Mindfulness is something many of us strive for in our adult lives. You know, taking time for what matters and being attentive and present. And harnessing tools that allow us to de-stress, relax, and ease anxiety. Practicing these things isn't always easy, but it's so important to our social and emotional well-being. Part of the reason that maintaining mindfulness is challenging is probably because you haven't always prioritized it, consciously at least. The mindfulness movement has only gained traction over the last couple of years. But can you imagine how much easier it could be if you grew up practicing mindfulness — if you were given the tools from a young age to calm down, focus, and move forward? Well, the Mind Yeti app is doing just that for kids.
The app stemmed from New Mission Ventures' research on mindfulness and children in the classroom. It includes guided meditation sessions to help children with things like focusing on schoolwork, getting along with peers through practicing gratitude and empathy, and even settling in for bed. The app is currently used by over 500,000 parents, teachers and children across the country and is making a big difference for kids in and out of school.
We got the scoop on Mind Yeti from Mia Doces, who led development of the app as the director of New Mission Ventures. Here's what she had to say about why Mind Yeti is so important for families, future goals for the app, and why mindfulness is such a vital skill for kids.
Livingly: Could you tell us a little about New Mission Ventures and Mind Yeti?
Mia Doces: New Mission Ventures is the “innovation lab” established by the non-profit Committee for Children. CfC is the global leader in social and emotional learning curriculum, with programs reaching more than 11 million children each year. Mind Yeti is one of the projects to come out of the lab. It’s a result of months of research into how we might help parents, educators, healthcare professionals and anyone who works with children bring calm, focus and connectedness into their lives. As an educator and a parent, I’ve spent years studying the benefits of social and emotional skill building and I’m passionate about creating tools to help others develop social and emotional competencies with the children in their lives.
Why is mindfulness important for children and what is the difference between best practices for children and adults?
Mindfulness education is a foundation for building children’s social and emotional competence and resilience. It helps them develop the skills needed for long term success through an embodied practice of being present, calm and focused. You can start using Mind Yeti as young as four years of age. For children, we’ve created mindfulness sessions that are shorter than adults might do and the sessions have sounds and imagery that are interesting and relevant to kids’ lives.
Many parents and educators come to Mind Yeti because it is so effective at helping them solve a problem in key moments—getting their kids to sleep, helping kids get ready to focus on schoolwork, as an alternative to time out when they have problems with siblings or other kids. But the magic happens when adults realize that Mind Yeti has a way to help them build habits around social and emotional skill development that will stay with children throughout a lifetime, giving them the skills to be resilient and focused.
Could you share your favorite stories from a Mind Yeti user?
Oh my gosh, there are so many! We regularly receive mail from parents and educators letting us know what a difference Mind Yeti has made in their homes and classrooms. I remember the teacher who worked with non-verbal autistic children who told us that it was the one time of the day that the teachers and the kids got to experience calm together and connect in a way that they didn’t ordinarily get to do given the difficulty of their work. There was the mother who wrote to us about her daughter’s anxiety that was so severe that she was having meltdowns every day until she tried Mind Yeti. There are so many.
What are your goals for Mind Yeti?
We want Mind Yeti to be the go-to tool that children and the adults who care for them use to practice mindfulness and build skills. We will continue to iterate on the app, responding to our users’ needs and the research on what works for kids. We want to extend the use of the app well beyond the classroom to help parents, counselors, coaches, pediatricians, social workers and anyone who cares for children reinforce the habit of being present, calm, focused and connected to themselves and the world around them.
Outside of the app, what do you think are some other important ways parents can teach their children mindfulness?
The app uses language kids understand to explain complicated concepts to young children. For example, we call thoughts, feelings and sensations “Hubbubbles,” and the feeling of being overwhelmed by one or all of those things “the Hubbubb.” Parents can use that imagery and those metaphors outside of the app to help coach and cue their children in key moments. For example, if they notice their child is upset they might ask, “Do you have a sticky Hubbubble right now?” and kids can use one of the breathing strategies they’ve practiced.
What are three things that have gotten you to where you are today?
1) An amazing team that works tirelessly every day to make a product that improves the lives of children and their adults.
2) Incredible personal relationships—very supportive family and friends.
3) An obsession for making a difference in the lives of children and their families.
What do you do to stay mindful in your own life?
Lately I’ve been focusing on gratitude, making sure to notice even the small blessings I experience every day. I live in a very beautiful part of the country and I try to notice and appreciate that many times throughout the day. The fall colors the past few weeks have been breathtaking.
What is the best part of your day?
I love mornings, especially Monday mornings. I love the anticipation of what awesome thing might happen each day. It’s not so much that something amazing actually happens each day, it’s just the possibility that something might that gives me a big boost.
At Livingly, our motto is Live Life Beautifully. What does living beautifully mean to you?
Living Life Beautifully to me means:
1. Being present in the moment
2. Bringing my best self to my work and my relationships
3. Feeling grateful for the beauty in life’s cracks and imperfections
4. Having compassion for others and being ok with extending that compassion to myself
Having said that, it’s a work in progress. It would be disingenuous to say that I succeed at these things on a daily basis. However, I continue to work on it.