October 30, 2014

Mindfulness – as simple as 5–4–3–2-1

Dr. Kristen Race
Close to 200 people gathered at Platt Middle School on Monday evening of this week for a special parent education event.

Friends’ School was proud to share an evening with Dr. Kristen Race with many of our own parents, teachers, and staff, and an equal number of guests whose children do not attend our school.

Dr. Race is the founder of the Mindful Life group and author of the book Mindful Parenting.

There were many key points in her talk, which covered brain research, as well as factors that lead to additional stress in our kids and in our homes. For me, some of the biggest take-aways were the solutions that Race offered.  Solutions that all of us can incorporate into our households and our families’ lives. Solutions that can be packaged as neatly as 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1.

5 -  five minutes of purposeful meditative breathing helps to center us.  For adults and kids, research has proven that just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation will alleviate psychological stress. By paying attention to one’s breathing and the condition of one’s surroundings, it has been found to be moderately effective to battle pain and anxiety and return us to focusing on the present moment with kindness.

4 – the four roses practice is adapted for families from Rick Hanson’s work in Hardwiring Happiness. ROSE is a simple process for engraving the good things that we experience over the course of the day into the neural structure of our brain. ROSE is an acronym for Recognize, Observe, Soak it in, Engrave it.  Recognize 4 Roses each day. A rose does not have to be a grand experience. Good things happen all around us, but much of the time we don’t notice them. Take the time to recognize that the sun is shining, the smell of your coffee in the morning, or the feeling of your child’s small hand in yours. We can’t change the past or the future, but we can take in the good during this moment. Observe how this recognition makes your body feel. Does your heart seem to flutter? Does it cause you warmth, or give you chills and goose bumps? Take that extra second, from when you recognize the moment, to observe the impact on your body. Soak it in and savor this experience. We have to hold our attention on these good experiences for several seconds to make them stick. Engrave it into your being. That step is to share these roses with your family over dinner, or write them down before you go to bed.

3 – find three things to be grateful for each day. Dr. Race shared the science of what regular gratitude practice does for us and suggested that taking a moment each evening with our children to focus on three things to be grateful for will help them to focus more on the positive in their lives.

2 – two acts of engagement.  It is important to be present and engaged with our kids - with no particular agenda. Race recommended that we find the time at least twice a day to spend time with our kids when we’re not trying to problem solve or think about work, but just being present with them.  She suggested we help ourselves to think less about the amount of time you spend with our kids, but to focus instead on the quality of the time we have with them.

1 – one act of kindness.  We heard that doing one simple act of kindness, even one every ten days, can increase our happiness.  The even simpler act of witnessing an act of kindness can bring this feeling to life. Race shared this beautiful film with the audience to illustrate her point.

Thank you, Dr. Race, for sharing your research and your practical, solution-based wisdom with us. 

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