Introduction to Mindfulness for Stress Reduction

Presented by Anton Shcherbakov, Psy.D, BCBA

View the webinar’s corresponding slides here   

You may have heard the term “mindfulness” pop up on the news, in books, or through friends and family. It seems like everyone is talking about it these days! So what is it? Put simply, mindfulness is the practice of turning your full awareness towards your present moment experience. Dozens of research studies show that engaging in regular mindfulness practice can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and improve overall well-being. During this webinar, participants can expect to learn about the origins of mindfulness practice, hear about psychological research regarding its benefits, and participate in a guided meditation practice. Resources for continuing the practice of mindfulness meditation will be provided.


Hello. My name is Kelly Teabo, and I’m with the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders. I will be your organizer for this evening, and we’d like to welcome you to our webinar on Introduction to Mindfulness for Stress Reduction.


Thank you all for joining us.


Before I have my colleague introduce the speaker for tonight, I’m going to cover some housekeeping items with you.


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We do not endorse any recommendation or opinion made by any member or physician, nor do we advocate for any treatment you are responsible for your own medical decisions. Now, I’m going to turn over the introduction of our speaker to Martha Butterfield, the Webinar co-ordinator of NJ CTS, Marty?


Thanks, Kelly. Good evening, everyone. Happy New Year. Welcome to our first webinar of 2020.


Before I introduce tonight’s presenter, I have several upcoming events that I’d like to bring to your attention.


Scholarship applications are now being accepted from graduating New Jersey High School seniors who have a TS diagnosis and going on to either 2 or 4 year degree programs, And we are also accepting applications for Educator of the Year.


Additionally, registration is open for our annual Family Retreat Weekend, which is being held this year from June fifth through the seventh.


Details and registration information on all of the above items can be found in our website.


Now to the introduction of tonight’s presenter, doctor Anton Shcherbakov. He received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Rutgers University Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology.


His dissertation explored the role of stigma towards adults with autism spectrum disorder in the workplace.


Doctor Shcherbakov is a licensed psychologist set, the Center for Emotional Health of Greatest Philadelphia, a private outpatient facility specializing in the evidence based treatment of anxiety disorders, body focused, repetitive behaviors, OCD, and related disorders. He is also a board certified behavior analyst and director of Think Site, an agency focused on improving educational outcomes for students with autism through assessment, consultation, and training for schools. Doctor Shcherbakov has presented at local and national conferences on topics that include reducing maladaptive behaviors and autism, treating body focused, repetitive behaviors, and evaluating provider attitudes towards evidence-based treatment.


He also has a special interest in mindfulness, as it relates to stress reduction, and has presented workshops on the technique and its benefit.


To that end, we’re changing our usual webinar format tonight. When doctor Shcherbakov completes his PowerPoint presentation, he will lead the attendees and a mindfulness exercise.


Our usual Q&A will follow the exercise. I hope everyone will remain online to experience this directed mindfulness event. Now, without further introduction, I’m pleased to turn tonight’s program over to doctor Shcherbakov.


All right. Hello, everybody. And good evening. Thank you for joining us tonight. And thank you, Marty, for that introduction.


I’m very excited to be here, talking to you all about mindfulness.


This is a topic that’s very near and dear to me. I’ve been practicing meditation for about 9 or 10 years now.


And something that I got introduced to during my time in graduate school, and I found to be so tremendously beneficial in both my personal life, as well as in my professional work, with clients, and with parents and teachers. And kind of everyone in between. So I’m really excited to introduce you all to this. I hope that this will be something that, following today’s webinar, you can kind of start to integrate into your lives and spread the good word.


So let me move on here to talk about what we’ll cover today. So, the first thing that we’ll start with is just talking about what mindfulness is.


A lot of people may have heard of it before, but I think there’s a lot of misconceptions out there about exactly what mindfulness meditation is, and what it looks like.


Then, we’ll talk about why it works.


I think it’s important to understand what some of the mechanisms are that make it such an effective treatment for a variety of things.


I know when I was first introduced to it, I was kind of skeptical, it seemed like almost too good to be true, that this one method, or this one technique could work for so many different things. But hopefully, as you start to understand what is going on, when we meditate, you start to understand why it can be beneficial for so many different conditions.


We’ll also talk about formal meditation strategies, so the things that most people probably think of when they imagine meditation and all the different ways and shapes that that can take.


Then we’ll also talk about adaptations for kids.


Particularly when working with young children, we’ll want to adopt some of the, or, sorry, adapt


some of the traditional strategies so that they’re more interesting, and more engaging, particularly for young children.


Then we’ll talk about informal meditation strategies, which are some of my favorites, and you might be surprised to hear what meditation can actually look like and sound like.


Then I’ll share some specific ideas for integrating mindfulness into the home, as well as the classroom. I know that we have quite a number of teachers and parents who are listening today. So hopefully, you all can find something that you can take away from today’s presentation.


And we’ll also talk about the benefits of regular practice. There’s been a tremendous amount of research that’s been done on mindfulness meditation.


And I wanted to share with you all some of what the research and science of meditation telling us, and finally, I’ll share some additional resources, so ways to continue the practice at home, including apps and websites and books that you can use.


And actually, finally, after that, for those of you that are able, we will do a mindfulness of seeing exercise, something that hopefully, you can participate in, and then, you know, bring to use in your everyday life, whether it’s for yourself, for your children, for your students, with a spouse, et cetera.


So that’s kind of, in terms of our outline, and let’s begin with just talking about what mindfulness is.


The best definition that I’ve ever found is one from a book called Wherever You Go, There You Are, which is written by Dr. John Kabat-Zinn, who will talk about shortly.


And the way that he defines mindfulness is relatively simple. It is just paying attention.


On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.


So, let’s just break that down into those component pieces, and just understand what exactly is being said here.


So, the goal of mindfulness is meditation. And just as a point of clarification, I’ll use mindfulness and mindfulness meditation interchangeably. When I’m talking about mindfulness, I’m really talking about the practice of meditation. And so, mindfulness meditation is about paying attention.


And I focused on this for a second, because this makes it different than other forms of meditation that are out there.


Not all types of meditation or mindfulness meditation, So I’m involved trying to attend, you, know, different or get to different states of consciousness like Transcendental meditation, whereas, in Mindfulness, the goal is just to pay attention to be present with whatever is not to eliminate your thoughts. or to find a quiet place in your mind, where there is no thinking, it’s actually just to pay attention.


