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Q & A with Co-Founder and Teen, Gia Saggar

Question: Can you tell us at what age you started practicing mindfulness and what practices helped you as a child?

Mindfulness was introduced to me by my mom at a very young age.  Going back, my first memory is from around preschool where we practiced belly breathing with a stuffed toy on my tummy.  And as I got  a little older, we would listen and repeat positive affirmations everyday on our drive to school.  At bedtime, we would listen to sleep meditations. Additionally, when I was having a “break down” moment, mom would help me identify my emotions so I could better manage them.  We took a few deep breaths, and found calmness together so we could better manage the situation.  I did not at the time realize this was mindfulness.  But now, I understand more how these simple practices helped me then and now.  Although mom and I both had our off moments, we definitely tried to bring mindful moments into our daily routines.  

Question: How would you explain mindfulness to a child?

Mindfulness simply put is about being right here, right now, in the present moment.  It helps you not worry about the future or become stuck in the past.  Mindfulness allows a time to focus on just you and become connected with yourself.  

Question: What mindful practices would you recommend kids to try?

To start, keep it simple, fun and relatable.  If possible, parents should build a mindful practice of their own as children learn most from example.  I now realize, growing up in a home where meditation and mindfulness were practiced, helped me build a value and appreciation for its benefits. 

 The reason I created Omi & Friendz is because these cuddly stuffed toys introduce kids to awareness of the breath, emotional recognition skills, and positive mindset in a way a child can relate to.  Kids feel comfort in the practice and have something tangible to help them when they need to take a calm down moment.  This tool is something that makes it easy for kids and parents to start a mindful practice in their daily routine.  I would also recommend creating a “calm down” corner that has other resources such as books and positive affirmation cards.

Question: What is it like being a teenager now and having a foundation in mindfulness.

With stress and anxiety on the rise, teenagers like myself can find ourselves overwhelmed with school, extracurriculars, and our social demands.  Mindfulness has given me a foundation needed to help remain grounded and focused.  I personally don't believe you have to take long periods out of your day to practice mindfulness, because honestly if I needed to, I likely would not do it.  Instead simple “microbreaks” help me get through my busy days.  Whether it be 3 focus breaths before an exam, a guided sleep meditation before bedtime, or my personal favorite, taking a mindful moment in my car before entering the house after school.  I sit in my driver seat , take a moment to bring myself to the present moment , count a few slow deep breaths and when possible set intentions or goals.  It doesn't take long, but this brief pause in my day helps me refocus, energize and find the balance I need.  I still do have moments where the demands of life can “get to me”.  But it is during these moments that I use our STOP, BREATHE & RESET method the most.  

STOP: take a moment to just recognize your thoughts and feelings.

BREATHE: take a pause and a few deep breathes to help calm the nervous system.  This allows for a mindful moment which prevents uncontrolled “reactions” vs. having a thoughtful chosen “response”.  

RESET:  move forward with clarity, calmness and a positive mindset. 


Question: Do other teenaged friends of yours practice mindfulness ?

Mindfulness is not something commonly practiced among my peers.  But I do hope with increased awareness on the subject and understanding of its benefits, we will see more kids and adults practicing these simple “microbreaks”.  I think the key is we should introduce young kids to mindful practices. When young, children already begin to form habits.  Mindfulness is a healthy habit and should be introduced into a child's routine as soon as possible.  With this, they can grow and benefit as they get older.  


Question: Why would you encourage parents to introduce mindfulness to their preschool or elementary aged children?

 I strongly believe we should catch kids when they are younger as it's during this developmental phase that they are sponges and open minded.  Just like we introduce ABC’s and 123’s to preschoolers, we should introduce awareness of the breath and other calm down techniques.  With this basic foundation you will begin to see growth. Numbers will turn into algebra, words will turn into essays, and “let's breathe together “ will grow into mindfulness.  


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