Cynthia Ruiz taught at large public high schools in North and Central Texas for 14 years. She was a 10th grade lead teacher and served on several district committees. After studying mindfulness communication with MindfulSchools.org, she began to notice a positive shift in her overall productivity and mindset, and was able to cultivate even stronger relationships with both teachers and students. She led professional development sessions for school staff on how to incorporate mindfulness in the classroom and taught daily exercises to students.
After earning her 200 hour Yoga Teacher certification, Cynthia left the classroom to focus on her consultation practice, helping others improve communication and outlook in the workplace. For those in education, Cynthia is available to lead district or campus professional development sessions centered around mindfulness and/or can visit your classroom as a guest speaker. Her mindful communication coaching is great for professionals working in high growth, high stress companies. To learn more about mindfulness or Cynthia’s mindful coaching programs, follow her on Instagram or visit her website.
The Daily Grind
If you have a teen, chances are your daily life involves a lot of planning: Drop off/pick up times for school, extracurricular activities, homework time, meal time…sound familiar? The busyness of our daily schedules can make it easy to focus on to-do lists, and consequently, we might end the day feeling like we haven’t actually done anything together. Try these 5 simple mindfulness exercises to feel more present, practice gratitude, and connect more intentionally with those you care about most.
1- Practice being present by taking a mindful walk together, inside or outside.
Keep your phone on silent and place it in your pocket or bag; even better, leave it at home! As you walk together, try finding colors of the rainbow and notice if you find the same color again and again. For an extra challenge, pay attention to the sounds you hear as you’re walking and label them together (birds singing, cars honking, etc.). Finally, discuss how you feel before and after your device-free walk. Do you feel more connected on your mindful walk or did you feel distracted?
2- Practice loving kindness and gratitude by sending someone special a “Just because I appreciate you” note.
Consider sending a note to someone outside of the family. Then, talk with each other about why you chose this person. Use construction paper or printer paper, markers, magazines, scissors and glue to create an original card with a hand-written note telling your chosen person why you appreciate them. Notice how you feel before, during, and after making your note for your special person.
For a deeper practice, try sending loving kindness or metta before or after you write the note. To practice loving kindness, find a comfortable seat and close or soften your eyes. Next, say the person’s name quietly to yourself. Then, as you think of this person, repeat these wishes for them: I wish for you to be happy. I wish for you to be healthy. I wish for you to have joy in your life. Notice how it feels to send them these wishes.
3- Practice presence and loving kindness by picking a color together at the beginning of the day.
The color can be simple like blue or red, or it can be more specific like turquoise or fuchsia. To practice being more present, notice where you see the color in each environment you’re in throughout your day and think of each other when you see it, sending at least one loving kindness wish to the other person.
As you go through your day, look for unique objects in the color you’ve chosen and snap a photo. For instance, if you see a flower or nice car in the shade of green you decided on, take a picture and share it with each other at the end of the day. Discuss where you saw the color and how it felt to use a color as a reminder to practice loving kindness. In closing, share if noticing a color was too distracting or if it helped you feel more present and connected to one another.
4– Practice gratitude and self-compassion by playing a “Gratitude Game” together.
Take turns rolling a die. If a person rolls a 1-5, they must share 1-5 things they’re grateful for and 1-5 things they did well that day. If the die lands on a 6, the person sharing can split their responses into 3 things they’re grateful for and 3 things they did well that day, or they can choose to share 6 of each.
Players don’t need to explain every detail they’re grateful for; it’s okay to keep it short and sweet. Furthermore, your gratitude list can be as lighthearted as saying you’re grateful for your favorite snack or more meaningful like you’re grateful for the ability to walk. The same goes for sharing what you did well that day. For example, it can be anything from “I woke up on time” to “I listened to my friend without interrupting.”
Challenge each player to roll the die at least 3 times and share different things during each turn. Notice if what you’re grateful for is similar or different and discuss how it feels to practice being grateful together. Finally, talk about what it’s like to recognize your successes, no matter how big or small they may seem.
5- Practice responding to mistakes by beginning again.
This practice focuses on recognizing that happen mistakes happen. More importantly, the ability to begin again teaches resilience and compassion for yourself and for others.
For this practice, you will count to 3 together using a back and forth method of counting. First, sit or stand facing one another. Decide who will speak first and who will speak second. The first person says “One”, then the second person says “Two.” The first person says, “Three.” Continue this back and forth method of counting “together” as many times as you can without “messing up”. Notice if it feels easy or difficult to count together in this way. Play with increasing the speed of counting together. As you play, notice your feelings. Does any frustration, embarrassment, awkwardness, etc. bubble up? Discuss what it feels like to mess up and then, and most importantly, begin again.
For an added challenge, have both people close their eyes as they practice. Notice if paying attention only to the other person’s voice increases your awareness or distracts you. Additionally, you can add movement and use “clap-snap-stomp” or “A-B-C” or “red-yellow-green” instead of “1-2-3”. Remember the purpose of this practice is not to teach coordination, counting, or saying the alphabet. .
Go Have Fun!
Each practice asks you to notice how you feel because labeling your emotions or sensations as you experience them is an easy way to practice mindfulness. Above all, mindfulness is simply giving your focused attention to the details of the present moment, instead of thinking about the past or the future. However, practicing presence is a challenge because our minds naturally wander. Be kind to yourself as you figure out what mindfulness practices work best for you and your teen, and remember to have fun! To learn more about bringing mindfulness to your family, follow Cynthia on Instagram or visit her website!