And, in mindfulness, the way we pay attention is on purpose. We choose to direct our attention to something in particular.


And the thing we pay attention to is in the here and now, it is not about thinking about the past. That is not about thinking about the future. It’s really about thinking about what’s in front of us.


So that is kind of a distinct feature of mindfulness.


And lastly, we try to do so non-judgmental that we notice our brain’s tendency to judge, and we do our best to back away from some of that judgement, perhaps, to observe it, but to observe our experience as best we can, without judging it.


So that’s kind of it, in a nutshell.


And I think it’s important to take a step back here, and just talk a little bit about some of the history of mindfulness, because it’s the question that comes up a lot.


When I do this presentation in person, you know, people oftentimes associate mindfulness meditation with Buddhism, and there’s, you know, there’s a good reason for that.


We know that mindfulness meditation originated at least 2500 years ago in India and China.


And we do know that it was practiced by Buddhists.


And it was called Sati originally in the ancient Pali language, that’s native to India.


And indeed, meditation was seen as one of the seven factors of enlightenment in Buddhism. So, in sort of originates as a spiritual or even a religious practice.


But the way that we’re talking about it here today, the way that it’s been incorporated into modern psychological research, is not a religious practice. I’m not asking anybody here to convert to any particular religion or adopt any particular religious beliefs.


Because the way that we’ve studied it in psychology is as a secular practice, that’s a non-religious practice that is beneficial to both mental and physical health.


So, for any of you, all that might have been kind of concerned about that, I think, you know, meditation or mindfulness meditation, specifically, it’s totally compatible with any religious beliefs you may have, in spite of, perhaps, its origins in a more religious, or in a more spiritual sense.


And so, mindfulness is actually, relatively new to the west, meaning America and Europe, even though it is a very ancient tradition.


And the man, most frequently credited, for introducing mindfulness to the West, is this man right here, doctor Jon Kabat-Zinn. He founded the Mindfulness Stress Reduction Program, on which this training is based. This webinar is based back in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts.


And the reason that he had started this program is because he was working with a lot of people that had chronic health conditions, things like chronic pain, or diabetes, or fibromyalgia, cancer. And things like that.


And he was finding that a lot of these folks were really suffering from the stress, from the pain, from all the associated things that come with having a chronic health condition.


And he was really able to demonstrate some pretty amazing findings that we’ll talk about a little bit later in the webinar in terms of what he was able to achieve with these folks and implementing this mindfulness program.


And since that time, mindfulness has really taken off in terms of its, the research interest in psychology.


And since that time, mindfulness has been incorporated into a number of therapies, some of which include mindfulness based Cognitive therapy or …, which is a treatment for preventing the relapse of depression. And actually, in recent years, it’s been adapted for helping to prevent suicide amongst high risk veterans.


I was actually part of a randomized controlled trial that was going on at the VA a few years ago now. And we were able to demonstrate that with just a relatively brief eight-week program.


We were able to increase the likelihood that our program participants or veterans would not either make a suicide attempt or actually even follow through on committing suicide.


So, it was a pretty amazing finding and one that we were very proud of and very excited about and such, you know, it’s really an epidemic, so it just kinda goes to show the power of a relatively brief intervention for, you know, making a life a life-changing effect.


So, that’s the MBCP or mindfulness based Cognitive Therapy.


There’s also ACT, or acceptance and commitment Therapy, which has been shown to be effective for reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as some other conditions. And mindfulness, meditation is a big component of that treatment.


And the last one that I mention here is just dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT, which has been shown to be a very effective treatment for what’s called Borderline Personality Disorder.


And so, as all this research is being done on the benefits of mindfulness in psychology, a lot of other industries started to take notice. And since that time, mindfulness has been incorporated and researched in places as diverse as schools and businesses, law enforcement, prisons, and the military. It seems like everyone has kind of taken notice and started to explore if there’s any potential benefits to integrating mindfulness meditation into their setting.


Now, at this point, you know, once, I started learning about all this in graduate school, like I said before, I was kinda skeptical. I was wondering how, you know, such a relatively simple thing could have so many far flung benefits. And so I started getting interested in how mindfulness meditation might work, and why it’s seeing such broad kind of interest, and research, attention.


And so, oh, here we go. So why mindfulness? Well, there is this really interesting study that came out and found that the average American spends about 47% of their waking time thinking about things other than what they’re doing.


Just let that sink in for a second. That almost half of the time that we’re awake. We are not focused on the present. We’re not focused and paying attention to what’s in front of us.


It’s kind of shocking. And if you reflect on your own experience, you can probably recognize that that’s probably true for you. Maybe spend much more than, you know, 50% of your waking time. Maybe you spend a little bit less, but for many of us, we spend a lot of time, time traveling in our mind.


So, wow, so what, like, why is that? Why might that be bad? Why might that be a problem?


Well, research has shown that mind wandering leads to us being less happy.


And that’s true if we’re thinking about unpleasant things, obviously, right? If we’re thinking about the past and we’re getting stuck on someone that’s wrong, thus, or something that went wrong, a mistake that we made, that’s obvious to that would make us feel unhappy.


But even if we’re thinking about neutral topics, mind wandering tends to lead to reduced happiness as well. And in my mind, that kind of an even more interesting or compelling finding that even if we’re just daydreaming about, oh, I don’t know what we’re going to buy at the grocery store. Or what, you know, what streets. Are we going to take home to what streets are we going to take from work to get home? We still see reduced levels of happiness and folks.


So why might that be the case?


The biggest factor is, when we’re a time traveling in our minds, we’re not engaging with what’s in front of us, right? If you’re sitting there and you’re eating your lunch, and you’re thinking about, oh, you know, What am I going to cook for dinner today? These are the ingredients I have, and the ingredients don’t have. Right? You’re not enjoying that lunch that’s in front of you. You’re not enjoying the food, you’re not tasting it, you’re not really experiencing it. Right, so we’re not engaging with what’s in front of us.


And the other two things that I’ve put up here. one is rumination. and the other is worrying is actually what we tend to do most often, when we mind wander time travel in our mind.


So, rumination is just a fancy way of saying thinking about the same thing over and over and over again.


