CENTERING AND MINDFULNESS
Centering or mindfulness is an important stress-reduction skill. Many families have experienced multiple traumatic events in their lives (now called Adverse Childhood Experiences) and are likely dealing with the physical impact of this stress -- high levels of cortisol, which is released following a stressful event to restore energy lost in the fight or flee response. When the stressful event is over, cortisol levels normally fall and return to normal. However, when chronic stress is experienced, the body makes more cortisol than it can release, which can lead to impaired brain function by:
Disrupting synapse regulation, resulting in loss of sociability and avoidance of interactions with others.
Increasing the risks of anxiety and depression.
Reducing area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
Predisposing the brain to a constant state of fight or flight with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Impacting other systems: body’s immune system (exacerbating already existing illnesses), digestive, excretory and reproductive structures.
Centering or mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety and feelings of stress; to increase your ability to control your impulses leading to feeling calm and ready to think clearly; and to help you become aware of how your words and actions affect others, so you can choose the most effective way to handle difficult situations. Centering or mindfulness can simply be sitting quietly, breathing slowly and deeply through your nose- focusing your attention on a particular thing or thought.
Sit quietly, notice how your body feels. Listen to music for a few moments. Close your eyes or simply look down. Take a deep breath in through the nose for the count of three: 1 – 2 – 3. Hold it for the count of three: 1 – 2 – 3. Slowly let it out for another count of three, saying to yourself “Let it go,” 1 – 2 – 3. Repeat twice. Now be silent for a moment.
Centering For Toddlers & Young Children:
First help children “get their wiggles out!”with a song:
(Tune: The Bear Went Over The Mountain)
Oh, my hands are starting to wiggle, My hands are starting to wiggle,
My hands are starting to wiggle, And.... So is the rest of me! (Everyone wiggle)
I’ll put them in my lap, I’ll put them in my lap,
I’ll put them in my lap … So they will quiet me! (Everyone sits quietly)
After singing the song, ask: “Where is my nose?” Point to your nose. Ask: “Where is your nose?”Children point to their noses. Say: “Here is your nose! Can you do this with me?” Demonstrate taking a deep breath in through your nose, using exaggerated movements. Say: “Now let’s all take a deep breath in through our noses.”Have group take a deep breath with you. Turn on quiet music. Lower lights. Say (in a quiet, soothing voice) “Let’s all sit as quietly as we can. You can close your eyes if you want to. Slowly take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for just a moment (hold it) and then quietly let it out.” Pause. Say: “Let’s do that one more time.” Repeat. Then say: “Thank you for being quiet with me!”
With babies: Practice centering while holding them, which may help calm them and you down.
Additional Centering Exercises
Steps in Centering
Plan a quiet moment with you can sit comfortably, with your eyes closed or looking down.
Play some quiet music and breathe in slowly through your nose, hold it for 1-2 seconds and exhale slowly.
Take 10 deep breaths, focusing on the physical sensation of breathing.
When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
2. Ten Deep Breaths
Each day try to take 10 deep breaths. Play some quiet music. Start by taking a deep breath, picturing it going up into your brain. … Hold it for a second or two and then slowly release it. … Focus all your attention on the physical sensation of breathing. Take 5 deep breaths. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breathing. Let thoughts float past. Don’t dwell on them. Return your full attention to your breathing. Take another deep breath, this time picturing it filling your lungs … slowly release it. … Take another 5 deep breaths. Now take one more huge breath filling your diaphragm (like an opera singer). … Slowly let it go.
3. Body Breathing
Play some quiet music. Take a deep breath, picture it going up into your head. … Hold it for a second or two and then slowly release it. … Now picture your warm, healing breath passing through eyes – blessing what you see. Breathing in and out, think of your next breath passing through your ears blessing what you hear. Think about each part of your body (shoulders, right arm, right hand, left hand, left arm) picturing your breath passing through them and blessing them. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breathing. Let thoughts float past. Don’t dwell on them. Return your full attention to your breathing. Continue through each part of your body: down your backs, your right leg, right foot, right toes, left leg, left foot, left toes.
4. “Loving Kindness”
Play some quiet music. Before you start think of one phrase that you’ll repeat to yourself:
“May I be happy.” “May I be at peace.” “May my heart remain open.”
Now be quiet, close our eyes or look down at the floor – which ever feels comfortable. This time put your hands on your laps with the palms up. Take a deep breath, picture it going up into your brain. … Hold it for a second or two and then slowly release it. … . Now focus your thoughts on your statement, taking 5 deep breathes. As you breathe, visualize your body filling with healing, happiness or peace. As you exhale, visualize illness, sadness, or busyness leaving. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breathing. Take 5 more deep breaths. Now take one last huge breath filling your diaphragm (like an opera singer). … Slowly let it go.
If you would like more information:
Watch film Resilience, available free online at https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/resilience-the-biology-of-stress-and-the-science-of-hope/
Celebrating Families!™ Adolescent and 0-3 Supplements - www.celebratingfamilies.net
Harvard Center for the Developing Child - https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/toxic-stress/