If you’re like most people, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic probably has you and your family stressed out and anxious. A great way to alleviate some of these feelings is through practicing mindfulness.

Being mindful means slowing down and taking time to focus on the present. It sounds simple, but when you’re stressed out and anxious about the future, it can be very challenging. Fortunately, mindfulness activities can help. To get you started, we’ve listed some activities that you can do with your whole family.

Mindfulness activities for the whole family

  1. Family yoga: Find a good yoga app, website or podcast. Do a class together.
  2. Mindful walking: As a family, walk slowly and silently outside without talking. Notice all the sounds and smells around you. What does the air feel like? What do your feet feel like when they touch the ground? Notice the process of walking and paying attention to walking.
  3. Mindful musical movement: Find a drum and play a beat. Have everyone move to the rhythm of the drum. Then change the beat and have everyone alter their movements. For example, make small movements when the drum is quiet and fast movements when the drum is faster. This also works with other instruments.
  4. Mindful eating: Try doing this for one meal each week. Have everyone pick up a bite of food but don’t eat it. Notice how it feels, how it smells, how it looks. Think about everything that it took to get the food to you, starting from the farm it grew on to someone picking it to its trip from the farm to the grocery store. Feel gratitude about what it took to get the food to your plate. Then, put the bite in your mouth, but don’t chew it. Notice how it feels on your tongue. Slowly chew and swallow and pay attention to what your mouth feels like and what the food really tastes like. Talk about the experience with everyone at the end of the meal.
  5. Breathing exercises:
    1. Focusing on a breathing anchor: Put your hand over your heart and take a breath. Notice what it feels like. Then, put your hand on your belly, take a breath, and notice what that feels like. Finally, put a finger under your nose, take a breath and feel the breath there. Decide which of these places is your breathing anchor – the place where you feel your breath the most comfortably. Then, focus on that anchor and breathe for a set amount of time (it helps to set a timer).
    2. Counting breaths: Pick an activity leader to count breaths. Have the leader hold up one finger while everyone takes a breath. Next, have the leader holdup two fingers and have everyone take another breath.  Keep counting breaths. You can also count out loud or count in your head. Another variation that older kids can do is to breathe in and out for a certain count – for example, breathe in for a count of five and breathe out for a count of five.
    3. Mindful breathing: Sit and focus on your breath. As thoughts come by in your head, let them go. Recognize you’re having a thought and come back to your breathing. The practice of breaking away from a thought can help you calm down and become more still.
  6. Focusing on sounds: Close your eyes and focus on the sounds in the room. Try to identify what they are. You can also have someone in the room make different sounds and then have everyone talk about what they heard at the end of the activity.
  7. Gratitude activity: Amid all the craziness going on and all the disappointments people are experiencing, it’s important to focus on the positive. Stop and think about what’s good in your life. Every day, have everyone name three good things in their lives that they are grateful for.

In addition to mindfulness, self-care is important too! So don’t forget to eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep and make time for yourself every day to do what you like to do!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vicki Freedenberg, PhD, RN, is an electrophysiology nurse in Children’s National Heart Institute (CNHI).

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