What would Quebec society look like if children were taught to practice mindfulness? “I may be a dreamer or an idealist, but I think that would change everything,” replies Dr. Amélie Veilleux, who recently launched the book A House Just for Me – Introducing Your Child to Mindfulness.
“We brush our teeth every day, but why don’t we have an inner home hygiene?” asks, in an interview, the child psychiatrist who is in the front row to see that the effects of the pandemic on the mental health of young people are still being felt.
In today’s society, people live at a frenetic pace, notes the doctor, who admits to having embraced this lifestyle herself for a very long time. “We are under a lot of stress, in a kind of performance pressure. »
“When we are in this mode, it is known in neuroscience, we are more in our sympathetic nervous system, explains the child psychiatrist. At that moment, our brain is thinking, but with blinders on. We do not see. We are focused on the goal. When we meditate, we relax, we fall into our parasympathetic system. There, it is as if the blinders are removed and we have a broader perspective. »
A regular practice of mindfulness also leads to better regulation of emotions and less anxiety, numerous studies have proven.
During their life, everyone has to face hardships, notes the child psychiatrist. In his eyes, mindfulness is a tool that can allow those who use it “to not feel caught up in crises and to be able to take a step back to put things into perspective”. “If people were able to self-accompaniment like that, it would certainly change society,” believes Dr. Amélie Veilleux.
Mindfulness is taking the time to stop, to breathe, to be in the moment, to welcome the emotions: the formula seems so simple, almost magical. Is it too good to be true?
“In fact, it’s true that we have to qualify,” replies Dr. Amélie Veilleux. It’s not magic. It’s not going to solve all the problems at once. I think you have to try it and give yourself some time. »
Although she has read a host of studies that demonstrate the benefits of this practice, the doctor admits that she herself was skeptical when she began to introduce it into her life. “I can’t say it was love at first sight. Really, really not. It was hard,” she says, noting that her thoughts were racing and she couldn’t clear her mind.
“It’s really with perseverance, remembering why I was doing it and what were the benefits that could come from it, that encouraged me to continue,” says the child psychiatrist.
With her book, she wants to support parents, whether or not they are used to meditating, so that they are able to introduce their children to mindfulness. To each of the concepts covered are added short stories for children aged 5 and over as well as meditative audio adventures.
In a colorful way, Dr. Amélie Veilleux (alias Dr. A) explains in particular that slow and deep breathing allows you to enter your inner house. His rooms are sometimes filled with little visitors (emotions), whom we must warmly welcome if we don’t want them to make a mess. There is also a radio (thoughts) that plays constantly and that we must learn to tame.
Gifted at popularizing information through metaphors and images, Dr. Amélie Veilleux could have written a book aimed directly at children. Why didn’t she choose this path?
“I see him in my office. When I want to pass something on to the child, I have to include the parent. He needs to know and work with me. […] For me, it didn’t make sense to write a book just for children,” she explains.
To families who would like to learn about mindfulness, she reminds that it is a process that takes time, but which, in her eyes, is worth it. “It’s like when you go to the gym and do strength training. Even if it is more difficult one day, we know that it has an impact on the construction of our muscles in the long term. It’s the same every time you come back to the present moment. We are in the process of strengthening our attentional focus. We bring our nervous system back into balance and it does it more easily on its own afterwards,” she says.