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Using Meditation and Mindfulness to Parent the Way You Want to Be Parenting
– Excerpted from Rick Hanson’s blog, Just One Thing (www.RickHanson.net)
The benefits from a regular meditation practice include a decrease in the stress-related hormone cortisol, insomnia, autoimmune illnesses, PMS, asthma, emotional distress, anxiety and panic, increased immune response, detachment from reactivity, self-understanding, and general well being.
On a practical level, when I talk to parents about parenting from the messy middle, as I like to call it, they often forget to first acknowledge their toddler’s feelings before setting the limit because in the passions of the moment, it is hard to put into practice what they have learned. Let’s say, for example, if their toddler is hitting them during a time of “big feelings”. It is hard to keep your wits about you especially if you are in a public space or with friends or family. This is when a meditation practice can really come in handy!
Regular meditation has been shown to increase gray matter in the brain consisting of neuronal cell bodies and synapses in the insula — which handles interoception (a sense of your own body), including a sense or self-awareness and empathy for others, in the hippocampus which supports personal memories or recollections, in the amygdala (the alarm bell of the brain) where we see an increased calming response, and in the prefrontal cortex from which executive functions such as decision-making, self-control, and focused attention emanate.
Regular meditation lifts mood and trains you to pay attention — to be able to slow down to what is happening in the moment –which promotes learning and enacting new behaviors. This requires you to be less reactive and preoccupied by intrusive thoughts from the past or worries about the future. This is how you can change your brain for the better. By meditating — either in prayer (transcendental) or by using the breath (secular), you can notice the many thoughts, feelings, and wants that enter your mind, but rather than letting them get a hold on you, instead you let them come and go, come and go, over and over again. If you tend to feel flooded or overwhelmed when you relax into yourself, just begin slowly, for perhaps one minute a day, slowly building inner resources to help you gain inner strength. Just like physical exercise, you get better with practice. From Jon Kabat Zinn