Natural Light and Mental Health

Children’s Yoga at Mindful Child

Light is important to learning and behavior. There are many studies that have investigated the relationship between natural light and it’s affect on psychological well-being and children’s academic performance. Light helps regulate mood and affects cognitive performance. Indirect sunlight is best for learning and reading. An aspect of learning is that we learn when we feel secure, calm, happy and challenged.  Natural light boosts mood, which, in turn, increases learning.

Different rooms require different types of light sources depending on their function, but regardless of the function, when looking at lighting, natural light has measurable health benefits. 

What are the Benefits of Natural Light?

Natural light enhances the mood enhancing brain chemical, serotonin. Studies have shown the more sunlight exposure you receive the higher the level of serotonin in the body. This boost in serotonin helps your child feel calm and happy. Additionally, light affects the body’s internal clock thus it can improve sleep, release hormones, and boost overall well-being.

When you look at creating a mindful space for your child, there are aspects of lighting to consider:

  • Avoid fluorescent lights. A study in 2017 examined fluorescent lighting in 90 classrooms with results showing that 80% of classrooms were lit with 100 Hz fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lighting is linked with headaches and impaired visual performance.  Not only do these lights cause discomfort, but children with sensory needs may experience sensory overload.  If fluorescent lights are unavoidable consider covering them with light covers that filter and soften the light. 
  • Natural light is best. Fielding (2017) reports light is perhaps the single-most important element in the learning environment. Research shows that in classrooms with natural light math scores improve by 20% and verbal scores by 22%.
  • Dimly lit areas help children relax. Mindful Child aerial yoga hammocks filters out light when inside it, creating a relaxing retreat.  If your child is relaxing in a tent, it will also create a dimly lit area to practice mindfulness techniques.
  • Smart bulbs are worth the cost. At Mindful Child, we installed LIFX smart bulbs in our overhead lights. We can easily dim them or change the colors creating a relaxing vibe.  They are a great addition to the natural light we have from all of our amazing windows. At night, the smart bulbs create an ambiance that facilitates relaxation.

At Mindful Child, we have put a lot of thought into our conditions for calm and the optimal environment to help children relax and gain the most benefit from our mindfulness techniques. Light has a biological affect on children and adults, with natural light having brain changing benefits.

References

Boubekri, M., Cheung, I. N., Reid, K. J., Wang, C. H., & Zee, P. C. (2014). Impact of windows and daylight exposure on overall health and sleep quality of office workers: a case-control pilot study. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine10(6), 603–611. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.3780

Roenneberg T, Kantermann T, Juda M, Vetter C, Allebrandt KV. Light and the human circadian clock. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2013;(217):311-31. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-25950-0_13. PMID: 23604485.

“Lighting and Discomfort in the Classroom.” Lighting and Discomfort in the Classroom – ScienceDirect. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Aug. 2017. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494408001011>.

Fielding, Randall. “Learning, Lighting and Color: Lighting Design for Schools and Universities in the 21st Century.” DesignShare (NJ1). DesignShare. 4937 Morgan Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55409-2251. Tel: 612-929-6129; Tel: 612-929-3520; Web Site: Http://www.designshare.com, 30 Nov. 2005. Web. 01 Aug. 2017. <https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED497664>.

Deep Pressure Touch

What is Deep Pressure Touch?

Deep pressure is tactile input that provides proprioceptive input to the body. This can consist of many things including hugging, squeezing, compression, massage, aerial yoga or wrapping up tight in a yoga mat. When administered to the body, deep pressure touch has a calming, organizing effect on your child’s nervous system.

How Does it Work?

Steamroller at Mindful Child

Deep touch pressure decreases the “fight or flight” response and lowers stress hormones in the brain and body. Deep pressure increases neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that regulate mood).  It enhances levels of serotonin and dopamine, which help your child sleep, feel calm and be happy. The increase in serotonin and dopamine also counteracts the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol, which results in better regulation.

What are the Benefits?

Because deep pressure touch influences the parasympathetic activity (vagal tone) and sympathetic activity (reduced stress response) it has many benefits. Deep pressure touch may improve sensory integration, enhance body awareness, and increase focus.  Additionally, it can help with coordination, improve sleep and reduce stress/anxiety. 

What Does the Research Say?

