Milo is Scope’s Film and Media officer and has seen first hand the massive benefits practicing mindfulness can have. In this blog he looks at his own childhood struggles and how he thinks practising mindfulness may have helped him growing up.
As a child my mind was a noisy place.
Sometimes I was treated badly by other kids because I would cry a lot of the time or would behave in ways they saw as strange. I just never seemed to develop that thick skin or the ability to fit in.
At secondary school I made a conscious decision (in hindsight a very bad decision) to put my sensitivity to rest. I started playing the part of the ‘confident cool kid’. It came as a total shock to me that people believed this facade at first, but they did!
I built up an external identity, patched together out of all the things I wanted to be and all the things I thought other people liked. I thought I was a pretty cool teenager. Fast forward eight years however, and cracks started to appear in this makeshift armor.
As it turned out the eureka solution of my adolescence wasn’t a suit of armor, it was a cage. University and immense social pressure exposed this. I tried various things to remedy my feelings of isolation and anxiety to no avail, and experienced several years in a dark place. It wasn’t until a particularly dark patch that I was given a book on mindfulness.
Building my resilience with mindfulness
It’s is not about doing yoga, going vegan or becoming ‘enlightened’. In fact, it couldn’t be more simple. Anyone can do it, anywhere, anytime – it’s just about directing your whole attention to the present moment.
Focusing on the ‘here and now’ can be an amazingly effective way of combating stress and anxiety. In these agitated states the brain tends to run away with itself, obsessing over the past or worrying about the future. When we devote ourselves to the present, whether it’s eating a tasty meal, feeling the way our limbs move or just sitting and listening to all the sounds around us, we give our brain a break and unload a little bit of stress each time.
It’s a cumulative process and the longer you practise mindfulness, even just a few minutes a day, the stronger your resilience and your ability to navigate stressful situations that might have overwhelmed you before. Don’t get me wrong, stress and anxiety aren’t a huge issue in moderation. Most of us however will experience far more stress than is useful because of the pressures of our lives. Mindfulness won’t teach you to never feel stress, but, by being present moment to moment, we can start to recognize and then unlearn our negative thought patterns.
Though I’ve now developed ways to increase my resilience, life is still sometimes a struggle. However committed I am to engaging mindfully with the world, I still swim against old habits. But, the regular practise of mindfulness, my safety net, means I have richer relationships with the people around me and I have never felt stronger and more true to who I am.
Knowing the progress I have made within just a few years, I can only begin to imagine how much greater these benefits would be if they had been part of my early education. The younger you are the fewer bad habits you have, to ‘unlearn’, the more wholeheartedly you can embrace mindfulness and the lighter the burden of life. I know that if I’d started practising mindfulness as a child my resilience would have deep foundations and my self-belief would be indestructible. Instead I’m a bit like someone who learnt to swim as an adult. Sure I can stay afloat, but I’ll never be a mermaid.
So resilience, I’ve worked out, is pretty important. Scope have years of experience supporting disabled people and their families build resilience in their lives. Whether as a parent, at the point of their disabled child’s diagnosis, or as a young disabled person, having the right tools to gain independence. Scope think it’s so important in fact, that resilience is a headline in their new five year strategy.
And that’s why Scope have launched Mindful Monsters, which is a fun, new way for all parents to develop resilience and kindness in their children, whilst supporting disabled people and their families through a monthly donation.
Families receive a set of activity cards to their door each month, giving their children important life skills, while spending quality time together. There are four themes to explore: relaxation, creativity, positivity and concentration. Fun, quick, easy, and as Mindful Monsters is inspired by mindfulness, the activities come with all its brilliant benefits.
I’m really excited about Scope’s Mindful Monsters and how it can help children build resilience into their lives, it’s exactly what a younger me needed!