And studies have shown that rumination is a really strong predictor of depression. People that have a tendency to ruminate to go back over the past and think about the same things over and over again, to dwell tend to experience higher rates of depression.


And it seems to be that, many of us, when we think about the past, we tend to ruminate. We tend to get stuck. We tend to think about the same thing over and over again.


Right, and it’s usually unproductive because we obviously can’t change the path.


So that’s why rumination can be a problem or thinking about the past.


The other issue is that, when we think about the future, we tend to worry, most of us, when we think about the future, we don’t tend to think about pleasant things. Like, oh, I can’t wait for my vacation, or, No. I can’t wait to be retired, and hanging out on a beach somewhere?


Or, you know, I can’t wait to see how XYZ turns out. Now, instead, we tend to kind of anticipate the worst. Like, what’s going to happen if I get fired or what’s going to happen if my boss doesn’t like what I did on this job? Or what’s going to happen if XYZ happens to my kid, right? We tend to worry rather than to think about pleasant thoughts.


So, that’s part of why there is this intense focus on increasing our President focus our President awareness and mindfulness meditation to pull us away from some of that rumination pulse away from that worrying.


And to help us engage more on what’s going on in front of us.


And I really love this cartoon here that I share.


You know, it really kind of sums up exactly what I’m saying here, that, when we focused on the past, some of the things we tend to experience are guilt, regret, grievance, sadness, bitterness, non-forgiveness, right? And when we focus on the future, we tend to feel unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry, and fear.


And so, probably the only place that we can really find peace is, in the here and now, and the present, know, this little character that’s in the middle here, who’s sitting with the flowers and the rocks and has those little hearts over his or her head. You know, that’s the one place where we can really hope to find peace, and yet, the place that we tend to spend relatively little of our day-to-day time.


And, you know, this is not to say that we should not think about the future, and we should not think about the past.


Of course, we have to do those things. If you don’t think about the future, you don’t plan for retirement. You don’t make contingency plans for when things go wrong.


If you don’t think about the past, you can’t grow from your experience. You know, those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.


But the general finding is that we all probably spend a little too much time thinking about the past and the future and probably not enough time actually just being present. And to use an old cliche, just smelling the roses, right. Instead, we tend to get sucked into time, traveling in our minds.


So some other thoughts on mind wandering or mindlessness and why it can be problematic.


You may not realize this, but, in fact, we spend most of our lives on autopilot.


I’m sure most people listening here can relate to the experience of getting in their car, arriving at their destination and I’m thinking to themselves, how in the world did I get here? Like, What highway did I take? Like, what turns did I make who was driving the car? So it wasn’t me. Know, when we’re stuck an autopilot, that happens a lot.


Or another example that Frequently happens to me I’ll look down into my bag of chips that I was just eating and say, what happened? Who came in here and stole my chips?


Right, it’s like, I just had opened the bag. And all of a sudden, that’s empty. Well, the truth is I was on autopilot. Maybe I was watching television. Maybe I was talking or thinking about something. And I love that moment of joy, that moment of, you know, just the sheer pleasure of eating some tasty Pringles slip away from me.


And so one of the goals in mindfulness or meditation is to help turn off that autopilot, that we can re-engage in our lives, Right, to go from that automatic mode to that more deliberate and attentive mode. That is what mindfulness is all about.


And one that I one benefit of that that I alluded to is allowing us to tune into the pleasures of everyday life, right? That eating those, those Pringles or as you’re walking, perhaps between your car and your front door, noticing the birds that are in the trees, noticing, you know, the smell of a crisp winter day. Notice saying what snow-covered trees look like, right?


These things can give us great pleasure if we give, you know, we take a moment to actually pay attention, as opposed to just ignoring them.


But the other benefit and one of the reasons why I think mindfulness can be so helpful to children and to many adults is it can improve our ability to respond rather than reacting, right.


Because when we’re on autopilot, we can react very emotionally to situations that come up, right? So if I’m just in reaction mode, a farm on autopilot, if my wife comes up to me and says, Hey, you know, how come you didn’t take the trash out last night? Like you said you were like, what’s the deal? My reaction, my autopilot response might be to get the sense of, well, I got home so late and like, what’s the big deal, XYZ, blah, blah? Right? That’s probably not the way I actually want to respond to that situation.


But if I can take that autopilot off and hear what she’s saying, I can probably respond in a more effective way. Like, Hey, you know, I’m sorry about that. Let me take care of it now. Right. That would be the response that on my heart of hearts, I would actually want to give and that moment.


And so practicing mindfulness meditation can help us to be more effective at turning off that autopilot to notice when it’s on and to just to practice being present in that everyday life and noticing some of those pleasures.


So that’s kinda why mindfulness works. It is about tuning into the present, responding rather than reacting and about, you know, not letting ourselves get sucked away into the future or into the past, and some of those negative thought patterns.


Well, how do we do that?


So there are two broad types of strategies that I’ll talk about with you all today. The first that I’m listing here are going to be the formal meditation strategies.


So, a lot of these will be what you might think of when you think of meditation. And there might be some on here that are not what you would expect meditation to look like.


Also, we’ll talk about informal meditation strategies, as well as ways of meditating with kids, and how to integrate meditation in the classroom, And those informal strategies tend to be briefer.


And that may be things that you already do from time to time, and just don’t even realize that those are actually mindful, are a meditative thing.


So let’s start first with the formal strategies.


So one of the most common, and I think most frequently introduced, is one of the earliest meditations that people do with something called the body scan.


And, actually, let me back up a little bit, and just talk about what formal meditation generally kind of looks like.


So, usually, when you’re doing a formal meditation strategy, you are setting the intention to meditate. You’re trying to find a relatively calm or quiet place, where you can do that.


And, you know, it can range in any length of time that you want. It could be as short as, you know, 2 or 3 minutes, and it can be as long as an hour. Or much longer actually. As I was getting my mindfulness training, our final day of mindfulness training was to do a full day of meditation. That was eight hours, and total silence.


And, you know, people go on even longer retreats seven days or 14 days, that’s probably a little more that I want to do. I think, you know, eight hours was plenty of experience there, but so just to say that formal meditation strategies are very flexible, and you kind of adapt it to your needs and your abilities.


So, the body scan is, basically, you know, you can do this while they, while setting you can do it while laying down. You can do it while standing in the general direction, is to close your eyes or let your gaze kind of rest on a spot, somewhere in front of you.