• Reynolds, Lane, Mullen (2015) studied the effect of deep pressure stimulation using the Vayu Vest, results demonstrated that wearing the Vayu Vest for even short periods of time positively affected the autonomic nervous system. Their research concluded deep pressure may be useful for reducing internalizing and externalizing behaviors, increasing attention, and decreasing impulsivity.
• Mullen et al (2008) found that the use of a weighted blanket, lowered anxiety (63%), lowered physiological data (blood pressure, pulse rate, pulse oximetry), and had a positive calming effect (78%).

Deep touch pressure activities you can do at home:

Body Sox Yoga at Mindful Child
  • Rolling/wrapping your child firmly in a yoga mat to make a “fruit roll-up”
  • Make a sandwich, by gently squishing them between two soft pillows
  • Firmly roll a weighted exercise ball on top of your child’s legs, back and arms, we call this steamroller. 
  • Weighted lap pad.
  • Yoga poses in a Body Sox.
  • Climbing under sofa or at Mindful Child, Nugget cushions
  • Deep Pressure seating options like our canoe (feels like a hug). 
  • I’ve saved the best for last…aerial yoga in a Mindful Child aerial yoga hammock!

There are many play-based ways to provide deep pressure touch. Combine the activities with deep breathing to double the calming efforts. Want more? Have your child hang out with us in class or camp to learn techniques to promote happiness and calm.

References

S, Reynolds, S.J., Lane, B., Mullen. (2015). Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation on Physiological Arousal American Journal of Occupational Therapy, April 2015, Vol. 69, 6903350010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.015560

B. Mullen, T, Champagne, S. Krishnamurty, D. Dickson, & R. X. Gao (2008) Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket, Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 24:1, 65-89, DOI: 10.1300/J004v24n01_05

Effects of Deep Breathing on Stress

Balloon Breath at Mindful Child

A growing number of research has revealed that diaphragmatic breathing activates a relaxation response in the brain and body. Deep breathing may improve both physical and mental health. Additionally, science tells us that deep breathing effects cognition, affect, and cortisol responses to stress.

What does the research say?

A study in 2016 examined whether breathing deeply is capable of improving mood and reducing stress. The results obtained from the research support that deep breathing is able to induce an effective improvement in mood and stress both in terms of self-reported evaluations and of objective parameters, such as heart rate and salivary cortisol levels.

Teaching children to breathe deeply is an important coping skill.

Mindful breathing teaches children that they have control over how they feel, which is something most children do not realize. Mindful breathing allows children to have power over their physical and mental energy, which, in turn, teaches them to self-regulate and engage in mindful behavior. Want your child to learn deep breathing techniques? Invest in their future and sign them up for a Mindful Child class or camp!

References

Perciavalle V, Blandini M, Fecarotta P, Buscemi A, Di Corrado D, Bertolo L, Fichera F, Coco M. The role of deep breathing on stress. Neurol Sci. 2017 Mar;38(3):451-458. doi: 10.1007/s10072-016-2790-8. Epub 2016 Dec 19. PMID: 27995346.

Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., Wei, G. X., & Li, Y. F. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in psychology8, 874. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Story for Kids

Snowball Relaxation Story

In our fast-paced world relaxation is an essential skill. Like any skill is it something that must be taught and practiced. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) can be taught on the ground with a yoga mat or in an aerial yoga hammock – the key is to a find a place that your child finds comfortable.

What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

Children and adults do not realize that their muscles are chronically tense. Muscle tension increases during times of stress and can lead to injury. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) teaches body awareness to identify muscle groups and notice the sensations of tension and relaxation.

What are the Benefits?

Progressive Muscle Relaxation has many health benefits including reducing stress and muscle tension. Incorporating it into a story helps to engage children and promotes their imagination. PMR has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, along with improving sleep.

