A simple guide for mothers who don’t have the time (or solitude) for meditation and want to reap the gut healing benefits of stress reduction.
What comes to mind when you think of meditation?
A straggly-beaded yogi…
- Perched upon an embroidered cushion
- Legs in a tangled lotus
- Mudra fingers poised
- Chanting a deep om…?
Not so much a tired mother…chasing tiny humans…hair thrown up (messy-bun-is-a-style right!?)…not yet showered…wearing yesterday’s favourite yoga pants.
Nope me either.
If you’re anything like me this is your everyday (at least for the time being).
- You love your crazy messy life and know all about the stress-busting benefits of meditation.
- And totally get that anxiety messes with your gut AND poo schedule. Remember your belly misbehaving at exam time?
- You especially understand the wonders of connecting deeply with yourself. Maybe you even secretly long for it too.
But let’s be real for a minute.
It. Just. Isn’t. Going. To. Happen.
For at least 5 years.
Or there abouts.
Besides, for all your good intentions, you just can’t bring yourself to use your precious alone time to close your eyes and do nothing.
- Because, well, you might will fall asleep.
- And let’s not mention the piles of washing, dishes and all the things to do.
- The thought of getting up early to zen in the stillness before dawn…yeah hells no.
So what’s a mama to do?
Meditation vs. Meditating
I say, let’s capitalise on the difference between meditating and meditation.
Meditating being the actual practice of meditation.
But meditation, for me, describes the state you attain, which in most cases is calm.
And there really are other things you can do to find something a little like calm.
Even with the kids about.
Now I know it’s never going to be the same.
Proper mediation is best.
- But it’s done in quiet and serene conditions with a special cushion.
- We just don’t have access to that kind of wonderful.
- We devoted mamas still need to allow ourselves to relax.
But let’s leave the mediation guilt for when the kiddlets are a little older and the night feeds are over.
Survival is the name of the game and calm is the play.
- Our bodies need calm. Even in short bursts.
- Our gut needs calm – REST and DIGEST…hmmm.
- The epic mama spirit craves calm.
When we’re calm the kids are calm-er.
And OH MY GOODNESS does it make a difference.
So here are my top 18 kid-friendly mother-calming practices.
All of which have a supportive effect on gut health via stress reduction.
And all tried and tested by me and my small humans.
How It Works
Any time you can manage a moment of peace you effectively stem the flow of crazy-making hormones, neurotransmitter and metabolites – then welcome the calming.
- Your gut-brain axis will thank you!
- Your kids will thank you.
- You will thank you.
And if you can manage these alone, all the better.
Oh and choose something that makes you happy because, well what’s the point otherwise.
And SO wear your yoga pants – intention is everything!
Here we go!
1. Dust off your notebooks
Have you heard of bullet journalling?
If you’re a lover of all things stationery this one’s for you!
Dig out your Rhodia notepads, pretty pens and start bulleting.
- Your shopping list.
- A paragraph about how cranky you feel right now.
- A rambling stream of consciousness.
Or your to-do list.
Anything at all. Just get that information out of your brain – it’s all about gut-brain axis zen.
You can get as perfection-ista or minimalistic as you feel.
A great place to start if you’re interested is this article WTF Is A Bullet Journal And Why You Should Start One? An Explainer.
It’s a little bit funny.
Set the kids up with some paper and washable markers and get yourself journalling!
2. Crane your neck skyward
When did you last lie flat on the ground?
The actual outside ground, you know, the earth.
Without getting too woo-woo, grounding or earthing is a wonderful way to relax and soak in some beautiful earthy calming vibes.
And a good dose of microbiome enhancing soil bugs too.
It’s absolutely uncomplicated, i.e. lie on the grass.
Close your eyes or sky-watch.
Kids also love cloud-spotting.
Or if it’s a clear starry evening try a star-gazing picnic.
Turn the screens off after dinner and head outside. See how many constellations and planets you can spot.
For those wanting to show off a little bit, Google a local guide to your night sky.
For Australians, the ABC’s Beginners Guide to the Night Sky is an insightful resource.
3. Get out and explore nature
Now I know this is nothing new but stay with me it’s probably the most important one.
We all know the benefits of ‘getting back to nature’, your energy field and microbiome balances with the space you inhabit.
And constant concrete, Wi-Fi and 4 walls don’t vibe well with our biome.
So a natural change is truly an energetic and microbial holiday.
And while any natural surrounding is better than none, the key here is going somewhere untouched and you’ve never been.
Exploring unlocks hidden joy and wonder.
Untouched means ancient microbes, spores and more!
And if you approach it with an open mind, it can be a wonder-full exercise in calm.
So load everyone into the car and find a local bush reserve you’ve not visited, a local creek or even a national park.
Just be among the trees and soil, listen to the crickets and bird calls, breathe all those ancient ecosystem organisms in.
