Teens are under more pressure today than in previous generations. This massive increase in stress and anxiety is believed to have caused an increase in teenage attention disorders. Often they believe they’re doing things wrong. That makes it difficult to focus on the present.
Meditation can help. Most teens find it difficult to sit, breathe, and focus on the present. Their world runs at a mile a minute, and they need to keep up. This, more than anything, is why they should give meditation a try.
Starting is easy. Have your teen sit and focus on something in the now, such as their breathing. Their mind, speeding along, will take a bit to calm, but once their thoughts have slowed, they can let go of focusing on their breath and take in what’s around them.
The key is to observe without letting themselves make a judgement. This is especially important when their thoughts inevitably turn inward. These thoughts are to be examined and let go. No mental tangents are allowed. If their train of thought starts running away with them, they’re to go right back to focusing on their breathing and nothing more. It sounds simple, but the actual practice of it will take some time to do reliably.
Clearing the mind and reducing stress are important, but what real importance does meditation have in today’s scientifically-driven society? A lot, as it turns out. Studies show that over time, meditation increases the gray matter density in your brain, helping with memory, empathy, and decision-making. Meditation also dismantles the connections between the medial prefrontal cortex, responsible for your perspective of self, and the amygdala, which is where fear comes from. The brain then reconnects the amygdala to the lateral prefrontal cortex, which is what allows you to see the situation from a rational standpoint. Over time, when your teen becomes afraid or stressed, they stop assuming it’s because of them, and instead can see situations more clearly.
Along with the hard science of meditation, there are also numerous emotional benefits. All of the stress our teens undergo isn’t a light strain. It takes energy and thought to constantly concern themselves with all of their past mistakes and worries for the future. It doesn’t exactly leave space for being aware of the now. By helping our teens learn to stop, clear the mind, and just look at things as they are, we’re not only helping to unload a lot of constant mental weight, but also better management of their emotions.
When it comes to depression, teens’ ability to observe their own thoughts without judgment and recognize emotional triggers gives them more self-understanding. It can help lessen rumination and keep them from getting caught up in a downward spiral.
Meditation also has been proven to help addicts, allowing them to recognize how their addiction has changed the way they think. The prefrontal cortex changes during addiction, reducing effective decision-making. Meditation forces the addict to observe how their mind is doing its best to talk them into indulging in their addiction.
As discussed, the brain changes during meditation. It breaks down connections it finds no longer useful and creates new ones to give a clearer perspective. Over the years, these connections are strengthened. The ability for teens to clear their mind and calm their emotions becomes even easier. Do they need to take a test? Give a speech? There are and will be numerous opportunities for this skill to be useful.
As they continue through life, teens will have a clear perspective of the world and those around them, unaltered by their own toxic thoughts. Instead, they’ll be able to make judgments and connections based on observable data and a strengthened sense of empathy for others. This provides a sense of calm confidence that comes with being in control of one’s self.
The benefits of meditation are many with few, if any, drawbacks. If your teen is struggling, it’d be worth it to give it a try.