Mindfulness is a powerful tool in shifting the brain’s focus from what feels like bleakness to the joy of the small things in our daily lives.

As we rapidly approach the holiday season, it’s easy for parents and nannies to become exhausted and overwhelmed with the realization that 2020 has not been a year of celebratory gatherings and holiday cheer. By taking the time to slow down and be present, we begin to naturally treat ourselves with grace, which has a ripple effect leading to the extension of grace, kindness, and gratitude to others.  

Being present isn’t just a skill for adults; everyone can benefit from mindfulness!

The children in our lives are not without their own unique struggles. Many are adjusting to difficult changes just like we are–perhaps they’re trying to adapt to remote learning and spending less time with friends and extracurriculars. Maybe they’re feeling anxiety over all of the unknowns of the world. They could even be struggling with biological challenges like eating and sleeping, because their routines have been so altered that their physical bodies are even confused!

For the month of November, consider participating in weekly mindfulness activities centered around a positive theme. Each activity can be adapted for the whole family team, including nannies! This practice will ultimately help you to recognize and celebrate the joy that is present in your life without draining your energy on the bleakness of pandemics and politics and complicated holiday emotions.

Week 1: Slow Down

Each day this week, set aside 10 minutes. Direct each person on your family team to spend the first 5 minutes in their favorite quiet place. In this practice you will be working toward focusing on your surroundings and inner dialogue, but if that’s not easy initially, it’s okay to spend quiet time doing something you enjoy–like reading, or puzzles, or journaling. Children may especially find more success with quiet activities, rather than just sitting and thinking.

In this initial 5 minutes, be present in what you are doing. Whether sitting quietly or participating in a quiet solo activity, pay close attention to what you’re doing and how the activity or quiet downtime makes you feel. Try not to let other thoughts get in the way. If your mind begins to wander, gently redirect your focus to what is going on in this very moment. Consider that you’re going to describe to a friend everything you are doing, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting. How would you paint a dynamic verbal picture?

When the initial 5 minutes is up, gather together as a family team, and talk about your experience. Continue to focus on being present. Make sure your phones are off and you’re together in a comfortable place without a lot of background noise. Listen to what your family and family team members have to say. How did that 5 minutes of mindfulness change your perspective on the day ahead of you? Did your mood improve? Do you feel more physically rested and relaxed? Make sure to end every session with lots of positivity, and when the week is over, see if you can identify any changes or improvements that this activity has brought.

Week 2: Affirm Yourself

We all know the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” This goes for moms, dads, children, and nannies! Now that you’ve spent a week being present with yourself and your feelings, it’s time to spend a week filling your cup!

Again, each day this week, set aside 5-10 minutes. In this time, think of one thing that you’re struggling with, and two positive affirmations for yourself. Write them down on individual note papers. If you have children that aren’t yet able to write, focus on yourself first, and help them after. 

Keep the affirmations with you, and each time your struggle enters your mind, read those affirmations. Try to approach your struggles from a place of positivity and self-love. At the end of the week, destroy the struggles you’ve overcome–tear them up, scribble on them, or simply throw them away. Hold on to the affirmations and continue to remind yourself of all of your good qualities every day going forward. Help remind the whole family team of their affirmations as well.

Week 3: Express Gratitude

This week, you are hopefully feeling refreshed and having plenty of positive thoughts about yourself. Your cup is starting to fill! Are you ready to start sharing your joy?

Skip the arbitrary “thank yous” and try to focus on being genuine and personal with the people that you express gratitude towards. Perhaps your nanny went above and beyond tidying the kitchen;; instead of “Thank you,” try “It was an amazing surprise to enter a clean kitchen. You really keep my life running smoothly. I’m very grateful for you.” Or maybe your child’s best friend drew them a special picture. Encourage your child to think of a compliment for the friend to say alongside their “thank you.” 

You may find yourself surprised by how much you brighten someone’s day! Ask your child how they feel when they make someone smile. Hold onto the smiles and the warmth you receive from people you express gratitude toward. You’re continuing to fill your cup while filling someone else’s as well. 

Week 4: Spread Kindness

By now, you and your family team have spent three whole weeks practicing mindfulness and gratitude, and hopefully positivity is becoming a habit that takes enough time away from negativity to really start to change your perspective. Use this newfound energy for the good in life to expand your ripple–we’re not going to stop with personalized thank yous. Now we’re going to share our jubilation with people who aren’t expecting it. 

Spreading kindness doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Perhaps you hold a door open, and do so with a smile on your face and a friendly “Hello!” Or maybe your older child volunteers to bring a neighbor’s trash cans back up from the street on garbage day, or your younger child picks a flower from your home garden to bring to a teacher or surprise the nanny. It may be fun to begin this week with a brainstorming session in which mom, dad, nanny, and kids each come up with several random acts of kindness they may be interested in trying. 

There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.

Ralph H. Blum

Once we reach the end of November, make sure to talk over how practicing mindfulness went. What was the easiest part? What was the most difficult part? Is this something you’d try again? Are there things you want to implement into daily life? Feel free to share your experience in the comments!