The following article is from georgetownbehavioral.com, the website for Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute.
Mindfulness for Teens: The Benefits of Meditation in a Busy World
Posted: April 16, 2018
Many adults may not see it this way, but teens have very stressful lives.
Parents and other adults often don’t recognize the emotional and mental challenges teenagers face on a daily basis.
From trauma and bullying to expectations and responsibilities, teens have to deal with stress coming at them from all angles.
To top it off, teens aren’t quite adults yet. They haven’t learned how to properly manage negative emotions, high-pressure situations, and responsibilities. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an adult who always manages their stress in a healthy way.
That’s why Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day and mindfulness for teens is so important. These mindfulness activities and anxiety exercises for teens can help adolescents stay grounded when everything around them seems spiraling out of control.
The Importance of Mindfulness for Teens
Many people – especially teens – have a tendency to see the world in stark black-and-white terms. Either the world is ending or they’re sitting on top of it – there’s rarely any middle ground for balanced emotions.
People expect they must feel either enthralled, sad, angry, regretful, or any extreme emotion as a response to things that happen in their lives.
This is a problem many people face daily. Over time, this world view often leads to high levels of stress, impulsive behavior, and a lack of connection to reality.
For teens dealing with overwhelming emotions or mental health conditions, the consequences are even more dire.
That’s why mindfulness for teens is so important. It doesn’t teach you to ignore emotions. Instead, it trains the mind to take a step back and process situations and thoughts before deciding how to act.
Mindfulness essentially teaches a person how to respond to situations thoughtfully instead of reacting impulsively. This technique is especially beneficial for teens who often face
Increased responsibilities from school, college applications, and extracurricular activities
High-pressure expectations from parents, teachers, and family members
Emotional break-ups, arguments with friends, and stressful social situations
Emerging symptoms of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders
Benefits of Mindfulness in the Classroom
According to Vanderbilt University, practicing mindfulness in the classroom can offset the effects of chronic distractions from layered responsibilities and in-your-face multimedia like smartphones.
Montclaire University in New Jersey provides a Toolbox for Mindful Practices in the Classroom which are completely free for any educator to employ in their learning environment.
This toolbox for mindfulness in the classroom or “contemplative pedagogy” offers a variety of techniques such as visualization, muscle relaxation, positive affirmations, and journaling to help students become more aware of their thoughts before they become actions.
These tools are very useful to help manage emotions in the classroom and throughout everyday life.
Not only can mindfulness in the classroom help manage thoughts, studies show it can also boost cognitive abilities. In a 2004 study, elementary school students who went through mindfulness training for 24 weeks showed attention improvement.
A 2010 study shows that mindfulness training can also improve classroom behavior by honing student focus and reducing disruptions.
Simple Anxiety Exercises and Mindfulness Activities for Teens
Although traditional meditation is very beneficial for managing stress, it’s not the only form of mindfulness training. In fact, teens (and adults) have many options when it comes to anxiety exercises.
These mindfulness activities for teens can help ground thoughts, center emotions, and encourage thoughtful behavior.
Morning breathing exercises: Spend five minutes each morning and night sitting alone in a quiet place. Have the teen focus on their breathing while slowly taking deep breaths in and out. This helps center thoughts before leaving the home for school and other busy activities.
Grown-up coloring books: These coloring books have intricate patterns that require high levels of focus without being stressful. Adding color to the interesting designs is a soothing activity that encourages teens to finish things they start and concentrate on tasks.
Awareness and gratitude: Sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed. Take deep breaths in and out focusing on the task at hand. After spending about a minute concentrating on your breathing, move your focus to individual feelings and sounds like the feeling of the seat or birds chirping. Try not to attach labels to these experiences – just experience them without reacting. You’ll notice how quickly the mind tries to react and label things. Do this for about 10 minutes