It seems that for most people, stress levels are higher than ever.
A whopping 84% of adults report experiencing emotions that correlate to prolonged stress, 43% of teenagers report being more stressed than normal, and young children are showing signs of stress related to changing school routines and in response to the stress of those around them.
With stress at an all-time high, it is vitally important for children and adults to develop healthy ways to cope with the fear, anxiety, anger, and sadness that accompany feelings of overwhelming stress.
One of the best ways to stop stressing and calm your emotions is to practice mindfulness.
Discover how mindful activities help relieve stress in children and adults and learn 6 mindful activities that you can practice every day to help you reduce stress and live a happier life.
What is Mindfulness?
The term mindfulness refers to a way of thinking and being that allows you to become objectively aware of the feelings, thoughts, and sensations within your body.
When participating in mindfulness activities, you are able to step back from yourself and acknowledge what you are feeling and thinking, without investing further emotional or mental energy.
You are able to accept how you are in the moment, rather than worrying about the future or the past.
How Does Mindfulness Relieve Stress?
Studies have shown that mindful activities have several beneficial effects on your mind and body, which culminate in reduced anxiety, rumination, fear, anger, and sadness - all negative emotions associated with stress.
Mindfulness relieves stress by:
Increasing a sense of calmness and clarity
Improving focus and concentration
Decreasing rumination and cyclical thinking
Encouraging metacognitive awareness
Lowering symptoms of anxiety
Reducing symptoms of somatic stress
Boosting working memory capacity
Enhancing cognitive flexibility
In addition to these benefits, researchers have discovered that mindful activities also lead to better emotional regulation, more satisfactory relationships, and even boost immune functioning.
All of these factors combine to make mindfulness a powerful tool in the fight against stress.
6 Mindful Activities for Kids and Adults
To start practicing mindfulness, you need an arsenal of activities that you can practice at different times throughout the day. The following activities work well for both adults and children.
Yoga is one of the most beneficial mindful practices that you can partake in. With origins in ancient India, yoga is a set of spiritual, physical, and mental practices that encourage present moment awareness.
There are several different types of yoga, but in general, all types of yoga teach breathing techniques and controlled muscle poses that improve your physical and mental health.
Yoga is a great mindful activity for kids. My six-year-old daughter loves getting out her yoga mat and doing Cosmic Kids Yoga, a free channel on YouTube that puts out kid-themed yoga and mindfulness videos. Yoga helps her stretch her body and focus on holding a pose.
Yoga classes are available in many forms. You can practice yoga at home or go to an in-person class.
I’ve discovered that a small in-person class lead by an instructor works well for me and that I feel calmer and more centered if I go at least once or twice per week. There are also many different types of yoga, so no matter what level of fitness you are currently in, you can find a class that works for you.
Meditation is a simple mindful activity that both kids and adults can participate in to reduce stress. It's free and effective and can be done in just five minutes per day.
Meditation also brings a sense of balance and calm that lingers throughout your day, which can eliminate excess worry. There are several types of meditation, but the easiest for beginners are guided meditation and mindful meditation.
In a guided meditation, you listen to a “guide” who leads you through the process. This typically includes breathing and body scanning, sometimes followed by a script that allows you to focus on visualizing a scene or noticing sensations in your body.
You can download one of many mindfulness apps with guided meditations, or peruse the many free guided meditations available online.
Mindful meditation is just as beneficial but can be more difficult to practice. Typically, mindful meditation requires you to lay or sit comfortably and focus on your breathing, as well as noticing bodily sensations.
It can be challenging to sit still, and most people take a few sessions to quiet their thoughts, but once you get into the habit, even just a few minutes per day of quiet mindful meditation can help you feel more peaceful overall.
Journaling is a mindful activity that adults and older children can practice to reduce stress.
Journaling encourages you to write your thoughts as they come without judgment or censorship. This allows you to pour your worries out onto the page, removing them from your head and stopping rumination.
While adults might benefit from free journaling, some might prefer to write to prompts that allow them to focus on unrelated subjects.
Invest in a guided journal that contains daily sections to fill out, or opt for a journal that contains inspirational quotes.
Another option is to grab a gratitude journal to help you focus on the things in your life that you are grateful for.
Children might do well with age-appropriate prompts, as well as formatted journals that allow them to keep track of their moods and feelings.
Even small children who cannot read or write can benefit from a journal where they place emoji stickers that represent their feelings.
4. Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are one of the most powerful mindfulness tools you can use. Regulated breathing has been shown to calm the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to reduce our fight or flight response to stressors in the environment.
My kindergarten-aged daughter introduced me to “rainbow breath”, a breathing exercise the children practice at her school. After doing the exercise for a mere four minutes, I felt much calmer and focused.
You can find a myriad of breathing exercises online, such as belly breathing and box breathing. They are simple and free and can be used any time you feel stress, anxiety, or overwhelming emotions welling up.
5. Name Your Mood
This mindfulness activity is one of the most simple and helpful when it comes to identifying emotions.
Being able to express exactly what you are feeling at any given moment helps you develop a vocabulary around emotions, and naming your feeling out loud offers validation and helps get you outside of your head.
All of these factors work together to lessen overwhelming feelings that cause stress.
All you need to do is take a few seconds to check in with yourself and put a name to whatever emotion you feel at that moment.
Reference an emotions list if you have trouble putting a word to the feeling. Also, take note of any bodily sensations you feel that accompany that emotion.
You can name your mood anytime during the day. It may be helpful to get into the habit of writing down your mood in the morning, midday, and before bed, but you can stop and name your mood whenever you feel it would be helpful.
Play name your mood with children of almost any age to help them identify their emotions. Have older children write their emotions in a journal and ask younger children to name what they are feeling and describe how the sensations in their body.
6. Body Scan
The body scan is a useful activity that helps you notice sensations in your body. By doing this, you are able to relax and create a sense of awareness in the present moment. The following are the basic steps to performing a body scan.
- Lay down in a comfortable position
- Take several deep, slow breaths
- Starting at your feet, begin “scanning” your body. Notice any sensations in your feet, such as pressure, tingling, pain, etc.
- Move up your body slowly, noticing sensations. Move from your toes through your legs, abdomen, down both arms, then up through the top of your head
- Soften your body as you scan upwards, taking deep breaths and relaxing your muscles
- When finished, slowly open your eyes and notice your surroundings
- Sit up gently and go on with your day
There are several body scan instructions online, complete with audio guidance for those just starting out.
Feel free to start with a shorter session and work your way up to longer body scan meditations. You can also find guided body scan meditations for younger, elementary-aged kids.
A Mindful Activity a Day Keeps the Stress Away
Mindful activities are a great way to keep stress levels down in our modern, hectic environment.
They help us stay rooted in the present moment rather than ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. By practicing mindful activities, we help to create a calm and centered environment that leads to less stress and more contentment.