And to follow directions, guided meditation, to pay attention to each part of your body in sequence, paying attention to your toes, to your ankles, your knees, your abdomen, your chest, your shoulders, and so on. And just noticing anything that’s present their as their pain as their attention is their warmth or coolness and so on and so forth.


This tends to be pretty relaxing. A lot of people like doing these prior to going to bed, or first thing in the morning to kind of get started for the day. Those are great times to do a body scan.


There is also something called the three Minute Breathing Space. So, as the name implies, this is just a three-minute meditation. And it’s actually a really great thing to do if you’re feeling tense or anxious throughout the day. It’s one of my favorite kind of pull out in therapy to teach people as a tool.


It’s also something that I’ll do if I have a particularly challenging session where I’m feeling, you know, stressed or anxious or whatever. You know, doing a three-minute breathing space before I see my next client can be a really nice and helpful thing to do.


And basically, a three-minute breathing space just walks you through a three-step kind of process. The first is becoming aware of things that are around you. The second is focusing your attention on your breath.


And the third step is just expanding that awareness to include a sense of your body, in addition to your breath, and it does tend to be pretty relaxing as well.


Sitting meditation is the one people most frequently kind of associate with meditation or with mindfulness, which would be sitting down. You don’t have to sit with your legs crossed. You can sit in a chair. You can sit on a couch, doesn’t really matter. And you might focus on your breathing. You might focus on your thoughts.


You might focus on bodily sensations.


You know, any one of those, three, or possibly even, you know, sounds around you, are kind of fair game for a sitting meditation. And, again, this can range from just a few minutes, to an hour, eight hours, really, as long as you want.


Loving kindness meditation, as one of my favorite meditation, is, actually, and the one, that a lot of the, veterans that I worked with, tended to struggle with.


The loving kindness meditation is about directing your attention to thinking, compassionate and positive thoughts towards yourself, towards others in your life. It is really just trying to embody that feeling of loving kindness.


And for a lot of my veterans who struggled with self-compassion, this was a really challenging meditation, just with some positive feeling.


But it can be a really powerful experience to be in that place, to spend, you know, a few minutes, being compassionate, whether it’s towards yourself or towards others. That’s a really wonderful experience, and I highly recommend that.


Walking meditation can be a formal meditation, so that might be walking and focusing on the experience of taking steps and noticing. The feeling of your foot, your shoe, you know, that whole thing, or it can be walking and focusing on nature around you, or on the sounds, around you or anything like that, those can all be formal meditations.


And last but not least, mindful movement of which one form is, yoga is also a formal meditation strategy. I’m willing to bet that many of you, all listening tonight have had some experience with yoga and have sort of noticed how it can really suck you into that present moment, really focusing on your stretches on the different yoga positions.


And feeling your body in that moment. It really pulls you into the present and it can be, you know, wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable to do that.


So that is also, you know, a type of meditation and we call it kind of mindful movement more broadly.


So, that’s it for the formal meditation strategies. And I just wanted to talk about some potential adaptations for children, for those of you that want to try this, either with your kids or with your students.


So the first thing to note is, there’s really no lower age limit that I’m aware of, that I’ve experienced for mindfulness meditation. But realistically, you probably wouldn’t do it with any kids that are younger than four. But you can do it with kids as young as four. So that’s kind of a good thing to keep in mind.


But when we’re working with, especially younger kid, shorter, and more interactive is better, you are not going to get a 7 or 8-year-old kid to sit for an hour and listen to a guided meditation about breathing. It’s just not going to happen. Good luck. Even talk about with a 12 or 14-year-old, or an adult with that, for that matter. So shorter is better, more interactive as better. And I’ll share some examples of what I mean with interactive.


So one example would be what I’m calling here, a slow mo snack, or slow motion eating. So, taking the time to really mind, fully, eat, something that takes you to the child.


So, taking, like a Pringle, for example, and rather than chomping at all down into bite, taking a little bit by and noticing what it tastes like. What it feels like, describing it.


And just really doing it very slowly and mindfully blowing bubbles can be incredibly mindful, you know, paying attention to a bubble, slowly expanding, as you blow into it, before it leaves the little wand. That you’re blowing the bubble from noticing 1 or 2 bubbles, just flying around, and seeing the path that they take. A very mindful activity that a lot of kids really enjoy.


Doing a mindful nature, walk, So, as opposed to walking and kind of talking about any possible thing, really trying to pay attention to what’s around you like, you know, let’s name all the things that start with the letter, R that we can see, or let’s name all the things that are green, or yellow, or something like that. Let’s listen to the crunching of the leaves, those who are walking.


You know, trying to really focus on the experience of just walking and being wherever it is that you are, finding shapes and clouds. This is something that most of us have probably done at some point in our lives.


Looking up at the sky, and trying to imagine what any given cloud can be such a present focused activity, and, you know, oftentimes, just a great deal of fun to do with your kids and seeing what kind of things they come up with.


Breathing with the images.


So, that’s kind of a variation on the focus on breath, that we do with adults.


With a kid, you might have them imagining a pizza. And as they breathe, then, they’re smelling the taste BP, their mouth as watering. And as they breathe out, they’re blowing on the pizza to cool it down, because it’s too hot for them to eat.


Same thing with the cake, right, smelling the cake, and then blowing out the candles blowing out and blowing up a big balloon.


Those are all fun activities to do with kids that can help them to kind of stay focused in the present and really engage with mindfulness.


With adolescents. as they get older, they might be a little bit less interested in some of those activities that I shared. And they may actually enjoy structured and more lengthy meditation.


So, you know, especially if you introduced them with some of the shorter meditations and it’s something that they enjoy, you can actually work up to doing much longer meditations with them. You know, I’ve done meditations as long as 10, 15, 20 minutes with adolescents. Usually not much longer than that, but certainly not impossible. But it can be hard with the, you know, tightly packed schedules that we have these days.


So those are some adaptations for children. I also just broadly wanted to talk about informal mindfulness strategies that we can all use adults and children included.


one of my favorite and formal mindfulness strategies and something that I try to do on a daily basis is do some routine activity while turning my full attention to just that activity.


So, the one that I do every single day is paying attention to brushing my teeth.


