“Mindfulness” is a psychological approach that is growing in popularity with those managing chronic diseases. It involves becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations at the very moment they occur, and not reacting to them out of habit. Mindfulness involves some form of quiet meditation or relaxation. There is a growing body of research that shows that mindfulness can help children and teens pay attention, calm down when they are upset and make better decisions. It can also help cope with the pain and distress of having a medical condition such as IBD.
Keep it simple
Mindfulness is a big concept for kids and teens to understand. However, mindfulness is really just awareness – awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations; in fact, anything that is happening around you right now. Mindfulness does need to be practiced regularly, so choose a time, perhaps at the end of the day, when distractions are minimal and start a routine.
Try the following mindfulness strategies to help guide you:
- Find ﬁve to 10 minutes each day to start with some meditation. Try to incorporate mindfulness into your daily activities. For example, focus on the taste and texture when eating a grape or concentrate on the sights and sounds around you when walking to school or home.
- Take your time. Not everyone is interested in the concept. Some will prefer to distract themselves rather than to be aware, especially during times of stress. You can try lots of activities to introduce and encourage practicing mindfulness . For example, for young children, they can use their superhero powers (e.g., their “Spidey-senses”) to pay attention to sights and sounds that they wouldn’t normally notice.
- Give a personal “weather report” to a parent or close friend, to help describe how you are feelings in the moment – are you feeling sunny, rainy or foggy? To focus on deep breathing, imagine your stomach is a beach ball that you have to gradually inﬂate and deﬂate.
Remember, young children model what they see. If you are a parent reading this article and would like to encourage mindfulness with your child, show them how you are practicing mindfulness in your day-to-day life and know that this is a skill, which requires patience and practice. If you are a teen with IBD, looking to adopt mindfulness, remember it takes patience and practice. Take your time, set a pace that’s best for you. You can discover a host of opportunities for creativity and self-discovery!
To read more articles on IBD, visit the latest edition of our magazine, You, Me and IBD.
We thank Dr. Christine Chambers for her amazing contribution to this article on mindfulness. Dr. Chambers is a clinical psychologist and professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Psychology & Neuroscience at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is based in the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research at the IWK Health Centre