Feeling overwhelmed? Struggling to focus? Wanting to bring a bit of calm to your life?
One solution is mindfulness: a practice which encourages you to notice, to be more aware of what’s going on in the world around you, and to tune in to how you’re feeling, inside and out, by engaging each of our 5 senses. The results? Greater self-awareness, a chance to pause and take stock before re-engaging in your day-to-day life, greater resilience, and more control over your own emotions and responses. And who better to show you the ways of mindfulness than…a 2 year old.
Not usually associated with focus and calm, 2 year olds are in fact much more curious about the world around them than those of us who spend our days rushing from one thing to the next, sometimes barely looking up from our devices, and they are arguably much more aware of their own feelings. Happiness, sadness, hunger – those feelings and more live right under the surface and 2 year olds are not afraid to feel them, express them and do something (or ask someone else to do something) about them. Can we all say the same?
So here are 3 lessons in mindfulness, from a 2 year old:
1. ‘Look!’– living with a 2 year old is much like living in an episode of Catchphrase, with Roy Walker encouraging them to ‘say what you see’ at every given opportunity. ‘Pigeon’, ‘garden’, ‘fluff’: 2 year olds spot everything, usually before the grown-ups. So with spring blossoming around us, why not take a leaf out of their book and spend some time looking around you – what can you see? Look up, look behind you, look all around you, and take time to appreciate what’s there.
2. ‘What’s that?’– from a packet rustling across the room to a ‘planecopter’ in the sky, 2 year olds are often far quicker to tune into what they can hear than we are. And at this time of year – in fact, at every time of year – pausing to really listen to the sounds around us can bring a great sense of calm. Take just 2 minutes to tune into what you can hear – the sounds of nature, the whirring of machines, your own breathing or the movement of your clothes. What do you notice?
3. ‘My want snack!’ – 2 year olds are far more in tune with what they feel and need than most adults. Whether it’s hunger, an itchy label that needs sorting, or tears that have them reaching for a cuddle, their ability to connect with their feelings, both internal and external, is surprisingly intuitive – and something from which we could all learn. When was the last time you checked in with how you’re feeling, both physically and emotionally? Take a moment to notice how you’re feeling physically, perhaps scanning your body and taking time to stretch and move to relieve any areas of tension. Are you hungry, or perhaps just thirsty? Take some time to notice how you’re feeling emotionally – what could make you feel even better? Or simply take a moment to appreciate what’s going well for you today.
This post was first published as a blog post for Psychologies magazine’s online Life Labs – read it here.