by Ann Brand, PhD
The practice of mindfulness is beneficial year-round, but let’s look at how it can be relevant in late summer.
Mindfulness in Late Summer
As the summer winds down to a close in August, many of us must shift from the carefree days of summer with little to no schedule (or a schedule that changes each week) to the organization of the school year. For some, this is a challenging transition. Our capacity to be present to our experience is critical, whether it is embracing school shopping or mourning the loss of casual evening driveway gatherings with the neighbors. A regular mindfulness practice helps us cultivate that present moment awareness, so we don’t fast-forward through the last days of summer to the business of the school year in our head.
A daily mindfulness practice of mindful breathing or mindful movement helps us cultivate awareness of our habits and patterns. For example, we notice when we are getting caught up in the to-do list in our head and not paying attention to the laughter of our children as watermelon juice runs down their chin or we hear the sounds of the band playing in the park. A regular practice helps us to show up to the moments of our life as they unfold.
Mindfulness and the Season
Each season has its unique joys and challenges. And it depends on the person to some extent. For me, the advent of a new school year is like New Year’s Day. I review my priorities, set goals, maybe even set some resolutions to be more organized, more productive, or eat healthier. I love the school year for the structure it provides to my daily life. But for others, the structure of the school year is confining rather than comforting. Mindfulness helps us to be more aware of our own particular habits and patterns, so we can respond skillfully to our experience.
Learn from the Children
Children are naturally mindful. They are in tune with the full range of their experience—the movements of their body, the sounds they are hearing, their emotional experience. They are much less likely to get stuck in the story in their heads like us adults. So we can take a page from their book and pay attention to what are we doing right now, whether that is feeling the sand between our toes or carefully sorting through last year’s school clothes to prepare for school shopping.
Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness practice has many benefits. Because of advances in neuroscience, scientists can see how mindfulness practices work to change our brain and lead to benefits in physical health, stress reduction, attention, learning and memory, positive emotions, empathy, emotion regulation, and interpersonal relationships. Mindfulness practice can help us manage our stress and bring calm, clarity, and peace into our daily lives.
Mindfulness is a self-awareness practice. And when we get better at paying attention to our own experience, we get better at noticing others’ experience. This is important as our family members begin to anticipate the beginning of another school year with its excitements and fears. When we listen and notice without judgment, we can respond to others more skillfully and support them in the best possible way. This paves the way for a smoother transition to the new school year.
For more information contact Ann at firstname.lastname@example.org.