Blog 16: Children and Mindfulness

Written by Jim Sheehy

Last week, I was working in secondary schools training prefects and peer mentors.  I mentioned to them how students are increasingly under pressure in their friendship groups to take drugs.  So why are drugs today like ‘smoking cigarettes’ when I was a teenager.  Drugs are taken initially as a way of stimulating or relaxing the brain, uppers and downers.  So, what the teenagers are searching for in the ‘fix / hit’ are ways of manipulating brain-chemistry to come apart from the pressures and expectations of daily life and ‘live a little or escape the pain.’ 

This approach is understandable but dangerous.  We mess artificially with our brain chemistry through drugs and the brain bites back hard.  It’s a muscle and abuse any muscle in our body, our whole system as persons crashes.

So, is there an alternative?  The answer is yes but not as easy as taking drugs.  If I want to stimulate or deeply soothe my mood, I need to have ‘intense exercise’ and ‘intense relaxation’ zones in my day and week.  Why does this work?  Simply because we get a break from ‘being in our heads’.  If I’m participating and/or competing in any sport, my body takes priority and leads the brain in speedily asking the brain to move, stop, increase speed, coordinate with another by passing etc.  The brain can’t at the same time be concerned with social, work or financial pressures. And that’s a ‘fix / hit’ as good as any drug.  Similarly, intense relaxation puts priority on the body through breathing and sensing.  Becoming aware of my breathing empties the head of thoughts and my imagination and memory can bring me places and experience sensations similar to what drugs do in artificial ways.  We know our systems automatically relax when we experience ‘Rhythm and Movement’: being rocked to and fro whether you’re a baby or adult; nature when the waves of the ocean accompany you on the beach;  mindfulness, yoga, even some martial art like judo can help us regulate our system, change our body / brain chemistry.  Simply becoming aware of our breathing is a very effective and user-friendly way of regulating our brains, bodies and moods.

So, let me start with children and help you practise mindfulness with them.  

Begin by saying:

Breathing is magic because whenever we just want to be happy inside or when we get sad, or angry or something frightens us or makes us feel down, our breathing can bring us to a very special place called ‘my happy place’. 

So let’s practise by lying down or sitting:

Sit with legs crossed and palms upward …   thumb and third fingers joined on each hand …  and close your eyes … notice your breathing … in, out … in, out …

Imagine a Light-stream made of your favourite colour  - red, blue, green, yellow -  breathing a colour wave right around your body starting from the top of your head.  The light-stream is soft, like silk.  Let the stream of light go to a part of your body that is strong: perhaps your legs because you can run and jump so well; perhaps your hands because you can design and make things.  Let the light stream tell you how proud you are because you have gifts and talents. 

Now allow the light-stream to go to a part of your body that is not feeling good.  Perhaps your tummy feels empty and sad; perhaps your shoulders are uncomfortable because you feel heavy and flat.  Let the light-stream warm the empty feeling;  let the light-stream carry the weight on your shoulders so they feel light like balloons and feathers, so your tummy feels a warm comfort blanket soothing your emptiness. 

Now imagine a very special place in nature: by a river, on a cloud, in a meadow, on the beach. Simply choose wherever you want to imagine.   What can you see in this very happy place … what can you her … what can you touch …

This is ‘Your Happy Place’.   You can be there on your own or you can invite some special people you love to be with you; or a special pet. 

Stay breathing … in and out … in and out … relax …

Any thoughts in your head … let them come in … and drift out … just return to your breathing … in and out … in and out …

And when you’re ready, come back into the room and draw your ‘happy place’.  Remember, you can go inside with your breathing at any time and go to your happy place.

For older children, we can deepen the mindfulness experience in helping him / her to like themselves and manage moods. 

Begin by saying:

Draw yourself with your weak hand.  Be curious about your drawing. What do you think the legs / hands / face say about you?

Now, around your drawing, let’s write as many gifts, skills and strengths that we know you have: funny, friendly, can play music, smart at maths …

Then take another page and divide into 4 sections:

Sometimes, things happen and we can fall into these places called sad / scared / angry / flat.  Can you remember when something happened that made you feel like you lost something and this hurt you.  Put that in the ‘Sad’ part. 

Was there any time you felt scared and anxious, like you weren’t safe.  Put that in the ‘Scared’ part - you can write words or draw pictures.

Were or are there times at home, in school or around the local area when you get angry.  Like an alarm going off inside you and you want to scream out: “What just happened isn’t fair!  I’m not getting respect like I deserve!” 

And maybe there are times I go inside myself and can’t tell anyone what’s going on.  When I go into a dark cave and roll a boulder across to keep the world out.  And the cave is dark and damp until I notice somebody I really trust sitting beside me. And the walls of the cave aren’t totally black - they are purple, orange, green - and maybe I can begin to hope again.  Take my time, spend time with people, pets, nature, activities that interest and energise me.  Yes, build my support network so I can be stronger and manage life better.  

And now, let be go with my friend, my breathing, to my happy place.  Let me bring these bits of me that are sad or scared or angry or flat to my happy place and imagine my trust and wisdom group of persons and pets sitting with me.  They ‘get me’ through and through, inside out, upside down - they just love the mix I am.  Allow them to be with you for a while as they listen to your story and tell you where to get help.  Trust what they suggest because they absolutely love you.

And, finally, find a way every day to express yourself through your voice or writing, drawing or composing on a page.  Get those 10 physical contacts we all need each day - hugs, high 5s, clap on the shoulder.  And most of all, remember this -  Be REAL, YOUR NORMAL is perfect.  Love the MIX you are.

Blog 16 Podcast: 

Presentations on the 4 zones are also available on video and podcast through the website – see www.reallyhuman.ie

If you enjoy the material, please get the word out there among those you care for.  You can contact me with comment or suggestion via Facebook at Jim Sheehy Therapy and on Twitter @jimsheehy2017

Take care,

Clarifying Disclaimer:  While the material I am presenting is well-researched and suitable for the general population, I believe each person’s issues and needs are unique.  I encourage you to seek medical and/or therapeutic support if you struggle with an issue or condition that negatively and seriously impacts your life.

 

 

 

 

Contact

Contact me:

Jim Sheehy M.Ed. MIACP
Leitir
Kilcar
Co Donegal 
F94 WV99

087 2137922

jsheehy@hotmail.co.uk

 

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