This is quite an astonishing book. And no, I’m not star-struck … I’ve always liked Hollywood icon Goldie Hawn, yes, but I’m not a die-hard fan or anything.
Except … I am now.
This gorgeous book, penned in cahoots with author Wendy Holden, is an absorbing read. After almost three solid years of writing and ‘achieving’ with my career, I was instantly drawn to the title of this book – especially being that 10 Mindful Minutes was something I seriously craved. Something I knew I was lacking. Not only for myself, but my children.
Reading through this book was like looking in a mirror. It was like seeing my children in a mirror. It was like the last 10 years of internet invasion, social-networking lambasting and email overrun had suddenly cleared, in a bleeping, techno haze – and left me with a clear view of the most serene garden. And there I was sitting in the middle that garden, hair frizzed, eyes wild – and stressed to buggery.
Based on the MindUp programme, supported by the Hawn Foundation, Goldie was inspired to write 10 Mindful Minutes after witnessing the astonishing, positive changes in children who are exposed to mindfulness techniques. She believes that in less than 10 minutes a day, children and teens can reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration and academic performance, effectively manage emotions and behaviour, develop empathy for others – and be more optimistic and happy.
Fine stuff, indeed. And all are elements any modern parent would scrabble to hone in their children. I know I want to. Beginning with a chapter on Why We Need to Act Now, Goldie talks about our modern generation and how it’s losing its joy. She talks about the emotional challenges kids face today, about substance abuse, about depression, about e-diction (no wonder we are all ‘tired but wired’ – we spend so much of our days living a virtual life).
Chapter two discusses the wonders of the brain – most particularly its three major parts – the reptilian or ‘stone age’ brain, which manages automatic responses like breathing and digestion. The limbic or ’emotional’ brain which is fuelled by the amygdala and acts like a guard dog at the gates of the brain … this is where we either fight, flight or freeze. The cortical or ‘new’ brain is where we rationalise. It’s our memory, attention, perceptual awareness – and the prefrontal cortex at the very front of our heads is like our wise old owl – basically, it’s our intelligence.
Studies show this current generation of children – digital natives as opposed to us adults who are digital immigrants – are the loneliest and the least socially-aware, ever. According to the book, the more a child spends with technology, the lower their attention span, which has adverse effects across the board, least of all academically.
Most frighteningly, a brain that is addicted to static and noise (via high tech gadgetry) will develop the need for faster and faster and more stimulating input. Goldie asks: ‘Are we raising a generation with an addiction to thrill-seeking brain function? Could this ultimately lead to thrill-seeking behaviour?’ Indeed, according to psychologists, a young brain made restless by high technology will not be easily satisfied by an environment that seems flat and boring. Drugs and alcohol are a quick way to liven things up.
Desensitisation is also a major issue, especially for children immersed in violent or semi-violent virtual worlds … not because children may imitate violent acts, but because they are responding more aggressively to even the most minor issues, and because they are becoming immune or ‘numb’ to violence. Can you imagine an entire generation without the ability to care for others?
10 Mindful Minutes is a detailed yet simply-designed book. There is much to take in, much to enlighten and much to drive the reader to improve the emotional centre of their children.
First, Goldie focuses on making the adult more aware – and helping them tune into their child’s wavelength. Then she guides the reader through sections entitled Mindful Breathing, Mindful Sensing, Mindful Listening, Mindful Seeing, Mindful Smelling, Mindful Tasting and Mindful Movement. Each section comes complete with brilliant activities and exercises that can be shared with kids aged roughly between 7 and 12, though you can easily adapt them for younger or older children.
The exercises are creative, fun, and designed to fit in with your everyday family life. They can be done in the car, after dinner, at bedtime, whenever suits. And they are designed to calm your child, open your child’s mind, and allow them to ‘tame the tiger’ and operate from their reasoning, problem-solving brain. They are also extremely useful models for dealing with stress and behavioural issues.
Other topics in the book include Optimism, Happiness, Gratitude, Fear, Sadness, Anger and Empathy. Firmly centered in scientific reasoning yet warmly spiritual in tone, the book is eye-opening, enlightening, and bursting with true promise. I am already incorporating these techniques with my own children, whilst also learning how to improve the seriously-technology-battered grey matter in my own skull.
Honestly, if you and your kids are showing signs of high tech, fast-paced overload, this book – espousing an ancient return to mindfulness, backed to the gills with fascinating scientific information that will figuratively blow your mind – is probably a must-read. I need it so much, I’ll be reading it twice.