Life is a lot more complicated for teenagers than most adults give them credit for. Many teenagers are balancing schoolwork with part-time jobs, sports, and an active social life. There are plenty of studies out there that have found teenagers are even more stressed out than adults. And it’s a growing problem.
Statistics show that there is a higher percentage of teenagers who experience stress, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts than in the past. There are many different theories on why this is happening but regardless of the reason, it’s important that teenagers learn ways to effectively handle stress and anxiety. One way they can do this is through mindfulness meditation.
What is mindfulness meditation?
You’re probably familiar with the term meditation, but mindfulness is something many aren’t familiar with. When you practice mindfulness you are purposefully filling your mind with something. You are choosing to focus on something. It could be your breathing, a phrase, a body part, or an image. The important part is that what you are focusing on is something that is going to help you relax along with calming your mind and body.
Mindfulness works because it helps you replace your stressful thoughts and anxiety with something positive. For example, if a teenager is stressed out about an upcoming test at school they may be able to think of little else. That means they may lose sleep over it, have a more difficult time studying, and lose enjoyment in other areas of their life.
Their mind is consumed with the anxiety and stress over the test. You can tell them not to think about it, but that’s easier said than done. If they spend some time practicing mindfulness meditation they purposefully choose something calming to think about. Instead of trying “not” to think about something they purposefully think about something, which is much easier to do.
Here’s another example, if I tell you not to think about a big green elephant with a pink polka dot hat, what are you thinking about? A big green elephant with a pink polka dot hat. But, if you decide to think about a red monkey instead, your mind will think about what you are choosing to focus on. The elephant might try to enter your mind, but you continue to think about the monkey which pushes out the thought of the elephant. That’s mindfulness in a sense.
Why Teenagers Should Learn Mindfulness Meditation
While life is already complicated for teenagers, it’s not going to get easier on its own. High school may feel like a challenge, but what follows tends to be more of a challenge. Students either transition to college or the workforce both of which include new environments, social settings, and responsibilities. Learning how to get stress and anxiety under control as a teenager will help set them up to make these transitions into adult life much smoother and easier than continuing on the path they are on.
Benefits of Mindfulness
- Improved sleep habits – Mindfulness can help students put their minds at rest and get a better night’s sleep.
- Improved attention span – Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis can help students improve their attention span. This helps them to pay attention better in class which can lead to improved grades.
- Reduced levels of anxiety – Learning to turn from negative thoughts and stress help students to lower their anxiety levels.
- Lowers the chance of substance abuse – The Addiction Center reports that some teens with anxiety disorder turn to substances like alcohol and drugs in an effort to numb the stress that they are feeling. When they know healthy ways to handle anxiety, stress, and depression it reduces the chance that they will try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
- Helps to regulate emotions – In society, it’s commonly known that teenagers can be more emotional. They are dealing with a new influx of hormones and it can make them feel like they are out of control. When they practice mindfulness they learn how to connect with themselves on a deeper level and gain control of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
How to Teach Your Teen Mindfulness Meditation
There are a few ways to encourage your teen to try practicing mindfulness. The first is to simply talk to them about it and the benefits that it offers. The next is by setting the example. Show them how you use mindfulness meditation in your daily life and talk to them about the impact that it makes on you. If you preach it and don’t practice it, then your teen isn’t likely to practice it either. So, take the time to make this a habit that you incorporate into your daily life. It will set a good example for your teenager and you will experience all the benefits that it offers as well.
You can also encourage them to use an app. Let’s face it, most teens are more likely to get behind something that includes technology. After all, it’s always been a part of their lives. There are plenty of high-quality apps available to help your teenager learn and practice mindfulness meditation. These apps walk them through the process of what to do and give them prompts along the way. While an app isn’t needed to practice mindfulness meditation it can be a great way to get teens to try it and learn the process. They are more likely to try an app than to sit and listen to you lead them through the process.
Don’t Wait for There to Be a Problem
Preventative measures are always better than waiting until there is a problem. Even if you don’t think that your teenager is dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression you should still teach them how to practice mindfulness meditation. Teens are dealing with more than we think they are, and many teens aren’t going to talk to their parents about what they are going through. So, don’t wait until you know there is a problem to teach them this effective tool that can help them navigate through the difficulties they face. And, if you feel that your teen is struggling, reach out to a local therapist.
Mental disorders and drug abuse in teens [blog post]. (2018, November 19). Retrieved from https://www.addictioncenter.com/teenage-drug-abuse/co-occurring-disorders/