Becoming a parent is a time of immense change when you’re likely to face difficult emotions of stress, anxiety and mood changes.
Everyone can feel overwhelmed in the early stages of parenting and wonder how they can stay calm and connect to their partner and baby.
Research shows that mindfulness, which is a broad term for bringing our attention to the present moment in an open and non-judgmental way, supports new parents and provides them the skills to handle the stress and anxiety about becoming a new parent.
What is mindfulness and why does it work?
Mindfulness is a way of being that allows us to engage more fully with our life, bringing us less stress and more happiness.
The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness – or acting on autopilot and letting your thoughts and emotions drive your decisions and actions.
Mindfulness works because it allows us to step out of our autopilot mode, and get in the driver’s seat. So instead of reacting, thinking in circles or repeating old habits, we are able to respond to the events in life with greater empowerment, choice, and ultimately, be more aligned with the kind of person and parent we’d like to be.
What are the benefits for you and your child?
By practicing mindfulness, parents are calmer and more connected to their partner and baby; and also more likely to raise resilient children who are better placed to manage their emotions and get along with others.
Mindfulness skills are also helpful as a tool in the prevention and management of mental health conditions, such as clinical anxiety and postnatal depression.
By being more aware of the situation you are in as a parent, you are more likely to fully experience the journey of parenting, accept the things you can’t control, and be better placed to embrace all the hard, messy and lovely parts of it with an open mind.
How can you be more mindful?
We can all build our ability to be mindful. Regularly doing mindfulness meditation exercises is an effective way to do this; and helps you to be able to be more mindful in the real, everyday moments of your life. Over time, this can allow us to be less stressed, less reactive, and more focused and connected with others.
Apart from regulating our own emotions and reactions, mindfulness allows us to be more attuned and sensitive to our children.
When we’re spending time with our children, we should aim to be present, putting away our devices and really listening to what they’re communicating. This reinforces the message that you’re there for them, responsive to their needs, and having a shared experience.
Will mindfulness make you a better parent?
When practiced regularly, mindfulness may make you more patient and engaged, less stressed and happier. Mindfulness also helps with managing the complex emotions of guilt and shame that can be triggered during parenthood, by building awareness and self-compassion.
When parents build skills of mindfulness, they still experience negative feelings like frustration, disappointment, fear or irritability, but mindfulness allows them to be less swayed by these emotions and recover from them more quickly.
This can free parents up to be more present, responsive and available to their children.
– this article was written by beyondblue
Beyondblue and Smiling Mind have developed Mind the Bump – an app to help manage stress in both the ante and postnatal period featuring Mindfulness Meditation tailored to both men and women. Available in the App Store or Google Play. Visit www.mindthebump.org.au for more information.
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