers the parasympathetic nervous system stimulating “rest and digest” and “feed and breed” mechanisms. This is opposite to the “fight or flight” stimulation triggered by the sympathetic nervous system and shallow breathing.
What is our role in reducing anxiety and stress in our children? Studies show a high level of stress hormone, cortisol, in children whose teachers reported “burnt out”. Stress is contagious; if we are able to deal with our stress better, we trickle its benefits to our children.
Yoga, meditation, pranayama (breathing) techniques, corpse pose (savasana – easiest pose to perform but hardest pose to master), Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and prayer could all lead to Mindfulness. Be mindful; teach children to learn mindfully; train them to be kind to themselves and others; and allow them to discover the genius in them.