So when I’m brushing my teeth, rather than thinking about what I need to do, or what I haven’t done, my to-do list for the day, I try to just focus on the feeling of the brush and my mouth of noticing, you know, the bristles noticing the little foamy, kind of soapiness, that comes from toothpaste.


Really paying attention to brushing each individual, too and so on and so forth, I find this to be tremendously relaxing and enjoyable. And a lot more enjoyable than kind of worrying about what is going to happen that day, or at the end of the day, thinking about all the things that I didn’t get done, right.


So, it can be something like that.


Also, another informal mindfulness strategy is just taking a moment to take five slow mindful breaths.


Just noticing yourself breathing, really paying attention to it. There’s a lot of apps out there that can kind of ding you or give you a notification to take five mindful breath.


If you’re a teacher, you can, you know, ring a bell in the classroom and just remind everyone to take a few breaths.


This can be a really nice way to re-center and get focus for a few minutes full attention, eating or drinking. So, I don’t know what it is about the suggestion, but when I do this presentation in person, this one seems to generate the most controversy. And really what I mean by this is, you know, for at least one meal or an occasional meal during your week.


just focus on eating or drinking and not doing anything else.


For most of us, when we eat lunch or we dinner or We eat breakfast, it’s oftentimes on the go.


Or we’re multitasking right, where eating lunch, and we’re answering e-mails where eating dinner and where, you know, doing the laundry, or watching TV, or on our phone, or reading a book.


Or managing some fire with our children. Every, once in a while. Just taking the time to just eat, just to sit there and eat whatever it is. Whether it’s a sandwich.


Bag of chips, you know, a bowl of cereal, just bringing your full attention to that experience of eating, it can just be so delightful and relaxing as well.


Waiting in line now, I don’t know about you all, but this is one of my least favorite activities of all time, I hate waiting in line.


But I found that rather than focusing on how much I hate waiting in line and what is taking these people in front of me, so long, focusing on the environment is such a better way to spend that time. Noticing who also standing in mind, what sort of things are they buying? You know, what does this store look like? Lowe’s store sound like, how’s my body feeling right now? Just really kind of getting out of your head and just being present can be a really powerful experience.


Notice the tightness in your body throughout your day. I know, for me, I tend to carry the most attention and my shoulders. I don’t know what happens, but they start off at where your shoulders should be.


And, when I get more and more stress, to end up getting closer and closer to my ears, and so, every once in a while, I try to catch myself and say, Hey, what are my shoulders doing all the way up here?


Let me release some of that tension and bring them down, right? Just doing a check in with yourself like that throughout the day can be a really nice thing to do to enhance, you know, being in the present moment.


Taking three minutes in your car, so something actually suggested by Marty and Kelly. I forget which one of them. But taking three minutes perhaps before coming home, you know, walking into your house or before walking into your work, just take three minutes and just pay attention to yourself, to your body, to your surroundings.


You know, take a few deep breaths. And just allow yourself to be present before you walk into the chaos. Whatever awaits you at work or at home. I think that’s such a wonderful idea.


Walking, as you walk all the time, right? Whether it’s walking inside of our homes, walking in our offices, walking outside, right. Just paying attention to that action, of walking, wherever it is that we’re doing that.


And the last one that I share here as an idea, and that goes to my little picture here, is opening a door, is something that we do all the time. It’s just another mundane routine activity. But it can be a great reminder to get present, to get centered for a moment.


Know, as you open the door, just notice what the door like, feels like. You noticed the feeling of the know, in your hand, the weight of the door. As you push it, knows, the little Creaking found that it makes the path if it hasn’t been oiled recently, just really taken, that experience, noticed, the change that happens when you go from outside to Inside. Particularly in the winter. I love that feeling of coming in from the cold outdoors and entering the warmth of a house. It’s so delightful, Right. Just taking that moment to recognize that change, though.


So Nice, that’s kind of it for the informal mindfulness strategies there, Although, a lot of what I’ll talk about here in this next slide are kind of extensions, or, at times, kind of repetitions of some of those strategies.


So, as I know, from some of the surveys, we did beforehand, a lot of you all listening today, our school teachers, perhaps some nurses, or other professionals working in schools, a lot of you are also parents.


We wanted to, I wanted to provide some recommendations for ways to integrate mindfulness into your homes, and into your school.


I have some ideas here, is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully, we’ll, know, jogs some of those ideas, and you can expand on from here on out, starting or ending class or, you know, returning home with a mindful moment. You know, everyone kind of settling into their desks. Then, let’s just take a moment to breathe, to pay attention or prior to them, the class.


Let’s take a moment before we transition to just be present, playing the guided meditation recording. So, I’ll share some links for that shortly.


So, recordings that you can use with your kids to actually do some of those formal meditation strategies, mindful snacking as we’ve talked about taking a moment to take a stretching break. Just encouraging your kids to get up and just to stretch and, that can be a directed way. Like, you know, I want you all to do this stretch and that stretch or just, you know, free form.


This is a form of mindful movement, creating a sensory jar. Those of you who are teachers might be familiar with us, or maybe some parents, as well. Have an image of a lava lamp here, which I don’t even know if they make them anymore. I haven’t seen on a long time, but that’s kind of what a sensory jar like.


You basically put water, food coloring, glycerin, glitter, marbles, not maybe not marbles, but beads, and all sorts of little things in a jar. And then what’s really cool, is you can kind of shake them up. And as things start to settle, you see all sorts of motion and patterns that you can observe. And kids really enjoy this.


And again, it’s something to kind of bring them into the moment and just be present to be centered doing a guided imagery exercise.


So imagining, you know, walking kids through, imagine themselves on a beach and listening to the sound of the waves and are there any wildlife sounds? You know, imagine a crab walking along and that sort of thing. And you can find scripts for that online. Just really type, and, you know, guided imagery for kids into Google, and you’ll find a whole lot of stuff.


Taking a minute of gratitude, I love doing that.


You know, if it’s at home, you know, asking your kids, What’s one thing that you’re grateful for, and it’s something that we tend to do during Thanksgiving time, but not something that we tend to extend throughout our, you know, the rest of the year. And I think it’s such a great way to be present for a moment and has actually, you know, being grateful as one of the things that’s really been shown to enhance happiness in adults and kids. So, it’s a really great exercise to do.


And lastly, mindful listening, listening to music, listening to nature sounds, listening just to whatever is around us. Just really paying attention for a few minutes can be a really great mindful activity.


