In a study published by Forbes in July 2018, it is reported that approximately 32% of teens today have an anxiety disorder and/or regular depressive episodes – and this percentage is climbing.
The University of Washington School of Public Health reports that, guided by an experienced instructor, mindfulness programs for teens can be considered a helpful tool in state public health intervention and even be incorporated into existing school and community programs.
Some of the most recent research reports that there is evidence on how mindfulness can benefit adolescent cognitive performance and emotional regulation. As depression and suicide rates rise among the teenage population, researchers and practitioners alike are exploring how daily meditation practice can reduce stress and the feeling of overwhelming anxiety.
Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute states that mindfulness activities and anxiety exercises can help teens ‘stay grounded when everything around them seems to be spiraling out of control’.
Mindfulness teaches a person to train the mind to step back and process situations before acting or responding. This means teenagers, who often don’t feel in control of their surroundings, can learn to respond thoughtfully instead of reacting impulsively. Teenagers are still working on managing emotions, stress and their ever-changing social and emotional worlds. Expecting them to inherently know how to process stress and ‘noise’ during their development is not a positive expectation during this developmental stage of life.
So, what can we, as parents, caregivers and leaders do to help our teens achieve mindfulness, awareness and thoughtful behavior? To start, we can lead by example and provide our teens with the tools he/she needs to develop their own practice. Some proven activities include:
– Guided Breathing: bring your teen to a guided meditation session or simply spend 5 minutes helping your teen focus on their breathing and centering their thoughts before or after school (or other activities)
– Grown-up Coloring Books: with intricate patterns that require focusing (without inducing stress) this activity helps teens focus and concentrate
– Practice Gratitude: guiding your teen through examples of exercises in gratitude is a wonderful way to segue from breath awareness to emotional awareness. Simply focusing on sounds or experiences your teen finds soothing and peaceful can bring forth feelings of happiness and gratitude without the pressure of ‘labeling’ emotions
Researchers have been singing the praises of teenage meditation for decades. With the introduction of more and more technology, scholastic and social pressures, and just the overall increase to the pace of daily life, it seems more important now than ever to spend time helping teens learn the power of breathing, quieting the mind, and finding peace.