Mindfulness—it’s become a buzzword lately. It seems like everyone has been pulling out their yoga mats and taking deep, cleansing breaths, but there’s a reason for its popularity—mindfulness works. Recent studies show that kids who practice mindfulness have increased focus, decreased stress levels, and better emotional regulation.
So, what exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness, which is rooted in Eastern religions (think Buddhism and Hinduism, among others), was more commonly adopted in the Western world in the 1970s. Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware and engaged in the present moment, and being attuned to one’s thoughts and feelings.
Interested in sharing these benefits with your girls—and reaping some for yourself in the process? We’ve rounded up a few mindful tips and exercises for you to do with your girls.
Squish and Let Go
Like the Body Scan meditation, this exercise focuses on paying attention to what the body is feeling, and also helps relieve tension and promote relaxation. Have girls lie down on their backs on a comfortable surface. Working down from their heads, ask girls to squeeze every muscle in their body as tightly as they can, then release, and relax. Start with having them squeeze their arm muscles, then their fists, their core, their legs, and their toes, releasing and relaxing after each turn. Encourage them to pay attention to the sensation in each part of their body as they progress from their head to their toes.
Use a Hoberman sphere to demonstrate how lungs expand and contract with each breath—this visual tool is particularly useful for younger girls. Have girls sit in a circle. Hold the closed sphere in front of your chest. As you breathe in, open the sphere, and as you breathe out, close the sphere. Repeat. Keep in mind that younger girls will naturally breathe faster because their lungs are smaller, so make sure not to open and close the sphere too slowly (here’s a handy chart for normal breathing rates for children).
How many times have you pulled into your driveway after work or running errands and have no recollection of the trip from point A to point B? Our brains are prone to going on autopilot—it helps conserve energy—but in doing so, we also lose awareness of the world around us. The good news is that we can shift our brains off of autopilot by (you guessed it!) practicing mindfulness. Head outside with your troop for a rainbow walk. Tell girls to look for something for each color of the rainbow as they’re walking. They might notice a red cardinal, an orange tulip, a puddle of yellow sunlight, and so on. Remind girls that it’s not a race to see who can find the most objects first, but rather, a way to better tune in to their senses.
If it feels like you don’t have time to squeeze any of these activities into your schedule, remember that you can always practice being present, no matter what you’re doing. Take a deep breath and really notice what’s occurring in front of you because, like the adage goes, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
Lily Yu – Lily is a Volunteer Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time by leading her daughter’s Daisy troop (who’s more excited to work on petals and Journeys—it could go either way!). In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family.