Teenagers can use mindfulness practices to help reduce anxiety and stress and become more present in school, with friends, or at home.

People of all ages may benefit from practicing mindfulness, even teenagers.

Teens deal with pressure from school and work, drama among friends, and stress from everyday life. Many teens also live with mental health conditions, like anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

And teen mental health challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to 2021 data, more than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.

To cope with stress, anxiety, and more, teens may use mindfulness practices to manage their symptoms. Anyone can experience the benefits of mindfulness — whether you’re just beginning or you’ve been practicing for years.

With an emphasis on present moment awareness of the present moment without judgment, mindfulness can help teenagers manage the stress of school, relationships with peers and family members, and other life stressors.

Mindfulness may be practiced alone or in a group, depending on your teen’s preference.

According to Michelle Hunt, LMHC, a New York-based therapist, the benefits of mindfulness may include:

  • less distress
  • decreased impulsivity
  • increased awareness of self, emotions, and behaviors
  • improved emotion regulation

According to a 2019 study, mindfulness-based interventions can also help to treat or reduce symptoms of:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • ADHD
  • disordered eating (e.g., binge eating and restrictive eating disorders)
  • chronic pain and illness
  • sleep issues
  • stress related to playing competitive sports

In addition, a 2017 study suggests that mindfulness training can cause significant increases in students’ life satisfaction and significant decreases in depression and anxiety. The study also found mindfulness may decrease sleep issues and alcohol consequences.

But some teens may experience challenges while practicing mindfulness, especially those who are neurodiverse.

Hunt notes that mindfulness may not be effective for teens with ADHD due to speed of thought and executive dysfunction. Teens with ADHD may also have a hard time paying attention or sitting still long enough to meditate if they live with symptoms of hyperactivity.

In these cases, Hunt says that it may be more helpful to use co- or self-regulation techniques. It may also be helpful to build and strengthen executive functioning skills.

“For neurotypical teenagers, mindfulness may be more effective for decreasing distress due to the ability to switch tasks, focus, and be more aware of thought patterns,” Hunt says.

No matter your ability, Hunt says that a little bit of mindfulness can still go a long way.

“You don’t have to do mindfulness for longer than one minute if it’s hard,” she adds. “Engaging for 1 minute is more productive than not engaging.”

If you’re interested in teaching mindfulness to a child or teen, consider the following to help you get started:

Make it personal

According to Hunt, an approach to mindfulness may vary based on an individual’s needs. Depending on your teen’s needs, you can share mindfulness learning resources for practicing and learning mindfulness:

Ask what helps them feel connected

Does your child prefer to focus on their body or emotions? Everyone has different needs and interests, so each teen might prefer one style of mindfulness over the other.

“The hope is to build confidence in being in the moment, so it’s better to begin with the least distressing [option],” says Hunt.

For children who’ve experienced trauma, a trauma-informed mindfulness practice may be an appropriate place to start.

Allow them to find their rhythm

If a teenager is telling you they can’t do mindfulness, Hunt encourages you to ask them what feels hard and what they think their barriers are.

“This can help with meeting them where they are instead of forcing an agenda,” she says.

Practice mindfulness together

Whether your teen is having a tough time or not, remember that mindfulness can be done together.

“Sometimes with it being such an abstract skill, being able to be with someone can help with the grounding aspect to be able to engage more,” Hunt says.

Whether you’re a teenager who lives with ADHD or you’re a meditation beginner, there are plenty of ways to start engaging in mindfulness.

Consider clicking through these resources full of helpful mindfulness activities for teens to try:

  1. deep breathing
  2. the “5-4-3-2-1” exercise
  3. grounding exercises
  4. journaling
  5. guided meditation
  6. affirmations or mantras
  7. mindfulness apps (like Headspace or Calm for teens)

You might also seek out a therapist who works with teens and specializes in mindfulness.

Practicing mindfulness may benefit people during all stages of life, including teenagers.

Mindfulness exercises may help teens manage mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, or reduce stress from school, friendships, and more.

Whether your teen keeps a gratitude journal or listens to a guided meditation once a week, there are many ways to practice mindfulness and reap the benefits.

If you or your teen would like more support for practicing mindfulness to improve your mental well-being, you may wish to connect with a mental health professional.