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How to Use Mindfulness Activities to Raise a Joyful Family

A mother and child baking in the kitchen.

For many people, family dynamics cause a good deal of stress, worry, and anxiety.  You can often feel powerless to change the complex issues that arise when different personalities with varied life experiences all try to coexist together. Mindfulness is a way to transform your entire family’s lives into a more peaceful, happy, and fulfilling ones. By becoming more conscious of the moment, making small daily changes, and allowing feelings to be what they are, you can positively shift and shape your closest relationships.

Activities centered around mindfulness have many proven benefits, such as reducing anxiety and depression by helping to stop runaway thoughts from turning into negative self-beliefs. They also improve memory and focus while reducing feelings of body shame and lowering fears about different groups of people. This increased understanding of yourself and others helps reduce internal and external conflicts so that you have more energy to put towards being a positive influence on your family.

For children and teens, engaging in age-appropriate mindfulness activities has numerous advantages, especially in today’s fast-paced world where snap judgments are often made on social media and among peer groups. Mindfulness has been shown to lessen the effects of bullying and allow for greater self-esteem and social skills, while also improving attention span in young people.

Here are some tried and true mindfulness activities to help your children, teens, and entire family thrive and find long-term joy and greater cohesiveness.

Create Gratitude Games

Gratitude is such a great place to start your mindfulness practice because feelings of appreciation have been shown to increase activity in the part of the brain which regulates empathy, social bonding, and understanding others. Since these are some of the core guiding principles of mindfulness, finding ways to say ‘thank you’ can really uplift your entire family.

Below are a few engaging games you can try:

  • The Mirror Game: Write a surprise message of appreciation on the mirror in a non-permanent marker for family members to see when they wake up in the morning.
  • Compliment Counter: Set a goal of giving a certain number of compliments to each family member for the month. Don’t forget to include yourself in this! You can also try jotting down any positive shifts you see unfold after handing out praise and share these with everyone. This allows your family to better understand the benefits of positive, mindful interactions.
  • Gratitude Partners: Pair family members together to spend a day or even a few hours out giving compliments to strangers, holding the door open for others, buying a random person flowers, or volunteering. This focus on spreading gratitude reminds children and teenagers to be aware of the wider world and opens them up to learning more about the lives of people in their community.

Take a Mindfulness Walk

This is a great activity for all ages. Younger children love keeping tabs on all the butterflies, birds, and bugs they see. For teens, it can be fun to play a geocache game while being mindful to replace any “treasures” they find with something comparable for the next person. The calming effects of nature also help adults stay more present by reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and increasing positive thoughts.

It can help to give kids a few guidelines for the walk, such as asking them to pay attention to all the different bird songs they hear or pointing out the various types of leaves on the trees. Once the walk is over, take some time to bring up the details of the experience. Asking simple follow-up questions about what everyone saw, sensed and felt helps build greater awareness on how to stay grounded at the moment.

Design Breathing and Five Senses Exercises

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify how you feel. This confusion can cause a sense of wanting to flee from being mindful. Listening to a guided meditation that focuses on each part of the body, or on sounds near and far away can help you relax back into the present moment in a non-threatening way. Focusing on breathing slowly in through the nose, and then out through the mouth is also helpful.

One great way to include the whole family in this activity is to have a different person be the mindfulness guide each week. Whoever leads can pick one sense that everyone will focus on, such as the smells in the room, or the feel of the carpet on the body. You can even add some family fun to the mix by doing a blind “taste test” with delicious items you cooked or baked, and ask how the different foods make everyone feel. Do they evoke feelings of happiness, comfort, or certain memories? This is an effective way to jump-start a conversation about feelings in a stress-free manner.

If you’d like some mindfulness meditations to help get you started and give you ideas to pass on to your family, take a look at this free list offered by UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.

Enjoy Mindful Cooking

One of the best ways to bring mindfulness into your daily life is to slow down and savor not just each meal, but also each step it takes to prepare it. Involving your family in everything from choosing ingredients at the grocery to deciding what spices to add to a dish allows for a greater appreciation of the food that helps keep everyone healthy. It also ensures that each person gets to be part of creating cuisine that the whole family can enjoy. Finally, it allows for everyone’s unique tastes and ideas to shine through.

Even a meal that’s frozen can be the source of mindful cooking. If you’re having french fries, for example, try mixing BBQ sauce with spicy mustard to create a newly blended dip. Or ask your kids what kind of fruit they’d like on top of their vanilla ice cream. Adding a dose of everyone’s creativity to each meal helps turns a dinner into an experience that teaches children how to savor life with all five senses.

5  Family Mindfulness Tips

  • Take time to explain to your kids and teens what mindfulness is so they have a general idea where to start.
  • Don’t pressure anyone into changing, but instead lead by example.
  • Share your wins and challenges so that everyone understands that mindfulness is a process.
  • Be consistent with your practice to help form positive habits.
  • Ask for ideas from everyone about how they think your family can become more mindful.

We have a wealth of knowledge and experience to assist you in using mindfulness to create a happier, more balanced home life. Contact us today and we’ll guide you through the most effective activities and strategies for raising a joyful family.