Being a parent can be stressful. There are constant demands on your time, finances, energy and attention. From sleepless nights with your crying baby to arguments with a stroppy teen, it just keeps on coming. Stress is bad for you as a parent and it’s bad for your child. Meditation is a form of mindfulness practice which teaches us to become more in control of and in tune with our body and mind. The great thing is that it is free, safe and portable and almost anyone can learn it.
According to the American Psychological Association “Stress is Hurting American Families” with 32% of parents reporting that their stress levels were “extreme” (1). A Clinton Foundation Survey found that 67% of American moms were “somewhat stressed and 14% were “very stressed” (2). Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, as part of religious and contemplative practice. In the last fifteen years, medical research has proven the claims that meditation has numerous benefits for health and wellbeing. An article in JAMA concluded that “the evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation programs could help reduce anxiety, depression, and pain in some clinical populations” (3).
Meditation is good for your brain
Prominent psychiatrist Daniel Siegel recommends daily meditation, “even if it’s just for 5 minutes a day”, to reduce stress and anxiety and improve all aspects of our life: academic, social and emotional intelligence, relationships, performance and health (4). Neuropsychiatrist Daniel Amen’s SPECT scan research shows that meditation can change the function of the brain and improve: focus, attention, impulse control, memory, emotional regulation, sleep, cognitive decline, skin condition and weight loss (5). Phew, and the list goes on!
Getting started with meditation
So if meditation is this amazing, why is everyone not doing it daily? Common reasons are lack of time, conflicting demands, feeling self-conscious and not knowing how. There are many kinds of meditation including mindful breathing, loving-kindness, guided (good if you have a busy mind) and focused attention meditation. Some types are spiritual or religious, others are more neuroscience-based. You can learn at home in your PJs or in a group with your friends. Play around with free resources until you find one that works for you and if you like it, consider a course or retreat (see resources). As little as five minutes per day can be of help but regular practice increases the benefits. Everyone begins their meditation journey as a novice. There is no right or wrong way to meditate, just your way.
Please note: If you have significant or prolonged symptoms of stress or mood changes, it is essential that inform your doctor.