You know from time to time I post on books that I love or that are rocking my world. Well I discovered one recently that is in the later category. It’s called 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children– and Ourselves– the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety of Healthier, Happier Lives. I got it from the library on CD first, which was perfect because it allowed me to listen to a great deal of it on a recent road trip down to Portland, Oregon to teach Empath Tools and talk about my book, Getting Answers.
It’s been rocking my world for a couple of reasons. One, I learned some key things about the brain and they were taught in a way that I could easily teach to my children. Which was a revelation in itself. Using analogies and animals to represent different parts of the brain, the teaching outlined how the amygdala, or “the guard dog” of the brain, the part of the brain that governs your flight, fight, or freeze impulse is sometimes active for reasons which it perceives as alarming, but really are not.
You know, like when you get unbelievably irritated that it is taking your kids so long to get ready for bed– and it makes you start growling (in your own way) and creating fights with your kids. That happens to me. It’s one of my classic parental moments where as I usually call it, I “peg the meter.” (Think those big scales at a fair where you use a huge hammer to try to reach the bell at the top. Reaching it abruptly, that’s pegging the meter.) Or, in the language of 10 Mindful Minutes, it’s the moment “my guard dog is activated.”
This book teaches you not only what is actually going on in your brain, but also what to do. Just becoming aware of it in this way has allowed such lovely conversations between myself and my kids. More importantly it’s enabled me to shift my actions. Now I can think it to myself (and say it out loud to my children), “I think my guard dog is out!” when I find myself about to get frustrated or angry over something that truly is not worthy of a fight. The awareness of what is happening actually transfers thinking from the “Guard Dog” part of your brain to what is referred to as the “Wise Old Owl” part of your brain, or prefrontal cortex. Then, I take a breath. This recognition and pause has allowed me on countless occasions to change course and to quiet that little puppy down. 🙂
I say the same thing to my kids when I notice they are loosing it over something that does not warrant a fight. “I think your guard dog is out,” I’ll say in a light hearted manner. Watching them, I actually perceive the gears switching in their little brains– it shows in their eyes. Understanding dawns about what is happening and calm returns. The issue is addressed without so much arm waving and crazy voice drama!
I love the universalness of it– and I think my kids do too. Everyone has these moments, young and old. The practice becomes about all of us being more mindful and making these shifts– not just something we are trying to get our kids to do. On more than one occasion my children have said to either me or my husband– you guessed it– “I think your guard dog is out.” Are you getting the picture!? This is really working for us! I love it.
The next startling fact I learned from this book is:
Three minutes of mindful breathing (which basically amounts to focusing on your breath) three times a day is a more potent brain changer than sitting for 20 minutes.
Isn’t that heartening!? I mean who can’t find three minutes!? It’s so much less daunting than 20, especially when you are first beginning.
And doing these mindful practices changes your brain. Thousands of studies have shown that mindful breathing and awareness “calms the stress response, strengthens attention, promotes brain integration (less over-reactive Guard Dog!), fosters better sleep, and strengthens self-awareness.”
As 10 Mindful Minutes says, “Every time we stop and quiet our minds, we’re building healthier habits of thinking and feeling. The more we practice, the more these behaviors become automatic in ourselves and our kids. Eventually, we and our children will become more reflective than reactive, with stronger brain circuitry for self-awareness, emotional control, and attention.”
We’ve started doing some of the mindfulness practices suggested by the book together as a family at the dinner table when we have finished our meals. We keep it light and fun– and it is.
The third thing I love about this book is that the beginning is filled with brain science. It’s seems to be a broad view and spectrum of what the forerunners of mindfulness, brain scientists, and positive psychologists are discovering or have discovered in terms of the brain and stress. So you get to learn first just why this is all so important, and then you get to learn the how: the mindful practices that you can do alone or with your family to help shape your brain into something that has access to your “Wise Old Owl.” Which incidentally, is the place that gives you access to your own intuitive knowing. 🙂
What surprised me about the book was that it was by the actress Goldie Hawn. But then again I obviously haven’t followed her much (or ever) because from the sounds of it, she’s been doing this kind of mindfulness work for quite some time. Her Hawn Foundation has even founded an organization that brings these practices to schools! It’s called the Mind UP program.
I also love it because at its heart this book is about teaching you and your children the practices that help you deal with stress, manage your emotions, and reduce anxiety.
After I listened to a lot of it on CD I knew it was a book I needed to have on my shelf. So I got it. And this leads me to the last thing I love about the book: the layout. It’s spacious. It may sound kind of funny, unless you notice these things, which apparently I do. But even the font and type space seems to have a little extra space in it. I love that. It felt restful to my eyes– and gave me even the visual impression that we have all the time in the world to input this information. That there is time for breaths, even between sentences. It’s filled with personal reflections from Goldie (which now after listening to the CD I can hear in her lovely voice in my head), quotes from kids and parents of the Mind UP program, and quotes from the scientists and experts in the brain and mindfulness field.
Simply put, I highly recommend it– for moms, dads, and anyone who wants an easy and straightforward approach to putting their brain on a happy track or adding mindfulness practices to their lives. It’s especially helpful for anyone who is wanting to explain these techniques to kids and give them a jump-start at learning to manage their emotions, their stress levels, and their responses in a way that gives them access to their whole brain– not just the part we used to use to fight saber tooth tigers. 🙂
Let me know if you get it and love it! I’d love to hear your take.