You love your kids and wouldn’t be without them, but it’s an undeniable fact – being a mother can be incredibly stressful. Dealing with tantrums, trying to keep on top of all of the everyday chores and running around after the family can take a heavy toll on your state of mind, and every mother out there will recognise the feeling of sometimes struggling to keep your head above water. Luckily, research from Oxford University has shown that practising mindfulness could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Their studies showed that mindfulness is not only a powerful stress reliever, but it also helps to improve resilience to future stress, building up an inner strength that boosts physical well being and inner happiness.
So, What Is Mindfulness?
If you’ve never heard of mindfulness, don’t worry, you aren’t alone! Put in basic terms, mindfulness means that you focus on staying firmly grounded in the moment, aware of what you are doing and feeling, without being overwhelmingly influenced by events that are taking place around you. Now you’re probably thinking “Easier said than done” as your toddler howls for your attention, your teenager needs help with their homework and you have dinner to get started, and you’d be right – mindfulness takes practice. However, it’s well worth putting in the effort to achieve the many benefits that mindfulness brings.
How Can Mindfulness Help Me?
1. Better Decision Making
When you practice mindfulness, you have a much greater awareness of what’s going on inside your head. We all have a tendency to experience a gut reaction as soon as a thought pops into your brain, and your response might not always be the right one. When you are aware of your thoughts, you are much more able to take a step back and to analyse them fully without reacting to that immediate stress response. In short, you’ll become a better decision maker.
2. Slowing It Down
We’ve all been there – flying off the handle because of a stressful situation. But those immediate reactions are rarely the most sensible response and all too often we regret the way we’ve handled things. Mindfulness helps to slow down your reactions, giving you time to think sensibly and to come up with a more appropriate solution.
When you practice mindfulness, you are learning to focus on the here and now – in other words the “being” state of mind rather than the “doing”. While the “doing” mindset is associated with stress, the “being” mode is linked to relaxation – and which mother doesn’t need a bit more of that in their life?
4. Awareness Of Bodily Needs
Every mother’s been there – pushing themselves to the limit to get things done for their kids, pushing themselves to hard in the gym, collapsing under the pressures of work. It’s all too easy to ignore the signs that you need to take care of yourself and treat your body with more respect. As much as exercise can assist in reducing stress and anxiety, mindfulness makes you more sensitive to your bodily needs, and when you notice pain earlier, you can take steps to treat the problem so that it doesn’t get out of hand.
5. Less Conflict
It’s no secret that most families are full of conflict, and it can be very easy to snap at each other when emotions are running high. Mindfulness makes you more sensitive to the emotions of those around you, and this boosts your empathy. When you understand the way your kids feel, you’re much less likely to get into conflict with them.
6. Greater Compassion
There’s a distinct lack of empathy and compassion in modern society, so it’s no wonder that often we aren’t as caring or considerate as we should be. Practising mindfulness is very soothing and lowers your gut response to stress, making you more compassionate and more able to help others.
7. Less Background Stress
We’ve become so used to an ongoing backdrop of stress in our lives that we just don’t notice it any more. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t taking its toll on your physical and mental health. When you practice mindfulness, the activity in your amygdala (the part of your brain that switches on your stress response) is reduced, cutting back on all that background stress and making your life simpler and happier.
8. Better Focus
As a busy parent you’ve always got so much going on that it can feel impossible to focus on anything. How many times have you stood in the kitchen, realising you’re in the middle of three different jobs and haven’t got anything done? Mindfulness boosts your focus and concentration so you can get tasks accomplished more efficiently.
9. Change Of Attitude
One of the best things about mindfulness is that it can change your attitude to stress in your life. Whereas before you struggled to see beyond the negative consequences of stress, being mindful gives you more space and helps you to think in a different way about it. By recognising that added pressure gives you more energy to get more done, your mind and body can enjoy the positive benefits.
All things considered, mindfulness really is one of the best tools to add to your knowledge box to make you, not only flourish at parenting, but flourish at life and all the stresses it throws at you.