What is Mindfulness, and Should it be Taught to Kids?

What is Mindfulness, and Should it be Taught to Kids?

Can you provide a quick intro on yourself?

Hi I’m Sarah Wright Olsen I am a mama of three, I am an actor, an author, cofounder of Yourzenmama.com and co-owner of Bāeo: an organic skincare line for the whole family. I have been with my love for 16 years, I’m originally from Kentucky, I love food, coffee, the mountains, pickle ball, board games and paddle boarding. 

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being present in the current moment, not looking forward or behind but grounding in the present. 

How do you practice mindfulness?

I feel that mindfulness and gratitude go hand in hand and I often find that when I am practicing mindfulness I am also expressing my gratitude for what I see, smell, experience, enjoy or do in any moment.

There are lots of ways to practice mindfulness. It could be as simple as feeling rushed to get to school drop-off or to work or feeling that pressure in traffic knowing that you could be late. It could be that you're feeling the worry creeping up in your body,  but then  you can look in the rear view mirror and you can pop on your favorite song and sing with your little one. Or, maybe you can use this time to check in with your child and talk about the day ahead.

Mindfulness can be a walk where you appreciate the 'right now' or it can be a cup of tea with a friend. It can be anything that grounds you, slows you down, and anchors you to see all that is happening around you.

What are the benefits of being mindful?

There are so many benefits of mindfulness and each benefit will be specific to the situation and person.

It can relieve stress, help with sleep, calm your nervous system, lower blood pressure... it can even deepen your connection with your loved ones. There are so many distractions between work, devices, technology and household duties it is sometimes hard to find moments to just sit with your family and play a game. When you sit and watch your children, watch them play, read to them, or have a meal with them you'll experience moments that you may not have known existed. You will see different sides of their personality.

Why do you personally practice mindfulness?

I personally practice mindfulness because it brings me joy. Because life is too stressful without it. Because when you are living a little bit slower and a little more in the moment so much is revealed. I don’t want to look back on my life and remember all the rushing around. I want to remember those days that I laid in the grass and played with leaves with my toddler, or built a fort with my son, or made a sand village with my middle child, or had a coffee with my husband. I want to have memories of all the small moments in life that brought me joy.

What are some common misconceptions about mindfulness, if any?

Well some people think mindfulness is practiced only one way in a form of meditation or during yoga. It can be practiced anywhere at any time in the smallest of ways.

Do you think it’s important to teach kids mindfulness? Why?

Yes! Kids already practice mindfulness in the way that they play, in the way that they interact but it’s so important for them to understand its meaning and to make it a part of their life.

How can you teach mindfulness in a way that kids understand?

I just started to write about this above but I love this little thing that we do as a family that makes mindfulness a clear part of our lives.

We have dinner every night as a family and on Mondays we have Mindfulness Mondays! This is a way for us to talk about how we were either mindful, had a mindful moment, or a time in which we wish we had been more mindful. Our children love to participate and talk about how they were mindful that day.
My daughter likes to talk about a conflict that has come up and she discusses stopping and taking a breath and then telling the child at her preschool that she didn’t like what happened or that she was still playing with a certain toy.

This is a great way to have an open discussion every week and see what your children come up with.

 

What do you think is holding society back from widely adopting mindfulness? Or, has it already begun?

As I said earlier life moves very fast. I think we get caught up in all the things we need to get done and then forget to enjoy the moments we are in. We save those moments for the weekend or for a vacation but it’s not enough. I think for our children to be able to self sooth, to regulate emotions, to take breaths that calm them, to appreciate moments they are in, they need to see us doing the same thing. It needs to be a shift in all of us.

I remember before we went into lockdown I had been shooting a show in Toronto. I live in California and I would fly back and forth every week going for a few days to shoot and coming back home to my family. It was hard to be away and I felt disconnected from some moments in my life.

I started doing something with my son in the mornings. We would have sunrise tea together. We taught him how to make the tea and do a proper morning tea ceremony ( he was only 6 at the time) he and I would make tea and sit in the floor and watch the sun come up together. It was beautiful, it felt slow, it felt important and it was everything we both needed.

Should mindfulness be taught in the classroom? How? When?

Yes! I think classrooms are already starting to teach mindfulness. I think through books and stories for children that help them to understand how they can be mindful, empathetic, grateful, thoughtful that all of these things will benefit not only the children but the experience in the classroom as a whole. I have heard that many teachers have started discussing this topic and making it a part of their curriculum. I would have loved this as a kid and I know how much it means to my children.

What are some things parents could do right now to start incorporating mindfulness into their home that are easy to get started with?

Some of the examples I discussed above are really easy ways to open the discussion in your home. From Mindfulness Mondays, to a walk in the neighborhood, to a little afternoon or morning tea.