4. Get your creative (and stomach) juices flowing
You know how art therapy is a thing.
You can make it your thing too.
Creating is a great way to release tension, cultivate calm and rest-and-digest.
The options are endless and totally individual.
If there is something you ‘used to do’ like sketching, sewing, pottery or beading, do THAT thing.
Creativity is an expression of your soul.
And soul work is the right kind.
Here are some random kid-friendly versions, but really kids just love creating so do whatever works in with your day.
- You could channel your inner Mr Maker, raid the recycling box and get crafty.
- Experiment with a new recipe in the kitchen.
- Or even grab one of those mindful colouring books, (you know the grown up ones!).
Whatever brings you joy and digestive enzymes.
And for good measure be proud of your creation!
Put that masterpiece on the fridge!!!
5.Dabble in calligraphy
Another hypothalamic-pituitary-axis (HPA) relaxation promoter.
Recently I stumbled upon an old hobby, calligraphy.
One of those lettering time-lapse videos appeared in my Instagram feed, from this lovely lady.
She was running a modern calligraphy drills challenge.
The drills are repetitions of the individual strokes which make up the full letters.
Check out her gorgeous Instagram profile, she has lots of videos.
Here’s the calming part, lettering forces you to slow down.
R i g h t d o w n.
And doing the drills over and over gets you all zen-like.
And happy when you master it. Thank you dopamine.
It’s little wonder Japanese culture developed both calligraphy and the art of zen!
Learn the basics and get drilling!
A wonderful way to include children is to have them trace the alphabet while you drill away.
6. Move your beautiful body
Here’s another obvious one.
Recent research suggests what we’ve known all along, exercise reduces the brain’s response to stress. And of course promotes gut health.
It essentially makes you calmer by reducing anxiety’s effect on normal brain function AND encourages growth of the microbes you’d prefer to have! All at once.
The lesson here is get yourself moving. Whatever your flavour.
- Yoga in the living room.
- Jogging on the spot.
Get the kids involved.
A favourite is to set up fun exercise stations in the backyard.
Hula hoops, skipping ropes, buckets and balls.
Use whatever you’ve got.
A good rule of thumb and mantra of my personal trainer days; you work harder when it’s fun.
Simple and enjoyable works best.
7. Remember how to play
Play is an often neglected part of adulthood but an important tool in finding your joy, connecting with others and improving your health.
It’s also vital for problem solving, relationships and creativity. And there’s science to back it up.
Dr Stuart Brown, psychiatrist and author of the book Play suggests play is like oxygen, “it’s all around us but goes unnoticed until it’s missing.”
He reminds us that play can be anything; art, books, movies, music, comedy and daydreaming.
Whatever we en-joy.
Your version of play could be photography.
It could be flying kites.
Heck it could even be drawing chalk on the pavement!
Reminisce about activities you enjoyed growing up and start there.
Or better yet ask your kids, and play together.
A tickle on the grass will do you and your microbial companions wonders.
8. Be near a body of water
Do you head to the beach to holiday?
Most of us do.
And it turns out there’s a very good reason.
If you think the promise of ‘play’ lures us to our seaside vacations, you’re halfway there.
Splashing, building castles and surfing waves are wonderful examples of ‘acceptable’ adult play activities.
Beyond the diverse microbial ecology, marine biologist and author Wallace Nichols has discovered the presence of the ocean itself actually calms us.
In his book Blue Mind, Nichols explains, “we are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.”
I don’t need further convincing!
9. Actually laugh out loud
With the skyrocketing use of text-speak, never before have we claimed to LOL or LMAO as frequently as we do now.
And I suspect very few of us actually Laugh Out Loud nor our butts off when we use them.
But imagine if we did.
Things would suddenly feel brighter!
There are numerous laughter-per-day statistics about and I was planning to throw some at you but honestly they seem ridiculous.
If I laughed 17 times per day and my child 300-400 times, I’d have little need for my toddler-free Saturday nor this list.
And for that matter she wouldn’t have time to eat, laughing every 1-2 minutes as pointed out by the Laughter Online University…yerp it’s a thing.
But there’s plenty of evidence to suggest people who laugh are happier.
Makes logical sense, not sure why we need studies. Ahem.
My point is to set an intention to laugh a little more.
Don’t be a stifling Susan, let the funnies take hold.
Soak up those endorphins.
Giggle a little!
10. Get your dance groove on
There is well-established research linking music with relaxation and stress reduction. You can read about it here if you like.
And although classical and meditation music are the usual calming go to tracks, I prefer music I can dance to.
My uplifting playlist gets a lot of plays in our house.
We turn it on when someone’s got the cranks and we all jump and jive about.
It instantly lifts the mood and dissolves any tension.
We finish up calmer and happier.