And so, I kind of end all this with this nice little cartoon about the difference between having a full mind, being mindful, or being mindful, right. The man, I think, at the man on the left there, the person says mind full of all sorts of things, bills, and people, and cars, and maybe speech, he has to give. And then, there’s this dog that’s just seeing the trees than the sun.


And what a difference that must be in their emotional experience, right? And I know who I’d want to be in the scenario.


I want to be the dog that looks much nicer.


So, I’m going to just quickly go through some benefits of mindfulness for adults. You all can look at this later if you’re curious.


But so reduce distress and pain for chronic patient, chronic pain patient, because one of the earliest findings that came out of doctor Jon Kabat Zinn’s research in terms of mindfulness based stress Reduction decrease in hypertension for cardiovascular patients. Hypertension, for those that don’t know, it’s high blood pressure. So a pretty remarkable finding and just reminds us of the connection between our mental and emotional health and our physical health.


Reduce stress, anxiety, anger, and depression for individuals with a variety of physical health conditions like fibromyalgia, cancer, diabetes, chronic pain, and also reductions in symptoms associated with a variety of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety and so on.


Some really cool findings, but besides just reducing some of those negative things, also improving positive affect or positive emotions, increasing a sense of spirituality, self-compassion, overall quality of life.


So pretty, pretty cool, finding, and also increasing the likelihood of successful treatment for alcohol and substance use problems.


Then, I’ll go through this pretty quickly as well. A lot of these benefits have been replicated in children and adolescents.


Also, in children, adolescents, we see some improvements and attention, impulsivity and executive functioning. So for those of you who work with or have children with ADHD, there’s some research coming out that’s really starting to show that there’s real benefits there of engaging in mindfulness practice for them.


Improve blood pressure, like an adult reduction in social and behavioral problems.


Kids were who go to schools where mindfulness programs have been implemented seem to exhibit less problem behaviors like tardiness, skipping classes, bullying. Just general kind of conflicts or fights between peers. That’s all been kind of demonstrated in the research literature that we have.


And generally, kids tend to enjoy mindfulness activities. I think when they’re done well and cater to their age group, most children that I’ve worked with enjoy the mindfulness activities that we do.


And there does seem to be some evidence that it’s somewhat more effective for adolescence than younger children.


And that might be just because, in general, the rates of mental health conditions also increase in adolescence, but also because they can engage more fully with some of the more formal meditation strategies, and they have more of that abstract kind of thinking that can really respond. They can really understand what the goal and the purpose of mindfulness.


And then lastly, I just want to say a little bit about effectiveness for tics.


A 2015 study showed that after an eight-week treatment of mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, for text, 59% of participants reported an improvement in their tics.


And that was about a 20% decrease in tic severity.


So not a huge, huge change but something that’s noteworthy and it’s really just the first study of its type. So we really need the more replications here to really be confident in these results.


Also worth noting is that it was done with individuals who are 16 years or older.


They didn’t use kids in their study, but something to be aware of, for those of you that have children or work with children who have tics.


And the improvement from the study was maintained that a one-month follow-up, which was good to see. But again, we’d like to see a longer replication there ultimately.


And they used a special recording that was geared towards people with tics. Kind of increasing awareness of that premonitory urge, as well as increasing that ability to just notice that without responding to it.


So no, I’ll actually share a link to that recording that was used in the study for those of you that are interested, you can try using it with your kids or perhaps with yourself.


Here’s just a list of resources. We have some apps like Headspace and Calm, which have free trials, but do cost some money if you want to subscribe to them, but they’re great, and I think well worth it. There is an educator discount. For those of you that work in schools, just type into Google like Headspace, app educator discount and you’ll be able to find that.


YouTube’s a great resource.


Just type in meditation for kids or meditation. You know, bodies can any of the formal meditation strategies that I shared, and you’ll find a wealth of stuff there.


Some books, like the one that I mentioned, by doctor Jon Kabat Zinn, as well as a self help book called Mindfulness an eight Week Plan for Finding Peace by Mark Williams and Danny penman that’s based on that mindfulness based cognitive therapy protocol, and is just a great introduction to mindfulness, and its benefits for mental health.


And lastly, just for links to online recordings of mindfulness meditation, including that tic focused meditation, as well as three research centers that have shared their meditation recordings, that they use in their research studies, for free with everyone. So just be aware of all of that.


All right, So I’m aware of the time, and I know it will be cutting into our Q&A time a little bit. But I just wanted to do a brief mindfulness meditation with you all, for those of you that are able to participate, Just be, you know, 1 or 2 minutes. A brief mindfulness of seeing exercise, just to give you a taste of what it looks like and sounds like.


So, if you’re able trying to find a relatively calm or quieter space, you know, sitting down, if you’re able and to look at the screen and I’ll just walk you through what this, what this looks like.


No further ado, let me get started.


So I would like you all to just begin by paying attention to this image up in front of you.


Becoming aware of the colors that are present.


Perhaps noticing the gray, the why.


The red and pink and orange.


Just becoming aware of all the different colors that are present here.


Perhaps noticing movement.


Movement near the bottom of the screen.


Perhaps movement near the top of the screen, if there’s any presence.


Noticing areas of the image that are darker, Noticing areas of the image that are lighter.


Seeing this scene as an artist? My?


Letting your eyes pan around and just taking it all on.


All right, and I’ll end it there. If we were doing this in person, I would ask you all to share some of your feedback.


But I’ll just share briefly what the most common feedback that I tend to get there is, which is that, know, some folks were experienced that meditation, that brief meditation as being relaxing and calming and enjoyable and other folks report how difficult to those, how, much they notice their mind, wandering and straying to the pass them to the future and how anti they feel. And whatever it is that your experience was that, OK, we don’t want to judge you for that.


You know, mindfulness is not always the relaxing activity. Sometimes we have a lot on our mind that makes it really difficult to focus on what’s in front of us.


And that’s OK. And that’s a normal part of meditating.


Just being aware of that is really the goal and what we want to do. So I hope you all enjoyed this presentation.


I hope you all are able to at least give this a chance and listen to some guided, longer guided meditation recordings, or try it out with your kid.


And it’s been a pleasure to share this with you. And I look forward to hearing and answering some of your questions.


All right.


