4 Ways to Cultivate Family Connection
We all benefit when we unplug and connect... practicing these 4 steps is about doing it, not perfecting it.
As the creator of Mindful Play Yoga I am known for my insight, patience and ability to connect with each child by engaging them mindfully through play and yoga. My passion is to share yoga with kids and families by offering them the tools to feel grounded as they grow, balanced, strong, flexible and learn body awareness to self-regulate emotions.
Full disclosure as a parent, I do have times when I feel far from mindful or connected. When I am feeling far from mindful I know it’s time to stop and listen to my breath. We live in a world where everyone including our children are plugged into laptops, phones and often standardized testing preparation and for adults our demanding jobs. The breath is the magical reset that allows all of us to hear more. When we unplug we reset. It’s like a do over. The breath is the magical reset that allows all of us to hear more.
We all benefit when we unplug and connect with our children. Maintaining a healthy family relationship is an ongoing process of unlocking each other by asking thoughtful questions, being present and taking the time to let each other know we matter.
This June our family traveled to Switzerland where both sides of my maternal family come from; great grandmother and great grandfather immigrated from Berne and Zurich. It was a belated BIG birthday gift and we were all excited for our adventure. I had traveled to Switzerland 20 years ago and knew this trip would be very different. The trip became an incredible opportunity to practice mindfulness some of it came with ease and some of it was a working in progress like most of life. The themes began to emerge: walking, water, gratitude and tune in.
Walking is amazing because it connects to something you do each day. Our connection became walking and exploring. When you walk through a city it gives you the opportunity to notice and integrate into your environment. Stop sit listen to your environment and notice your breath it’s a game changer.
Traveling with our 11 year old daughter the buy in for her was to keep her curious. Walking in a new city is an adventure. We all walked more that we usually walk in our daily routine in Jersey City because we were simply happy to explore our new surroundings. When we are able to remain interested it’s incredible to notice how far you are able to walk without complaint. It does wonders for the brain and body.
The Mayo Clinic lists the benefits of walking: maintains a healthy weight, prevent or manage heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, strengthen bones and muscles, improve your mood , improve your balance and coordination.
Before we left I researched, “What To Know When Traveling to Switzerland.”
Top of the list was don’t purchase bottled water in each city are beautiful water fountains supplied with water from the Swiss Alps. Discovering the beautiful water foundations in each city was a treat. The many fountains we saw did not disappoint. Zurich, Switzerland has 1,200 fountains that date back to the Middle ages. They are truly works of art and many are located in the center of the city reminding you to stop and fill up your water bottle.
Benefits of drinking water: increases brain power; our brain is made of 73% water and drinking it supports focus and concentration, promotes healthy weight management, flushes out toxins, improves complexion, maintains regularity (digestion) boost immune system, prevents headaches, regulates body temperature prevents and prevents bad breath.
Most mornings on the trip we had to get up early to be able to explore all we had on our list. Making a point of being grateful for health and the opportunity to explore another day. “Every day is a good day when you can put your two feet on the floor.” This is one of my favorite quotes from my wise grandmother.
Benefits of gratitude: opens the door to more connection, improves psychological health, enhances empathy and reduces aggression, improves self esteem and grateful people sleep better.
Take time alone. When traveling with family it can be challenging to get me time. Traveling from Interlaken to Chur was a 5 hour train journey and I began to realize we all might benefit from creating some physical space. Asked my 11 year old if she would like to spread out and stretch in the seats next to us. She was delighted as she’d spent the past 7 days glued to us. When we share space we need alone time as well to recharge and collect our thoughts. Make time to sit and take in the space around you.
Benefits of me time: it allows you to reboot your brain and unwind, improves concentration and productivity, gives you time to discover your own voice, provides you time to think deeply, helps problem solve and enhances the quality of your relationship with others.
The themes that emerged from the trip; walking, water, gratitude and tune in all can be replicated back in our Jersey City world. It may take a different kind of awareness to cultivate and practice. It begins with the awareness of noticing how we feel in this moment. For me remembering how awesome I felt when I experienced the benefits of our trip. Realizing that I wanted to take these steps and integrate them into my daily life in Jersey City.
Practicing these 4 steps is about doing it, not perfecting it. Doing what is doable and being okay with that. For instance if you only have time for a 10-15 minute walk do it and know a little walking over time equals a lot. Perhaps, consider swapping walking for driving when possible. Especially when we are feeling far from connected or mindful that’s the magical time when we have the opportunity to begin again. Staying curious and remaining open to beginning again, that’s the real practice. May these reflections inspire us all (my hand in the air) to practice even if it’s wonky as we remember it’s a practice not something to perfect.