What to Say

  • Imagine you are surrounded by snow.  The snow is gently falling all around you. Make your body into a tight like ball of frozen snow.  You are a snowball.
  • Picture a snowball fight. Your snowball is floating through the air.
  • Tighten all of your muscles.  Glue everything together and squeeze.
  • Don’t let you snowball fall apart.
  • Breathe slowly in and out through your nose. Notice how you feel. This is what happens to your body when you are mad or nervous. Your body tightens up like it is frozen.
  • Your snowball has landed on a soft patch of snow. Feel the soft snow below and around you like a big fluffy bean bag.
  • Now imagine that sun has come out and you are starting to melt.
  • The sun feels warm and it begins to fill you with light.
  • Breathe in as you curl your toes in and scrunch your feet. Hold for one, two, three. Breathe out as you start to wiggle your toes and let your feet begin to soften just like they are melting. Puddles are relaxed and wiggly – not tight and stiff.
  • As you breath in tighten your legs. One, two, three. As you breathe out start to wiggle your legs and let them relax.
  • Take a deep breath in and make your hands into tight fists and your arms straight and tight. Hold for one, two, three, now let all the air out as you relax your fingers and arms into a wet puddle of water.
  • Take a deep breath in as you bring your shoulders up by your ears. Scrunch your shoulders. One, two, three. Breathe out as you let your shoulders begin to soften and relax down your back.
  • Close your eyes and scrunch up your entire face. Imagine a warm sun on your face. Breathe in. One, two three, release your breath and let your face relax.
  • Let your body feel heavy just like water. Imagine a forests of pine trees all around you. If you would like to smell the trees raise your hand, I will put a cotton ball with pine essential oil in it.
  • Continue to relax and breathe.
  • Slowly come up to a seated position. Notice how you feel.

At Mindful Child…

Progressive Muscle Relaxation at Mindful Child

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is just one method we employ in our classes and therapy sessions to help children relax. It is an evidence-based approach that children enjoy. When you add movement and the senses the child is using more areas of their brain, which enhances the benefits. Want to learn more ways to combat stress? Check out our Mindful Child Yoga Teacher Training or sign your child up for an aerial yoga class.

Astronaut Training

Astronaut Training at Mindful Child

What is Astronaut Training? 

Astronaut Training is a therapy program designed to have a direct impact on the vestibular, visual, and auditory systems. It incorporates the activation of different channels of the vestibular systems.

Wait. What is the Vestibular System?

The vestibular system is a very complex system, supporting many levels of central nervous system function.  It is located in the inner ear and detects balance, changes in position, and movement.  It is a gravitational reference point which anchors head and body position in space.  It also integrates movement with all sensations.

How Does it Work?

This space-based program involves having the child sit in a one-point aerial yoga hammock (or astronaut rotary board, but we prefer hammocks) and spinning him in various positions. By doing this, the therapist learns whether the child is over- or under-sensitive to motion (by examining eye movement after spinning), and then uses spinning to train the eyes/body for a more coordinated response to motion and visual stimulus.

Is it Beneficial?

Astronaut Training helps children improve their ability to self-regulate especially when there is vestibular dysfunction.  It can also enhance spatial awareness and general movement abilities. In a nutshell, it helps with sensory organization for moving, looking and listening.

In Summary…

Aerial Hammock in Therapy

At Mindful Child, we use the aerial hammock as a prop to assist with sensory integration. The aerial hammock is incorporated in the Astronaut Program instead of a rotary board to increase engagement.  The more engaged a child is with an activity, the more likely they are to benefit from it. If you would like more information regarding how we help children with sensory processing e-mail us at info@mindfulchildaerialyoga.com or set up an initial assessment today. 

Mindfulness Exercises for Kids

Mindfulness at Mindful Child

As you know there are many ways to practice mindfulness. You can be mindful of what is happening on the inside of your body.  This includes noticing your breath, heartbeat, thoughts, and how you feel.  You can also be mindful of what is happening on the outside of your body such as what you hear, smell, see, taste and feel.  At Mindful Child we explore mindfulness on the inside and outside in all of our classes in many different ways. 

Here are three simple ways to explore mindfulness:

  1. Feel your breath. One of the most powerful mindfulness tools is our breath.  Our bodies can breathe in lots of different ways and how we breathe can affect how we feel.  Closing your eyes and noticing how you are breathing can tell you how you are feeling in your body. 
  2. Engage your senses.  Take a walk through your house. While you are walking pay attention to your five senses (touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing).  Notice the sounds you hear. Can you hear three different sounds? Take a deep breath, what do you smell? Can you find all the colors of the rainbow? Touch a few objects. What do you notice?
  3. Scan it.  A body scan can help you become aware of what is happening in your body and release stress.  Close your eyes.  Take a deep breath in.  Let it out.  Imagine a scanner is slowly moving up your body.  Let your body feel heavy and relaxed as the scanner moves gently over your body. Open your eyes.  What did the scanner notice?

