Introducing Smiling Mind, the mindfulness must-have bringing calm to your family’s fingertips.
Parenting is the sweetest, most soul-stirring, rewarding experience. At the same time, it’s a confusing, anxiety riddled, sleep-deprived, breakdown-inside-of-the-kitchen-pantry one-of-a kind adventure. And if you cast your mind back – being a kid was sometimes no picnic or walk in the park either. But what if we had a way to turn complex into simple? A way to calm the chaos in our minds, and ease the burdens of our young brood? What if we were better connected to ourselves and our family thrived because of it?
With a vision to help every mind thrive, Smiling Mind is now considered one of the world’s leaders in the pre-emptive mental health space, bringing daily mindfulness to your family’s fingertips. Mindful Parenting spoke with clinical psychologist and CEO of Smiling Mind, Dr Addie Wootten, who divulges on this unique not-for-profit platform, and provides mindful tips and tricks for time-poor parents.
What is Smiling Mind?
After forging a friendship spanning over 15 years, in 2012 co-founders Jane Martino and James Tutton decided to combine Jane’s app idea with James’ interest in bringing mindfulness courses to the classroom to create Smiling Mind – and the rest is history! With the combined efforts of the meditation app, school and workplace programs, the Smiling Mind organisation is dedicated to combatting the mental health concerns facing many Australians.
We’re heavily focused on equipping young people with strategies they can use to take a proactive approach to support good mental health. This needs to start as early in life as possible. In Australia, one in seven Australian primary and a quarter of all secondary students suffer from a mental illness every year, that’s why we think it’s imperative to teach them skills as early as possible to combat these issues.
Smiling Mind has ongoing support from leading experts, psychologists and teachers, and we’re extremely proud of our growth to date. Our meditation app has reached more than five million downloads and our award-winning school program is used by a third of Australian educators!
So, mindfulness. What is it? Is it just a buzzword, a popular yet fleeting fad? Does practising mindfulness actually improve our wellbeing?
Defined by mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn as: “paying attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity and without judgement”, mindfulness sounds pretty simple, right?
Well it’s not as easy as it seems. Our minds are complex thinking machines and most of us spend about 50 percent of our waking hours ruminating on other things rather than focusing on what we’re doing right now. The phrase ‘carried away in thought’ is quite accurate, as many of us find much of our day is taken up by thinking, rather than enjoying what we have right now, in this moment.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help us stay in the here and now – and learn how to savour and enjoy what we have, rather than worrying about the future or reminiscing about the past.
Mindfulness is a way of living – we can apply mindful awareness to everything we do. Many people might think mindfulness is only cultivated through meditation, which is an important exercise to train our attention, but it can also be as simple as directing your full attention to the activity you’re undertaking at a particular moment – it might be washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, bathing your little ones, or chatting with a loved one.
It is a practice that has been around for centuries and something that isn’t going anywhere, as it proves time and again to improve our wellbeing. Research tells us that mindfulness supports attention, memory, regulation of emotions and self-awareness. Improvements in these areas can lead to reduced stress, anxiety and depression, and better academic skills, social skills and self-esteem.
Can parents benefit from adopting mindfulness and self-care practices encouraged by Smiling Mind?
Absolutely! It’s important for parents to have a self-care routine, not only for themselves, but also for their children. Kids observe and mirror a lot of behaviour from their parents, so practising positive mental health strategies will help them develop their own healthy behaviours.
For parents, it’s important to establish time to tune into emotions and breathe, in order to develop a clearer head space and the ability to respond rather than react. This will improve both internal wellbeing and harmony within the family, as well as provide space to enjoy things together and ensure your relationships are strong.
What are some tips for time-poor parents to be able to incorporate self-care in their frenetic schedules?
Self-care shouldn’t feel like a task you need to check off your never-ending to-do list. Instead, it should form part of your daily routine that you look forward to.
The great thing is that you can practise mindfulness anytime and anywhere with the Smiling Mind app. Our meditations range from two to 15 minutes, so you don’t need to schedule out a whole afternoon for your practice.
I often find the best place for me to meditate is in the car, after I have parked, and before I go into the office or to my next meeting. For parents, this might be before you enter the house after a day at work or 10 minutes before bed to help prepare for a good night’s sleep. You can also find a sneaky five-minute self-care slot if you do meditation with your kids – then everyone benefits!
Why is it so important to start teaching kids mindfulness at such a young age?
Developing a mindfulness practice helps children learn how to understand and manage their emotions and build awareness for the feelings of others. It also helps establish a proactive approach to mental health, which will put them in good stead for the rest of their life.
Incorporating mindfulness into a child’s routine helps them develop important skills early in life and is known to result in significant positive outcomes for young people, such as reduced mental illness, increased academic success and improved long- term success in whatever they choose to do.
Are there particular practices parents and children can come together and do as a family to foster wellbeing?
Practising mindfulness as a family is a fantastic routine to set up. Families deal with many difficult situations, feelings and emotions – as well as many positive experiences – and coming together to practise mindfulness is a great way to learn how to build resilience and manage our emotions together, particularly in our often chaotic world.
The Family Programs section in the Smiling Mind app is a great place to start. It has a number of sessions, from getting ready for bed, to focusing on gratitude and joy. The sessions also vary in length, so families can work sweet and simple self-care into their routine, no matter how time-poor they are. What are you waiting for?
Smiling Mind is free to download from the App Store and Google Play. For more information visit smilingmind.com.au
Interview by Erin McDonald