Boys and Mindfulness

Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the moment, without judgment Jon Kabat-Zinn“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”                   -Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is all the rage these days. It seems like teachers, parents, news personalities, and especially counselors are talking about how mindfulness helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. (I wrote about other ways to help you son Here)

I am one of those counselors that talk about mindfulness.  Not only that, I regularly teach it to those that I am counseling. It appears to me that many people think about mindfulness in a rather narrow context. When I ask people about it they tend to describe sitting calming, taking deep breaths, having their eyes closed, and thinking about something intently.

I don’t think this works very well for boys, however. Telling a boy that the best way to reduce stress is to sit as still as possible, take deep breaths, and think really hard seems more like cruel and unusual punishment than helpful. It is for this reason that when I am teaching boys about mindfulness I refer to it as being “in the zone”.  When we practice it in session I use active and engaging activities. Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness that will speak to the heart of your son:

Target shooting or Hunting

I do not know of any activity that requires more mindfulness than target shooting or hunting. This activity requires incredible focus, regulation of breathing, management of emotion, and the ability to block out distractions. Your son will learn to breath smoothly and slowly squeeze the trigger in order to minimize barrel movement. He will realize that noticing and managing his heartbeat enables him to regulate his level of excitement and therefore his accuracy. The novelty of the experience will create a sense of being present in the moment enhancing his ability to block out distractions.

A Wilderness Scavenger Hunt

Take your son to a state park or hiking trail.  Provide him with a list of natural objects (leaf, smooth rock, black rock, deer antlers etc.).  Then hike through the woods on a mission to find each of the objects. This activity will have him fully engrossed in the moment.   He will actively notice the tiny details of all that is happening around him. Be sure to include noises and smells on the list. These objects will encourage him to use all of his senses in the scavenger hunt and will enhance those abilities in other contexts.

These are only a few examples of ways that you could actively engage your son in the development of mindfulness. No matter which activity you choose, the purpose is to be fully engaged (no electronics), use all five senses, and participate without judgment. Don’t worry about if you are doing it right or good, hitting the target, or finding all of the objects. Enjoy the moment with your son, connect in relationship, and move away from distraction, anxiety and depression. (Here is another post about connecting with your son)

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