Is calm breathing just meditation?
Meditation and calm breathing – these terms get thrown around interchangeably at times and often get confused. You’ll sometimes hear the term breathwork too. While they have some overlapping aspects and overlapping benefits, they do differ in many ways.
Today we’re going to have a look at some of the key differences.
What is meditation?
Meditation can be a fantastic practice for your whole family to help create a sense of calm, gratitude and presence – where we connect with the present moment. It can be a great place to start to build an ‘observing mind’ – to make our little people aware of what is going on around them, what is happening inside them and to approach this with curiosity.
What is calm breathing or breathwork?
We delve much deeper into this in our pieces on Calm breathing with your kids and The science behind calm breathing but in short calm breathing is an internal physical and psychological regulator. This action signals to your brain that you are safe and that it needn’t go into, or can ease its way out of its instinctive fight, flight or freeze mode.
Meditation vs Calm breathing. What's the difference?
Passive vs active
Put simply – meditation by focusing on observing the breath is passive. Whereas calm breathing is active alteration of the pace of the breath.
While meditation is highly beneficial for adults and kids alike, it is hard for us and our kids to sit still, be quiet and the attempt to pay attention without being active. It takes a lot of practice. Often, this can make us feel more frustrated and trapped in our thoughts, and so we give up.
In comparison, grasping the concept of calm breathing and the action itself can be short. It’s also active – we need to change and focus how we breathe. We can do this through counting our inhalations or exhalations, through watching a toy rise and fall on our belly or by using Brave and Able. There’s plenty more ideas in our guide on Calm breathing with your kids!
Instant vs long term
Secondly, calm breathing can be done anywhere, anytime, quickly and adaptively. Whereas meditation requires more strict, regular practice and discipline. It can also require a dedicated time and space.
This can mean that meditation is more of a preventative, long term strategy, improving our general emotional wellbeing, as opposed to being a quick, in the moment coping mechanism. Calm breathing can be done in the moment, at any time and can have instant physiological and psychological benefits.
Escape vs connection
Meditation is often used to disconnect – to escape from life and a way to disengage from activities, habits, thinking and events by observing as opposed to participating. It’s a great way to just STOP from all the busyness in the world.
Calm breathing on the other hand, while a break, and hopefully an ‘escape’, is more about connecting to the body. It allows us to actively take some control of a moment and of our body by breathing.
The benefits of practicing meditation with your kids
For adults and kids alike, meditation has lots of great benefits:
- It can shift us from inward thinking to outward thinking.
- It offers a regular habit of ‘calm’.
- It improves stress management, concentration emotional regulation, concentration attention and mental health.
- It enhances empathy and communication.
- It enhances self-awareness.
Tips to introduce meditation to your child
If you want to introduce meditation to your child, there are a few things to help and to keep in mind
- Keep it age appropriate and relatable. Choose scripts/tracks that use age appropriate language and topics and metaphors your kids will enjoy.
- Be realistic with your expectations. meditating its hard work and takes practice. Be realistic in what you expect – even one minute of meditation is great for our kids to start with.
- KIS – keep it simple! Don’t try and overcomplicate it, start with the simple act of observation.
- Try to build meditation skills via mindfulness. Practice observing things like colours, nature walks and 5 things (5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste).
- Do it together. Make it something as a family you try and create a regular practice around. Modelling is one of the best ways to encourage practicing meditating and the benefits.
- Debrief after you practice. Chat about it. Ask them how they felt, allowing space for emotions such as frustration and boredom, and where their mind went. This will help you in supporting them to find relatable and appropriate scripts.
- If you are doing meditation with calm breathing – following the meditation (and observing the breath), use one of the calm breathing exercises to add in the active element of practicing calm breathing.
Meditation scripts for kids and families
There are some great resources that offer meditation scripts via track and via script –
- SADA Meditations - https://open.spotify.com/album/1NVDzs84eH4rVWIs9ORFFD
To wrap it up
Calm breathing and meditation are both helpful ‘tools’ to have in your, and your child’s tool kit in regulating and managing emotions. However, there are some key differences. Primarily, calm breathing is an active, fast activity in the moment; Meditation is more passive, longer and preventative.
We can do calm breathing and meditation at the same time – we can observe our breath, and then we can change and manipulate it with deep, slow breaths.
Be sure to follow Brave and Able on social media for additional tips, tricks and knowledge.
Written by Dr Lauren Moulds, Principal Psychologist, Big Little Steps Psychology with Brave and Able.