So put together a playlist you love and dance like your sanity depends on it.
Because it does!
11. Check-in with yourself
This one is a bit of a meditation technique.
A shortcut if you will.
All it requires is a moment of inward attention.
Becoming aware of how your body feels, how you feel emotionally and simply acknowledging.
So take a quiet moment and focus on the column of vertical energy running vertically through your body.
Then shift your awareness to any body tension or turbulent feelings and say hello.
It only takes a minute and you can easily dissolve tension purely by noting it’s presence.
Know that you are doing it just right.
And love yourself for that.
What if the energy of love is far more potent than the strongest probiotic?
What if stress breeds Strep and love stops it?
One day I believe science will find these to be true.
Until then start with yourself.
12. Go to your happy place
Whether it be your favourite bookstore, a local organic market or your very own garden.
Take yourself to a location that brings out your happy vibe.
We all have one.
If it means you need to schedule a mini road trip or even a family holiday. DO it.
This is your actual life.
It’s the only one you can be in. Or control.
And then the next one.
All those moments join together to make your life.
It’s not some distant destination.
Here I am getting all philosophical…
Why not…life’s short.
The days seem so long sometimes but the weeks fly by. As do the years.
So take time to visit your happy places as regularly as you can.
And chances are the kids will love them too.
Because you are happy.
Reverse engineer that microbiome!
13. Find your breath
Another mini mediation technique is simply to breathe.
When the kids are all crying at the same time, there’s cereal all over the floor and you burnt the porridge – just breathe.
Here’s a good sequence to remember, the numbers are slow counts or seconds.
Inhale for 5, hold it for 3, exhale for 8 and hold for 1.
Repeat until you feel centred and calm.
If you can get the kids involved.
You can never start meditation techniques too early!
Here it is again:
- Inhale (5)
- Hold (3)
- Exhale (8)
- Hold (1)
There are plenty of simple breath variations, here are 6 Breathing Exercises To Relax in 10 Minutes Or Less.
14. Enjoy a (hot) cup of tea
Tea is an ancient remedy for calm.
Legend has it in 2737 BC Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was sitting under a tree, and as his servant poured boiling water Camellia sinensis leaves fell in and tea was born.
It was only 350 years ago the English adopted the practice and brought tea to the western world.
We now have seemingly infinite blends to cure everything from a headache to fertility.
And although there are specific teas touted specifically for their calming properties, like Chamomile, tea is just potpourri without the hot water.
Our friend water rises to the calming challenge again.
Just as you wouldn’t take a cold bath to relax nor should you apparently take cold tea. Unless it’s 40℃ outside.
Find some ice, make a proper chilled version and soak up those healing alkaloids and antioxidants.
15. Stretch your cares away
Do you have a fond memory of a particularly perfect morning stretch?
I certainly do and they are few and far between.
But when you get it just right, boy-oh-boy does it feel amazing!
For this very reason I often watch my cats in envy.
Cats know how to stretch!
As do babies, there’s an old wives tale crediting rapid growth with a baby’s impulse to stretch.
I think they’re just in tune with their tiny bodies and know how to feel good.
This intuitive action increases blood flow and reduces tension working to increase overall wellbeing.
Stretching is a clever calming trick to have up your sleeve.
I personally love myself a bit of yoga.
Especially in the morning.
Need more inspo?
Here is a great article, 5 Easy Stretches Everyone Should Do In The Morning. But do them anytime.
Heck do them now!
16. Hug like you mean it
When was the last time you gave someone a real hug?
Not a pat on the back imposter hug, but a proper deep hug?
Research suggests real hugging is an effective form of therapy.
Effectively healing illness, curing disease, reducing depression and loneliness and of course stress.
And a great way to share your bugs!
What’s the daily recommended number of hugs?
How we came upon the magical lucky number 8 is hard to say.
BUT hey it can’t hurt to add a few more.
And in case you’re wondering, the pat on the back thing is actually a body language tell, that you want out.
Get hugging mamas!
I know we do it all day in my house but not always properly. Mental noted!
17. Sleep like a daddy
May you rest in peace.
Now I’m going to try really hard not to make this an obit to the zzz’s.
But for me, it’s honestly the hardest part of this mothering thing.
I used to be a 10 hour a night girl.
For so long I existed on maybe 6 hours broken. Which has left my sleep rhythm in tatters. Sigh…
A study published in the journal Sleep Health, found the optimal duration of adult sleep to be 7-9 hours.
They state guidelines for all age groups, you can read the article here.
Sadly there’s really no solution to this one (unless you’re lucky enough to have a night nanny – or an awesome baby daddy) other than to try and take a nap where you can.
Which I feel is hollow advice because I just can’t.
It’s often not possible with more than one child.
So solider on mama-bear safe in the knowledge that you’re up with millions of others and one day they will all sleep.
And so will you.