This weeks book is 10 Mindful Minutes by Goldie Hawn, with Wendy Holden. As I started reading this book I found a wealth of great information for parents and children that I wanted to share. So in order to avoid a novella sized blog post, I’m breaking this book review into 3 parts. I’ll post one a week (I won’t make you wait until next months Second Sunday Review!)
The begining of this book begins with a lovely introduction and reflections about the benefits of being mindful in general and how we can take control of our actions in very simple ways and become more mindful people and parents. Being present as a parent makes for happier children and happier parents. MIndfullness also contributes to better general mental health.
The ability to skillfully regulate one’s internal emotional expereince in the present moment may translate into good mental health in the long run
One of the most powerful points Hawn makes right of the bat is that we need to stop thinking of stress as something that just happens to us. If we take control of ourselves and be calm, we reduce the stress in a situation. Mindfulness is key to this:
The conscious awareness of ou current thoughts, feelings, and surroundings – and accepting this awareness with openess andcuriousity in a non-judgemental way. It means focusing our attention on non-doing, a crucial skill in these distracted times…by discovering the onders of such techniques as mindful breathing, which helps create a balanced neuroligical system, we cn provide the perfect climate for healthy brain function
The non- judgmental acceptance of emotions mentioned above is key for parents. We need to remember that even as we try to rewire ourselves to be more mindful, we will make mistakes. and thats ok. learning to be mindful is in many ways like parenting itself-every day is a new learning experience with ts own challenges and rewards. But by trying to center ourselves when we are confronted with a difficult situation, if only for a few seconds before we act, we can break the cycle of negative reactive behavior.
The benefits of mindful breathing are impressive. Mindful breathing:
*Calms the stress response
*Promotes Brain integration
*Fosters better sleep
Another area of discussion early on in the book is a basic discussion about how the brain works. Using simple terms and analogies for extremely complex concepts allows readers to gain a better understanding of how mindfulness increases our brain’s capabilities to perform at it’s highest level. like the fact that stress acts as a roadblock to learning and information absorption.
I personally learned something very interesting about my own learning process in this section of the book. Let’s just say I’m not good at math. Now, I can do all kinds of business math, like balance check books, percentages, stuff you do in daily life. BUT, when you show me an algebra problem my blood pressure starts to rise and I all of a sudden just go, well, kind of dumb. I always chalked this up to a myriad of things-boredom, bad teachers, my opinion on the uselessness of turning A into a number…until I read this:
When the brain senses danger from a perceived stress, it releases stress hormones and the flow of information to the pre-frontal cortex, where rational thinking and emotional regulation take place is impaired…If children go to school stressed, they won;t be able to engage, absorb, or retain information. In fact, research has shown that chronic stress can shrink th hippocampus, the part of the brain that holds memory.
One of the most inspiring points in this book is about teaching old dogs new tricks- turns out, it i possible. And that’s great news. The shaping of the brain, or neurogenesis occurs well into our 70’s. Another interesting fact? Learning enhances neurogenesis and stress inhibits it.
We can change the structure of our adult brains and even our behavior at whatever age we are just by intentionally focusing our attention. just as an injured brain adapts by mapping out new neural pathways, so brain circuits for the regulation of emotion and attention are “malleable by the environment and are potential targets of training” (Davidson, Richard). it is so empowering to know that we can create whole new pathways to better choices and happier feelings at almost any age. We don’t have to be victims of unhealthy mental habits from the past, especially not when we are teaching ourselves and our children new tricks
This information and the way that it is discusses is one of the reasons I really love this book. It’s like Cliff’s notes for the usually epic novel referred to as”How to not repeat the unhealthy mental health and negative, reactive behavior cycle.”
A few of the other fine nuggets of discussion in the beginning of this book address technology -mainly working to turn it off more, go outside, and explore- as well as its addictive properties, and how to help your children deal with, respect, and process their emotions.
Until next week’ review I leave you with this…
A peaceful, happy child is the first step to a peaceful, happy world