You might be hearing a lot about mindfulness these days, and how it’s beneficial in reducing stress and helping you attain a healthy life balance. Some workplaces are now even encouraging it among their staff. It has plenty of benefits for children and teens too. The teenage years can be a particularly stressful time in one’s life, be it school exams, their first relationships, sporting challenges, or peer pressure. Mindfulness can be a fantastic (and free) way to help your child or teen reduce the stress in their life and improve their focus. But what is it all about, and how exactly can it benefit teens? Let’s take a look.
What is mindfulness?
In essence, mindfulness is about awareness and acceptance.
Mindfulness and acceptance
Mindfulness enables us to be more aware of our inner processes and experiences. There are many things we may do by default without paying much attention to the experience of that activity. For example, how many of you have hastily chomped down an apple, literally without a second thought? One example of practising mindfulness would be to pay attention to the experience of actually eating an apple. Perhaps the sound of that first crunch. The soft feeling as your teeth pierces through the apple. Its texture. Try it. Eating an apple mindfully is a very different experience from just gulping one down.
Another example might be when you go for a walk. Do you just keep on going without paying much attention to your surroundings? A mindful walk is a far more tangible experience. Perhaps you might listen and feel the rustle of leaves on the path beneath your feet. You might listen out for bird songs. You might note the different shades of green on different trees and hedges, etc.
Mindfulness and awareness
When we practice mindfulness, we train our minds to accept our thoughts and feelings for what they are. We learn to differentiate thought from action. Just because a weird or troubling thought arises doesn’t mean that we have to worry about it. Mindfulness trains us to accept it for what it is, just a thought. We observe it, acknowledge it, and let it go, the same as we might a passing bird in the sky. We don’t follow that bird; we let it be.
Why should teens practice mindfulness?
There are quite a few benefits for children and teenagers who practice mindfulness. Some of these include:
Mindfulness can be a great way to reduce stress
Mindfulness can also be helpful when it comes to combating anxiety and overwhelming thoughts, helping us to realise that the thoughts are just that, thoughts
Concentration at school/college/work can be improved by mindfulness.
It can increase our sense of empathy.
Some athletes have found mindfulness effective in improving sports performance
Practising mindfulness can help reduce rumination (which can tend to make us feel down).
Our memory and cognitive solving abilities can be improved by practising mindfulness.
Mindfulness can help people with insomnia.
Mindfulness can lower the heart, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. As such, it can be a useful coping mechanism for teens who suffer from panic attacks.
Examples of mindfulness for teens
Be a good example – embrace mindfulness with your child
It can be difficult getting a child or teen to do things at the best times, and as with many areas of life, leading by example can be key. Encouraging your child or teen to practice mindfulness helps if they see you practising it yourself. You could even share it with them and make it a family activity where you all take time (say, 5 minutes) to listen to a mindfulness tape or session.
Technology makes mindfulness for teens more accessible than ever
Generally speaking, today are pretty adept at using and embracing technology, probably more than parents. This can benefit; there’s a range of Mindfulness apps and YouTube videos that they can use and discover at their own pace and in their own time. It could even be the perfect way to pass the bus journey home from school, or for taking a break between school and homework, etc.
Your teen could consider attending a mindfulness class
Local community centres sometimes hold mindfulness classes. An experienced instructor will guide the group through the mindfulness process. While mindfulness might be thought of as a personal experience, it can be enjoyed as part of group meditation. It can even help develop a teen’s sense of empathy and shared experience.
Mindfulness-based CBT may be an option
Therapists sometimes use mindfulness as part of a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) treatment for teens. Therapists will be able to work with the teen and help them handle how to practice mindfulness, perhaps even during a session.
To conclude, by introducing your teen to mindfulness, you’re helping to equip them with a valuable life skill that will be useful in helping them combat stressful and anxiety-ridden situations throughout not just their adolescence but adulthood as well. As mentioned, there are several online resources available these days, along with simple ways they practice every day, even down to simple things such as how they eat. Indeed, accessing mindfulness is arguably now easier than ever. And in a world that never lets up on serving stress, that’s got to be a good thing.