Essence Boosts for the whole Family: How to Create a Summer of Fun and Renewed Connection.
While the pandemic continues, families still face major challenges. Many people continue to work remotely, and for parents, the summer holidays mean juggling multiple responsibilities with a side order of parental guilt.
At Kyan Foundation, we have created easy essence boost activities to support mindful activities within families in small, meaningful ways, punctuating each day with simple, positive actions that can have a significant impact on the well-being of everyone—inside out.
Kyan means “essence” in Arabic, and we call these 10 practices “essence boosts.” Do any one of these and you are likely to find that they will lift your spirit in an instant.
They’re easy and fun—who doesn’t need all the easy and fun help they can get over the summer holiday?
1. Listen to music, sing along, or recite a favourite poem
Music lifts your spirits in a heartbeat. You don’t have to sing in tune. Just make sure you and your children pick a song you all love—and sing your hearts out. If you’ve been feeling sad or low, you’ll probably find you rapidly feel the effect of this fun boost. According to science, listening to (or singing) a song that has meaning for us triggers the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain.
There’s a kind of alchemy that happens as we sing a song or read out a poem. Pick something that has a special meaning or a child’s favourite nursery rhyme—perhaps it’s already a family favourite.
2. Recall a happy memory
Similar to music and poetry, sharing a treasured memory, perhaps from a family vacation or birthday, is a highly effective, science-backed essence boost. Do it yourself, and get your children to do it too. Using the present tense, describe the scene in vivid detail so you can actually feel the warm sun on your back and the taste of ice cream.
Who was there? What were you experiencing? What were the sensations? Use your senses. Whether it’s a funny or a moving memory, it will feel as though you are right back there. Reliving happy moments and positive experiences (even a delicious meal) is as beneficial as experiencing them in the moment.
3. Give a great, big hug
The power of a warm hug should not be underestimated. If tensions are running high, the children are bored, or just feeling a little low, putting your arms around them will work wonders. That said, if you haven’t seen the children for a few hours (other than a hurried word of instruction) because you are holed up in your home office, surprising them with a hug—and a short quality time—will provide exactly the boost they need.
Group hugs work wonders, making everyone feel warm and secure; they often end up being quite funny too. When you are doing the hugging, be in the moment, and don’t worry about what you need to get done. It’s believed that when we hug, we release oxytocin, which makes us feel better.
Tactile experiences are therapeutic and healing for everyone. The key to successful hugs is to be fully present. Don’t look at your phone or go over your to-do list in your head.
4. Dance like no one’s watching
This essence boost will lift our spirits at any time of the day and bring a smile to everyone’s faces. Put your favourite music on and get the family grooving. Dancing when we get up in the morning will change our mood instantly.
Dancing (and any other movement, such as yoga, stretching, or walking) can mitigate boredom, help you manage stress levels, and boost well-being. Just five minutes of moving the body can reenergize the family. Anything that gets your heart pumping will do the trick. Dance with your child.
5. Explore your senses
This is a great essence boost that can be done absolutely anywhere. Pick a sense (smell, for example) and play a game with your children asking them to play with their five senses. What can they smell, see, touch, hear, and state in the “now”?
It could be anything from flowers, to the wonderful aroma of food in the oven, laundry detergent, or less pleasant odours that will surely make them laugh. This is also a wonderful way to increase children’s (and our own) awareness of their surroundings, and it brings us right into the present moment.
6. Go outside
Staying indoors for long stretches of time during the pandemic has been tough. We all need to go outside, get fresh air, and connect with nature. So step outside as often as you can, wherever you live. If you live in the city, take a brisk walk around the block and ask your children to tell you what they notice: perhaps a colourful flower, a new neighbour, or a flock of birds. Get them to look around: the natural world is everywhere and observing life around us will help us tap into our essence.
That’s what an essence boost is all about. Studies have shown that being out in nature can help reduce stress by lowering our heart rate and making us less tense, while others have found that people feel a stronger connection to each other and their communities after they’ve been out in nature.
7. Express your gratitude
Deceptively simple, this boost is magical in its instant impact. Anytime you and your family members are feeling disappointed because you can’t be doing exactly what you want (a common occurrence during COVID-19) or you can’t have what you think you need, say out loud three things for which you are grateful. It might be as simple as having enough to eat and a roof over your head or even a brand-new toy or a best friend.
Being appreciative and thankful has been categorically proven to make us and those around us feel happier. Regularly expressing gratitude can help reduce anxiety and lower pain (even physically, according to recent studies) as well as helping us to deal with stress more effectively.
8. A random act of kindness
Kindness is a superpower, which is beneficial for both the one who is giving and the one receiving the gesture. Simple but profound, all of us (parents and children) have experienced the sheer delight of helping out or presenting someone with a heartfelt gift. Encourage your child to do an act of kindness. This can be something quick like drawing a picture for a grandparent, making a card, or helping someone with their shopping.
The kind acts can be creative and spontaneous. Research has found that being kind makes us happy, can help to lower blood pressure, and encourages stronger social connections. Interestingly, just as recalling happy memories has a positive impact, there is evidence that recalling acts of kindness we did in the past also makes us feel good over and over again.
9. Tell yourself how great you are
At first, it may seem hard to do this one…and really mean it. But just as we shower those closest to us with affection, we need to give that same level of love to ourselves because we are worth it. Far from being arrogant or self-centered, self-love is healing. Small children do this instinctively; encourage them to keep doing so.
Spend five minutes saying positive words to yourself (affirmations) like, “I love myself, I am amazing, I am my best friend, I am beautiful, I am kind and generous,” and so on. Take this self-love conversation in turns with your children. It might make you laugh, and that’s okay too. By doing this on a regular basis, you will increase your self-esteem and start to believe it if you don’t already.
10. Take time for you
This one is strictly for parents. As a parent, you are the family’s core, so nurturing yourself with “me time” is vital. It could be anything from having a cup of coffee with a delicious snack, taking a brief walk, getting a much-needed massage, buying that treat you’ve been wanting, meditating, or (this one might take a bit longer than five minutes) soaking in a bath with essential oils.
Consider connecting with your partner in person or on the phone and plan romantic time together for later.
What’s important, though, is that you prioritize yourself for a moment. That means taking care of your body and soul in ways that will bring you peace, calm, relaxation, and joy.