Hello, I’m Jane. I’m passionate about empowering children to grow into confident, resilient, kind and compassionate human beings. I blog about the tools that we can use as adults to help our kids sparkle…whether it’s fun breathing exercises; how making small changes to the language we use with our children can re-wire their brains for resilience; or the power of positive psychology to help our children develop skills for bravery and courage.
The tips I will share with you on this blog are tools that I know work, having practised and developed them with the children I work with. And they are practices that have helped me to develop resilience and confidence in my own life too. Yoga and mindfulness have literally changed my life (and my brain!) and I look forward to explaining how you can use these simple exercises and tools to help your kids – and hopefully yourself too – in blogs to come.
What does resilience look like?
These skills aren’t just ‘nice-to-have’. Research shows that not only does resilience impact on our emotional wellbeing, but that these skills help us to thrive and grow in challenging situations, including in the workplace, empowering us to do our best work, manage change successfully and be the best we can be. And whilst some are lucky enough to have a natural tendency towards resilience, the rest of us can develop these skills over time, with a small amount of effort and practice.
How can we develop resilience?
I am fascinated in the way that yoga and mindfulness change the structure of the brain – modern day scientists have started to report on this – however ancient yogis from thousands of years ago knew and experienced it for themselves, and I have too!
When I was first introduced to mindfulness in 2012, I was beginning to recover from a period of chronic illness which had also impacted on my emotional wellbeing. The neural pathways in my brain were well-used and tended towards being quite negative, triggering some ‘big emotions’ which I was struggling with, because at the time I didn’t have the tools I do now for regulating my emotions. I took a course in mindfulness in which we learnt about how the brain is flexible and can be literally re-wired for resilience and how to use the breath and body to regulate emotions. The tools I learnt impacted on my life straight away and I couldn’t believe how amazing they were, helping me in all sorts of situations and eventually to regain full health, both physical and emotional.
Where to start?
A good place to start, if you are looking for ways to help your children to develop resilience, is with yourself. I know, I know, it would be so much easier to not have to bother with yourself and just do a few activities with your kids to help them, but the amazing thing is that children learn resilience skills from us without us having to actually teach them! They begin to ‘co-regulate’ with us as babies and continue to do this as they grow up, and they learn to ‘self-regulate’ along the way too. When children are experiencing a ‘big emotion’ – such as fear, anxiety, or anger, if we are in a position to be able to regulate our breathing, they will pick up on this and will regulate with you. And when we learn how to regulate the breath, the emotions follow too. I promise to share some other activities for sharing with the kids in future blogs, but for now, let’s concentrate on you.
Top tip – one minute out of your day – you DO have the time!
You can do this anywhere, waiting at a red light, in the queue at the post office or whilst cooking the tea, all you need is awareness, and as you’ve got this far reading this blog, I know you are already half way there.
Become still and aware and if possible (but not essential), either close your eyes, or lower your gaze.
Gently bring your awareness to your breathing – maybe you can notice your breath on the tip of your nose, feeling cool on the way in and warmer on the way out, or maybe you can feel your breath moving into your body.
Notice your breath and observe it, but there is no need to do anything else.
If you aim to take just one minute to do this practice, you may have to keep bringing your awareness back to your breath several times, as it has a tendency to want to wander.
Breathe in….. breathe out…..breathe in……breathe out…..
This is all you have to do, as a great start on your journey to re-wiring your brain for resilience.
Maybe you could make an intention to notice your breath during different times of the day and observe whether you notice any differences in the quality, depth or nature of the breath. The key is to just observe, and not try to change your breath. Once you have been practising this for a little while your breath will begin to change all by itself. It knows how to regulate all by itself, all we have to do, is bring our awareness there.
Important to note: Sometimes bringing awareness to the breath can seem natural and easy to do, other times it might be challenging and you might feel frustrated. This is normal and part of the journey. Take note of any experiences and keep an open mind, little by little it will start to become more natural and part of your day.
Developing your skills further
Well done, you’ve got to the end of this blog and I have a feeling you have made a commitment to begin this journey with me. Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or observations and I will make a promise to you to share more top tips as we develop our resilience skills together alongside the children in our lives.
Jane Bennett, Sparkling Kids founder, can usually be found practising yoga and mindfulness with children and young people at schools, nurseries and other settings throughout Wigan and St Helens in the North West of England. The power of simple movement and breathing to bring calm, focus and peace to the children she works with, never ceases to amaze her. When not on her yoga mat or meditation cushion, she may also be found in the woods, the hills or in a river! To find out more about Sparkling Kids, click here.