Mindfulness practice has been gaining steam as a popular school routine, as many studies show that it can not only improve concentration, but also attendance, behavior, memory and overall well-being in our children. It seems that being presently aware comes more easily to children than adults, as well.
The easiest technique often first introduced to children has a basis in physiology. They are taught about the amygdala, a small area of our mid brain responsible for sensing when we experience stress.
It responds appropriately with the all-important ‘fight or flight’ response to stressful situations.
This evolutionary adaptation was probably originally utilized mainly in life or death situations, however the amygdala does not differentiate between an argument, a stressful test, or being chased by a predator. What it knows is a feeling of danger, and reacts by blocking the prefrontal cortex, responsible for thinking logically.
However, we do not live in a world where we are chased by predators (usually), so when we experience stress, we typically want more options than fight or flight.
So, what mindfulness tool can we employ to regain access to the higher reasoning prefrontal cortex that our amygdala so efficiently blocks (for your safety, of course) when we get stressed out?
It’s simple: breathe.
When you breathe deeply, your brain is flooded with oxygen. this signals to your amygdala that it’s safe to calm down. Whenever you experience stress, the simplest way to diffuse that is to stop what you’re doing and take several deep breaths with slow exhales.
It’s obvious that this diffuses stress to anyone mindful enough to employ this simple tactic. Do yourself a favor: the next time you experience the racing heart and rising blood pressure that are the hallmarks of stress, remember your little amygdala, and breathe. It could change your life!