Science tells us the more we explore mindfulness the more calming brain chemicals our body makes. Try different activities to determine which engage your child.  Need more ideas?  Join us for our Mindful Child Teacher Training this summer. 

Essential Oil PlayDough

Making Essential Oil Infused PlayDough

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups organic flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Organic food coloring
  • Chunky glitter
  • 4-5 drops Young Living essential oils (Peppermint, Grapefruit)
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
Essential Oil PlayDough at Mindful Child

Squishing, rolling, pulling, creating… children of all ages enjoy playing with playDough. In addition to being fun, PlayDough has multiple developmental benefits. Our homemade dough feels and smells amazing – making it a simple and natural stress relieving mindfulness tool.

What are the benefits?

Proprioceptive Input

Squishing and pulling PlayDough can increase fine motor skills. It strengthens the muscles in the fingers that are needed to climb an aerial hammock or hold a pencil at school. Manipulating PlayDough helps children develop hand-eye coordination. Rolling and pressing PlayDough into cookie cutters provides deep pressure to the joints, which enhances one of our hidden senses called proprioception.

How to Make Amazing Dough.

  • To start, add the flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl.
  • Stir with an electric mixer.
  • Combine the essential oil of choice with the vegetable oil and mix into the dry ingredients.
  • Bring your water to a boil.  Add any food coloring to the boiling water.
  • While stirring with an electric mixer, slowly add the water to the dry ingredients.
  • Continue to mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Next, shake in a little glitter, but not too much or it won’t stick together.
  • Knead the dough until smooth.  
  • Store your dough in an air-tight container.
PlayDough Hearts at Mindful Child

At Mindful Child, we make mindfulness and social emotional learning fun. We’d love to have your child hang out with us in a camp or class

Settle Your Glitter

Mindfulness Bottles at Mindful Child

Feeling a little unsettled, stressed, or upset? Grab your mindfulness bottle, give it a shake, and take deep breaths until the glitter settles. Mindfulness bottles are a wonderful addition to any mindfulness space.

Settle Your Glitter is a mindfulness activity that uses a bottle filled with glitter to help children center and relax. Children love to make their own bottle and choose their own colors of glitter.

Materials

How To Make a Mindfulness Bottle

Fill a clear plastic bottle with hot water, a tablespoon of glycerin, and a drop of liquid dish soap. Have your child choose three different colors of glitter. Pick one color to represent feelings, one to represent thoughts, and one to represent behavior. Sprinkle each color into the plastic bottle using a funnel.

Benefits of a Mindfulness Bottle

A mindfulness bottle is a fun visual prop to teach children how deep breathing can calm the body and the mind. The mindfulness bottle gives children a tool to calm down and focus their minds (settle their glitter) before they make a decision.

What to Say

  • We’re going to make mindfulness bottles. The glitter represents our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. When we are upset, nervous, or mad, our glitter is unsettled. What can you do to settle your glitter?
  • Start by finding a comfortable position.
  • Let’s go one by one, sharing an event that was difficult for some reason (such as giving a speech in front of your class, losing a sports game, watching a scary movie).
  • Shake the glitter bottle. When you are upset, your thoughts are chaotic, which means your feelings and urges are out of control, just like the glitter.
  • Set the bottle in front of you. Take ten deep breaths in and out through the nose. Feel the belly rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale.
  • Do your best to focus your attention on your breath. While you breathe, watch the glitter float down and settle on the bottom of the jar, just like our thoughts. Take a moment each day to practice settling your glitter.

Come Hang Out with Us!

If your child enjoys art, hanging upside, climbing and mindfulness. Join us for a kid’s aerial yoga class or camp! We practice settling our glitter and other evidence-backed ways to feel calm in every session.

More Ways to Settle Your Glitter

Benefits of a Climbing Wall

Climbing Wall

Increasingly, science is uncovering the value of one of the most fundamental forms of movement – climbing. Kids and adults don’t just love climbing for the challenge – there are developmental reasons that attract kids to it. Climbing actually plays a role in children’s mental and physical development. In addition to all the physical benefits, it has been shown to improve creativity, memory, and critical thinking abilities.

