In the growing conversation around mindfulness, we're constantly hearing about meditation in the workplace and tech CEOs who swear by the practice. But less attention is being paid to the quietly growing movement for mindfulness in the family, and the use of meditation to optimize the health, well-being and happiness of children.
It's not just adults that can stand to benefit from cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment. Research is beginning to shed light on the power of mindfulness as an intervention for a number of behavioral challenges that children face. We're also starting to recognize that mindfulness practices could be beneficial for children for the same reasons it helps adults, contributing to reduced stress,improved sleep quality and heightened focus.
At increasingly younger ages, kids are facing higher levels of stress, and it may be taking a significant toll on their health. Stressful events in childhood can increase the risk of developing health problems as an adult, but the impact may hit much earlier. A recent University of Florida study found that stressful events can impact a child's health and well-being almost immediately, and can contribute to the development of physical and mental health problems and learning disabilities.
Sonia Sequeira, Ph.D., a clinical researcher specialized in Investigational Therapies and director of the Institute for Meditation Sciences, has been practicing yoga and meditation for nearly 20 years, and has practiced with her own children for years. Now in her work as a mindfulness researcher, she's brought contemplative practices to children ages 3-18 who are struggling with autism, cancer, and other physical and mental health problems. Currently, she's using meditation and chanting to help relieve pain in children with cancer.
It may seem like a tall order to ask your kid to meditate -- given that it can be a struggle just to get a child to sit down or eat breakfast -- but Sequeira insists that in her years of working with children, she's found just the opposite.
"There's an initial resistance, which I think is cultural, and usually it occurs in the presence of the parent," Sequeira told The Huffington Post. "But it extinguishes very quickly. Teaching mindfulness to children has always been the easiest for me because there's no set patterns, or at least they're not set in stone yet. With adults its much more difficult."
Learning mindfulness practices -- including meditation, breathing exercises, yogaasana(postures) and chanting -- can have a significant long-term affect on a child's development.
"[In my research], what really mattered was finding practical tools that were not an on-off or intermittent practice for children, but something they could really grow with and that could affect their physiology as they grow from their young childhood into adolescence," says Sequeira.
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