That was, I love that picture, by the way. I have to tell you that the sky, the water, that was, yeah. That was lovely. OK, I do have some questions.


So do you have any suggestions to engage teenagers in mind, teenagers in mindfulness who have suspected undiagnosed trauma and behavioral problems in school.


I don’t know if this is coming from an educator or a parent, but at any rate, that’s the question. Wonderful. Well, thank you for that. You know, trauma can be a challenging factor and mindfulness meditation, something that we worked with a lot at the VA, Obviously, the Veteran Affairs Hospital. You know, having these moments of silence can bring up some really painful kind of thoughts, images and memories.


And so, you know, we want to sort of, you prep our students, or our kid here, that that might happen, and just talk about what they know, what they can do, if that happens.


You know, for an older kid, I might just encourage them to move their focus back to whatever it is you’re trying to focus on, whether it’s, you know, breathing, or looking at a picture, or whatever it might be.


For younger kid, I might encourage them to like raise their hand, so that we could kind of do something else to get their mind off of that, so they don’t get too deep into whatever it is that’s bothering them.


So, that’s just a consideration when working with anyone with trauma, in terms of engaging them. I would say using some of those recommendations that I had on that slide for home and school, just trying to do something that’s fun, that’s enjoyable.


one of the first mindfulness activities that I often do with people is that Slow Mo snacking or that mindful eating.


You can find directions for doing that online. It’s often done with arrays and kinda like the typical example. And I would say 95% of people that I do, that with really love that activity, because it just makes things taste so much better. You really gotta give it a try.


So what you’re saying, though, is to prepare the individual, who does this trauma situation ahead of time, so that they know that they might be experiencing some discomfort. Then mm hmm. So that they, Can We expect that, OK?


That question, by the way, came from a high school, social worker. So this would appear to be a situation that she’s working with in school.


Alright, question about …, this individual is saying that, that they think of that as a negative. And do individuals’, oh, would you call it something else? Do individuals ruminate over positive things, or is it always negative?


Yeah. So rumination, the way that it’s been defined by psychologists would be a negative thing. It’s thinking about the same thing over and over, negatively, something negative, and thinking about that over and over, in a way that’s really not productive. You know, so, thinking about, you know, something rude that someone said to you, if you’re reflecting on, you know, wow, I had such a great day yesterday, and I just want to ask and that, that’s wonderful, go ahead and do that. That’s not rumination. We’re not really concerned about that, but sadly, most of us don’t use our mental time traveling ability to do that. We tend to focus on the negative.


OK, so that negative, then, in that situation, you described, would be, could be a situation of somebody, You’re or some family dispute that you’re upset about. And you can’t let go of that, clear. Right then. Those situations, I mean, in that particular situation, I, wouldn’t. It be better to just if you could confront that issue?




Hmm, we see individuals that you’re having that, whatever the issue is.


All right, so, you know, in my work as a psychologist I try to help people distinguish between, you know, reflection and rumination and also between problem solving and communication and worrying.


So, problem solving is when we’re thinking about the past or the future, and we’re working towards some kind of a solution. Right? Mmm hmm. I’m really unhappy with how, you know, what my wife said to me yesterday. So, I think this is why I should say to her, and I think I’m going to go and do that. Right. That is wonderful, right, that we want to do that. We want people to reflect on things that make them unhappy and to take some concrete actions to resolve those problems.


So, just thinking about it is liable to just make us feel pretty lousy.


Then you keep playing it over and over in your mind, and it all becomes, your version is the correct one, and, of course, Right. OK, Can you elaborate a little more on the PTSD treatment, and second part of this question is, Where would someone go to get help in that area?


That’s a great question. So for PTSD, this treatment was part of a research study that we were conducting at the VA. It is based on the mindfulness based Cognitive Therapy Protocol, that second books that I recommended there. You see if I can pull up the name here?


The mindfulness and eight week plan for finding teeth and a frantic world is probably the best way to kinda get introduced to that. And we took that treatment and we’ve just made some relatively minor modifications to it for PTSD and for suicidality. And that was just kind of helping people to understand their PTSD, as well as creating a safety plan, You know, if their symptoms got really bad, that they knew what to do.


In terms of accessing the particular treatment that we studied. Unfortunately, you know, there’s no providers in the community that I’m aware of that have been trained or experience, and that if you are a veteran, then you can talk to the VA provider at the VA and see if they can help you get access to that.


But I would say, you know, the best way to get a version of that treatment would be to find a provider that is experienced in mindfulness based cognitive therapy, because, like I said, it’s very, very similar, OK.


Regarding mindfulness, for a kid, in this case, the four year old mm would you be able to kind of achieve that? Same thing by reading a book or just enjoying a picture book, and just flipping the page, isn’t just talking about the pictures in the book, Would that? Would that kind of accomplish what you would want to accomplish for that, for your role there? I mean, their attention span is Sean, anyway. Send them because you’re talking maybe 5, 10 minutes tops. Yes! Absolutely. So, you know what I hope to get across with some of those in formal meditation strategies is that really almost anything that we do as humans can be done mindfully. Right. And reading a book can absolutely be done mindfully.


You know, one of the best ways to do that is, you know, engaging the child in the book, asking them questions, having them take a look at the pictures, and like examine the theme. Really kind of tuning in. Right, And just doing the book reading, as opposed to, you know, having the TV playing in the background, you know, someone else coming in and out. It’s very hard to be mindful when there’s lots of different things going on.


But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a silent moment, then it could still be drawing their attention to items in the book.


Yeah, so they’re communicating as well, OK?


Absolutely, yeah. So, and with kids, oftentimes, it won’t be silent. I learned pretty early on and trying to do mindfulness meditation with kids where I’d say, you know, like, close your eyes and creating exercise. And then as opposed to kind of hearing my rhetorical questions, they would answer all my rhetorical question. And, that’s totally fine, you know, that they’re engaging. If they’re present that, that’s really all we want. We want them to be here. And now, rather than thinking about the past or the future. And, you know, I would say in general, kid tends to be more mindful than we are as an adult, I think their tendency is to be more future focus.


