Most of us have something like 60,000-70,000 thoughts a day. These thoughts, if left untrained, can feel like a pack of wild monkeys running around our brains, making our lives feel chaotic and stressful.
Since thoughts play such a big role in our lives, let’s close our eyes and spend the next 30 seconds getting to know them a little better.
Start the timer below, then close your eyes and notice your thoughts:
Guess what? You just practiced mindfulness meditation! Yep -that’s pretty much all there is to it.
Many people think that mindfulness is about controlling or stopping our thoughts. But actually, when we practice mindfulness, we begin to notice our thoughts and, over time, we learn to let them go without attaching too much importance to them. We realize thoughts are happening in our brains, but they are not who we are.
They’re just up there happening.
I wrote, Remind Me to Breathe, as a gentle introduction to mindfulness for adults, kids, and teens and to help open conversations about thoughts and the impact they have on our feelings.
We've all felt fear, frustration and other emotions. Most feelings begin with a thought and, often, that thought is about something that happened in the past or might happen in the future.
Maybe we are thinking about an upcoming exam or meeting and feel nervous or anxious. Or, perhaps we're thinking about something said in the past and feel hurt or angry. With mindfulness, we notice we are thinking these thoughts. Then, we can take a few deep breaths and bring our attention to something that is currently happening, like the way our breath feels as we breathe in and out. Lastly, once we are calmly grounded back in the present moment, we can consciously address the future or past situation instead of letting thoughts drag us into anxiety, rage, and other reactive emotions.
That is why understanding that we are separate from our thoughts is the first step in training our monkey minds and ultimately feeling calmer and less stressed.
The monkey can only run wild when there is no one else in charge.
Now that you see the monkey,
you can train it.
I hope you enjoy the poems and "conversation starter" questions in Remind Me to Breathe and, if you have youngsters in your life, feel free to share the book with them as well. According to psychologytoday.com, practicing mindfulness can benefit children in the following ways:
"It gives kids the habit of focusing on the present moment and ignoring distractions.
It teaches them to stay calm in the face of life’s stressful times.
It creates good habits for the future. When faced with life’s challenges, they know they can find peace by taking a few moments to meditate.
It promotes happiness by lowering social anxiety and stress.
It promotes patience.
It can improve attentiveness and impulse control.
The positive results of mindfulness on child mental health is a good argument for parents to take time to learn this ancient art and practice it with their children."