Bears are mighty creatures. They are powerful and protective and known for their confidence, strength and courage to stand up for themselves. They are playful and very grounded in nature therefore very connected with everything around them. They hibernate in winter to energise them for the summer, so they know that rest and quiet time is just as important for their well-being as play and connection.
Bears can therefore teach us to value and appreciate the natural world around us, to find a good balance of work, rest and play and to become grounded in who we are, without allowing others to change us.
Technology today is amazing. A wealth of information is readily available at the tips of our fingers, mobile phones and games consoles are readily available to keep kids entertained for hours on end and there is a multitude of TV channels to keep children and family entertained inside. In terms of learning, technology is and amazing tool and children today are smarter than ever. However, there is often an imbalance in the amount of time spent using technology and it can be argued that this has come at the cost of social interaction, inner connection and inner peace?
Both adults and children seem to have so much going on that they are finding it harder and harder to switch off and have some down time. How many people are able to just sit and be still? Are you able to do this?
There is a lot of research being carried out in relation to the effects that technology has on children. Some have claimed that increased screen time and reduced face to face interaction are resulting in children starting to lose more important social skills, such as reading intent and emotions in others, whilst other researchers are debating the impact that technology has on attention and behaviour. There are also growing concerns about children developing ‘video game addictions,’ which result in meltdowns when children are not allowed to play them or asked to come off the games.
The Importance of Nature
Like bear cubs, children love adventure. The beauty of nature is that there is so much scope for exploratory play, which feeds imagination. There is so much to see that can give a sense of awe and wonder and so much to learn about the world and the part that different trees and animals play in our survival. Nature also has a peace and stillness about it, that is passed on to everyone, who spends time in it, removing the need for hurry and escapism. It is a good place to practice mindfulness (see Being Mindful With The Owl and The Benefits of Mindfulness).
According to Mind,
‘Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health
problems including anxiety and depression’
In nature, children are free to be themselves, to play as they want to play, to interact socially with their friends and family members and to let their imaginations run wild and be happy with who they are.
A few simple ideas of things to do in nature can include:
· Getting children to help with the gardening – planting and watering flowers to see how they grow;
· Making a bug house and identifying different bugs
· Exploring woodland or nature reserves to see what animals or insects you can see
· See who can identify the most birds or trees
· Paddle and splash in water
· Explore caves and rock pools at the beach.
You can guarantee that a bit of time in the fresh air will also help your children sleep at night.
Time to still our minds and bodies is so important to our physical and mental well-being. According to the Sleep Foundation:
Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate,
to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.
Sleep also aids memory and helps our brains to process what has been going on throughout the day, which contributes to a healthy mind.
In order to sleep well and get maximum benefits from sleep, we need melatonin and a quiet mind. Screen time stimulates artificial blue filters, which suppresses the ability of our body to produce melatonin, therefore affecting sleep patterns. In order to calm the mind, stimulus needs to be reduced at least half an hour before bed time. A good routine would be bath and a story before bed for younger children, or for older children and teens to read a book, away from screens before bed.
The body and mind can also get some rest from meditation, which slows the heart-rate and calms the mind. This can be particularly beneficial for children in helping them to connect with their emotions, by learning to recognise what they are thinking, how their body is reacting and how to quieten their mind and calm their body. This has the added benefits of improved physical health and increased focus.
Those bears really do have it sussed.
Self-awareness and Identity
Bears like to play and have fun. They are very comfortable in their own skin and confident to be who they are. In my blog ‘Help Your Kids Find Their Tiger Power,’ I spoke about how children can be easily influenced by others, including their peers, all of whom have expectations of how others should behave. It is important for children to like themselves and appreciate themselves for who they are in order to stand up against peer pressure and be confident enough to stay true to themselves.
In order to do this, children need to have a strong sense of identity and self-esteem – knowing and doing the things that they enjoy, regardless of what others think, knowing and acting upon what feels right or wrong to them, wearing what clothes they like etc.
You can help children achieve this by helping them value themselves – offering praise and encouragement, talking to them about the things they enjoy and are proud of, teaching them to win and lose gracefully in the games you play and by teaching them that it’s ok to get things wrong sometimes.
Beary Happy Kids
By learning to love and accept themselves for the wonderful beings they are and by finding a balance of work, rest and play children are less likely to suffer mental health difficulties, such as depression and anxiety. Happy kids are usually well kids.
Llama Meditation is an animal-themed children's meditation course, which develops children's emotional awareness and well being. Find out more about it here:
https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-do-we-need-sleep Accessed 26/04/20