I believe mindful eating (and grounding) is one of the better ways, or easier ways to teach children mindfulness. In reality, a mindful breathing exercise may quickly become boring for a child (and therefore shouldn’t be longer than a couple of minutes). However, mindful activities that involve more of a ‘doing’ experience help children to stay engaged and motivated to practice longer. This is particularly true when the experience involves some kind of investigation. Additionally, mindful eating exercises are enjoyable and therefore can also easily be used as a bonding experience between children and their primary caregivers.
While mindful breathing exercises may maintain mental health, and a mind-body connection, mindful eating exercises may additionally maintaining physical health, through a much stronger mind-body connection. For example, depending on how the exercise is delivered, a mindful eating script can also include ideas about healthy eating, which includes making healthy chooses and may also include information on what vitamins are being consumed. Additionally, since the majority of children enjoy eating chocolates, rather than telling them to resist completely, mindful eating exercises are the perfect way to teach them to just control their intake of sweet foods by slowing down their consumption. Research has found that when children learn to use mindfulness to eat slowly, they learn to enjoy the food more and also reduce overeating because they are consciously connected with how their body is feeling and therefore better able to acknowledge when they are satisfied.
This ‘mind and body’ connection also promotes long term mental health through the ‘grounding experience’ that connecting with the body brings.
What is grounding?
The term grounding, or feeling grounded comes from a spiritual foundation. After seekers experience periods of spiritual growth within the higher planes of the human psyche, in order to maintain their mental health on their spiritual journey, they need to reconnect with the earth and their place in it. Grounding is basically an exercise for reminding yourself that you are having a human experience. That is, you are ‘down to earth‘ existing in a flesh form that relies on the elements that nature provides (air, water, earth, and fire). Since these elements produce our food and sustain our life this also reminds us that we are bound to mother nature and as such we are her stewards.
In today’s time pressure societies, where the rise in mental health problems is of growing concern, practicing grounding is a way to simply slow down, reconnect with who you are and find your balance. The practice provides an excellent opportunity for children to develop mental health skills for successfully navigating through their lives by being prepared for the emotional roller coaster ride that they may experience in adolescence and beyond.
There are a variety of ways to practice grounding. Teaching children to practice grounding through mindful eating is a great way to get started. The difference between a regular mindful eating exercise and a mindful grounding exercise is just the difference between the explanations delivered to the children when you are training them. That is, you are simply giving the children a deeper understanding of how they can use mindful eating to it’s full potential.
Equipment: Morning tea – fruit salad cut into small pieces.
Step 1 (explain). In today’s mindful eating exercise we are also going to practice grounding. Grounding exercises remind us that we are human beings and we belong to the earth and as we grow up we are becoming the guardians, or the stewards of mother nature.
Step 2. As you pick up a piece of fruit I want you to take the time to notice how it looks. Notice it’s colour and it’s shape. Think about whether you can you see grooves, dents and lines on it. Notice if parts of the fruit are shiny, or special to you in some way. I also want you to take a moment to remember that it was nature that provided you with this fruit.
Step 3. Now notice how it feels. Notice whether it’s soft, or hard, or wet or dry.
Step 4. Now take the time to smell your peace of fruit. (optional: Hands up -Can you describe its smell?)
Step 5. Now place your piece of fruit in your mouth (but don’t chew it). Using your tongue, rolls the fruit around the roof of your mouth, being careful not to squash it. Notice how it feels in your mouth. Notice whether you can taste it without chewing it.
Step 6. Now close your eyes and very slowly using your tongue, put more pressure your piece of fruit so that it releases more flavour. Think about that flavour and how it makes you feel. Now, I want you to gently chew your piece of fruit for as long as you can without swallowing it, while you stay focused on the taste of the fruit and how it feels in your mouth. (pause) When you have completely swallowed your piece of fruit, I want you to focus on taking 2 breaths before you reach for another piece (demonstrate). Then when you take another piece of fruit I want you to go through those steps again: Notice how it looks, how is feels, how it smells, how it tastes in your mouth before you slowly chew it up.
(repeat the various steps as you feel necessary to encourage them to continue practicing their mindful eating)
Step 7. As you slowly eat each piece of fruit I want you to notice how your tummy is feeling and I want you to stop eating as soon as you feel that your tummy has enough food in it.
Step 8. After the children have eaten a couple of pieces of fruit – continue to talk to them about the experience a feeling ‘grounded’. Open the talk by telling them that all our fruit has been provided to us by nature. This includes the trees and also the bees. It also includes the sun and the dirt and the rain. We need all these things to produce our food. And we need to eat our food to stay alive. When we eat the food that nature provides us, we remember that we are one with nature, we are a part of nature and nature is a part of us. And since we need nature to provide our food, it’s very important that as we grow up we learn how to look after nature.
(some typical additional questions you may wish to ask) Can you feel the food in your tummy? Is your tummy feeling full?
Step 9. Finish the lesson by reminding the children to take a nice deep breath and feel thankful or grateful that nature provides us with such delicious food to keep our bodies healthy.
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May loving kindness grow in your heart and bring you inner peace.