But, for those kids that are, you know, they do have anxiety that experience depression, that have behavioral problems, a lot of times there are PTSD, a lot of times, they’re not as present focus, and that’s really all we’re trying to help them to do, OK? We’ve gone over, I’m going to ask one more question, and then, we’ll wrap that up, Their question about this technique, this mindfulness techniques and its use, with senior citizens, has there been any work done in that area, because the things you’re talking about, you know, present being in the present. Mindfulness, mindful of that, and not worrying about the future, and not getting stuck in the past, you know, for, for a senior citizen, particularly someone potentially in a nursing home.


You know, this, I think there’s a lot of us going back, because that’s when they have, they have said they don’t have the future. So, could you, would mindfulness, or would it be effectively useful in that situation? Oh, absolutely. You know, one of the rotations that I did on my clinical internship was working in the nursing home at the VA. And, again, when we’re talking about applications towards folks who struggled with depression, or with anxiety, there is a lot of depression and anxiety in nursing homes. And, part of it is because of the time, traveling that we do, right? So, you know, thinking back to, Well, why don’t my kids want to visit me? Well, what did I do wrong? And, you know, raising them, or, I feel really bad about this thing that happened, right? Or worrying about the future. You know what’s going to happen. When, I know, I can no longer walk? what does that going to be?


Like, What, you know, this further deterioration of my health going to be like?


And so, you know, I think, your point, and what a lot of people, I think, think about in these settings is like, while the present must be so depressing, like we want to pull our, you know, our senior citizens out of that. Like how can they just be in the here and now when it seems like the here.


And now, it’s kind of Kind of depressing in some way. Yeah.


Yeah, But, you know, When I have done mindfulness with older folks in that setting, you know, they’re able to listen to the things that are spelled pleasurable and their allies, Because there are lots of things, I mean, Yeah, they’re, they’re different, But, again, that’s that time traveling mind, but, you know, taking no during, or at my therapy sessions, I would take some of the veterans out on a walk, right, And I’d be pushing them, and they’re on their wheelchairs. And I’d have them just like, Hey, let’s look at the trees and alum rustling. Let’s look at that bird. Wow. You know, it’s a kind of a nice day to day. It’s a warm day for, for January. There is still pleasure to be found in the everyday life, right?


A lot of the veterans that I worked with, who get so excited when something different, it’s like they had like a pizza party, one day, You know, to really let yourself like enjoy that, rather than focusing on what you don’t have anymore.


You know, I think there’s power in that, for anyone from our youngest children, to our older adults say. OK, well, I am going to wrap it up, here. This has been a really fascinating presentation. So, thank you very much, doctor Sharon. Welcomes Preciate your time, and I am going to turn this back over to Kelly to just wrap things up.


Yeah. Thank you for having me. You are most welcome.


Thank you for joining our webinar on Introduction to Mindfulness for Stress Reduction. There is an exit survey which we will we need everyone attending to fill out. The webinar blog is now open and available for the next seven days on the N J CTS Website for any additional questions that were not covered in tonight’s presentation.


That website is WWW dot N J C T S dot org. Also, an archived version of tonight’s webinar will be posted to our site. Our next presentation, Improving Social Outcomes for Children with Tourette syndrome and other neurodevelopmental Disorders, will be presented by … Vault and is scheduled for February 12th, 2020. This ends tonight’s webinar. Thank you, doctor Shcherbakov for your presentation. And, thank you, everyone, for attending. Goodnight.


  1. B. Otto says:

    Your thoughts on practicing mindfulness on a full stomach. I wonder if it would help with digestion if you did it after a hearty meal. Of for that matter do you know of its use in weight control?

    • Dr. Shcherbakov says:

      I think it can be beneficial to practice mindfulness with either a full or empty stomach. When full, you may pay attention to the feeling of satiation and the glow that comes following after a good meal. If you practice on an empty stomach, you may pay attention to the feelings of hunger and practice observing them without reacting. A very valuable skill for those of us that snack at the first sign of hunger! In terms of mindfulness effects on digestion itself, I’m not aware of any research one way or the other. Since that process is so automatic, I don’t expect much effect on the physical aspects of digestion. Mindfulness meditation, however, can absolutely be helpful in maintaining a healthy weight. A 2017 review study found that mindfulness-based interventions helped individuals lose about 7lbs on average and reduce unhealthy eating behavior. Look here for more information: https://www.healthline.com/health/meditation-for-weight-loss

  2. C Whorl says:

    As parents most of us try to limit screen time. Do you think there is a downside to using an app to practice mindfulness, particularly for adolescents and teens?

    • Anton Shcherbakov says:

      Thank for your question! This is definitely a concern that I hear a lot of parents bring up. I don’t think the app is inherently problematic if used thoughtfully and with monitoring. When the meditation starts, there is no need for any further interaction with the screen. Most people place the device next to them while they sit and listen to the guided meditation through the speakers (or headphones). When I recommend meditation as a strategy to increase relaxation before bed, I often suggest that parents use parental controls to prevent children from accessing other apps or games on the device. For example, Apple has a fantastic feature called “Screen Time” that allows you to block certain apps at certain times.

  3. F. Sistine says:

    Do you think one of the appeals of mindfulness is that anyone can do it anytime? The individual gets to pick the time and place and there can be no cost associated.

    • Dr. Shcherbakov says:

      Absolutely! It’s free, easy, and totally portable. I will often meditate for a few minutes before seeing a patient or at the end of a long day. Once you develop the habit, it becomes second nature.

  4. c acent says:

    Regarding mindfulness for kids – as a senior I remember that I practiced mindfulness all the time as a kid, but it didn’t have a name then. It was just what you did outside playing – watching clouds, searching for 4 leaf clover, looking for sea glass, cutting the grass, making snow men etc. – not in the house playing video games or texting. I think that the need for mindfulness for stress would not be as necessary today for adolescents/young adults if it had been encouraged more when they were kids. It seems to me that today’s parents should encourage this practice. Your comments would be appreciated.

    • Dr. Shcherbakov says:

      I mostly agree! I think that many children are inherently more mindful and “present-focused” than we are as adults. I also think that parents try their best to encourage kids to go outside and engage with the world in a real way. However, I don’t think that’s enough anymore. Kids are now exposed to increasingly high levels of anxiety and stress by a world that seems to keep going faster and faster. They are bombarded with more negative information and sensory stimulation than they can handle. We need to teach them how to slow down and be in the present. Indeed, many adults (regardless of their generation) struggle with the same things. Many of us seem to have bought into the idea that being busy is good and being still is lazy.