Here are a few benefits of a climbing wall:

  • A climbing wall enhances problem-solving and decision-making skills. Ascending a climbing route is like putting together a puzzle. Each move requires a decision-making process. Where do I go? What is the best route to get there? Learning to solve problems and think for yourself in the moment (without the help of a glossary or google) is part of learning to make smart decisions, which is a skill set that helps kids in everyday situations.
  • It provides sensory input and improves memory. Psychologists from the University of North Florida found that “proprioceptively dynamic activities like climbing” can significantly improve executive functioning, especially memory. Executive function is important not just for cognitive processing of information, but for behavioral regulation. The study showed that two hours after climbing, participants’ capacity for working memory had increased by 50 percent. WOW!
  • Climbing develops spatial awareness and motor skills.  Not only does climbing build spatial and directional awareness, but it also boosts physical skills such as balance, hand and foot coordination, and agility.  When children use both their hands and feet to maneuver varying inclines and distances between climbing holds, it enhances children’s proprioception, the ability to sense one’s own body’s position and movement in space.
  • It promotes healthy choices and a growth mindset.  Overcoming challenges and fear is fundamental to being successful.  Encouraging kids to leave their comfort zone, keep trying in the face of failure, and to face their fears helps them to see challenges as opportunities to grow.  Challenging situations teach children to believe in themselves. 
  • Climbing develops focus and concentration. Climbing requires attention to task, focus, and discipline to succeed. There is no multitasking when you’re balanced on a narrow foothold trying to find the best route to the top of the wall. No matter what is going on around them, children must stay present and mindful when climbing, by focusing their attention on their hand and footholds.  This builds the mind-body connection (how the movement of the body affects the development of the brain).
  • Climbing is fun. Kids love a good physical and mental challenge.  If you throw in a fun bell to ring when they reach the top they may never leave…
Growth Mindset

Climbing a wall or aerial yoga hammock is a challenge. It promotes agility, flexibility, muscular strength and muscular endurance. We change the hand and foot hold patterns on our climbing wall, which adds a cognitive challenge. The cognitive challenge enhances executive function and builds a growth mindset making it a wonderful addition to our amazing Mindful Child Aerial Yoga Classes. 

References

Alloway, R. G., & Alloway, T. P. (2015). The Working Memory Benefits of Proprioceptively Demanding Training: A Pilot Study. Perceptual and Motor Skills120(3), 766–775. https://doi.org/10.2466/22.PMS.120v18x1

Emami Kashfi, T., Sohrabi, M., Saberi Kakhki, A., Mashhadi, A., & Jabbari Nooghabi, M. (2019). Effects of a Motor Intervention Program on Motor Skills and Executive Functions in Children With Learning Disabilities. Perceptual and Motor Skills126(3), 477–498. https://doi.org/10.1177/0031512519836811

Yoga Code Game

Fun Game of Drawing and Posing

Yoga Code Game

Have fun stretching, breathing, and balancing with The Yoga Code Game! This fun, simple movement game helps children practice yoga poses while increasing flexibility and focus. For this game, family members create and draw a yoga code that is deciphered by other family members. After the code is revealed, family members take turns teaching family members how to do their yoga poses. The poses must be practiced in the order drawn, making it a fun flow challenge. 

What are the Benefits?

The Yoga Code Game encourages yoga pose practice and review.  It builds confidence and enhances memory skills.  Creating and deciphering yoga codes fosters creativity and problem-solving. The Yoga Code game also promotes family connectedness.

Family Yoga

What to Say.

  • On a piece of paper, chalkboard, or dry erase board, draw three or more symbols or pictures that represent yoga poses or breathing exercises.
  • For example, Tree = Tree Pose, Dog = Down Dog Pose, Star = Star Pose, Ocean = Ocean Breath.
  • Once your code is completed, take turns deciphering each others yoga codes by guessing what pose the drawing represents. 
  • The person who drew the code becomes the yoga teacher, instructing the other players how to do the poses and breathing exercises that were drawn. The players must do the yoga poses and breath work in order of how they were drawn.
  • Players take turns being the yoga instructor and practicing the yoga flow creations.

The Yoga Code Game is a fun game for the whole family. It helps children light up their minds and increase their flexibility and strength. If you’d like your child to engage in more games that are good for the brain and body join us for an aerial yoga camp or class.

Teaching fun, therapeutic, aerial yoga and mindfulness to children