“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experiences.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness is a state of mind where individuals have moment-to-moment awareness of their thoughts, body sensations, and surroundings in a non-judgemental manner (1) (2). Teaching mindfulness to teens is essential in this competitive and stressful world. It can help them develop tolerance, stability, and the needed composure to manage their stress better.
Meditation, tai chi, and yoga have gained popularity in helping teens develop mindfulness and can be introduced to them from a young age. This post discusses the benefits of mindfulness for teens and strategies that can help your teen be mindful.
How Does Mindfulness Work?
Mindfulness trains oneself to evaluate their thoughts and actions in a given situation calmly. Although this analytical ability comes naturally to some, others can develop it with persistent practice. Regularly practicing mindfulness brings calmness and positivity.
A mindful individual is more focused, attentive, and non-judgmental. These are vital attributes to perceive, understand, and act on a situation wisely. Additionally, it keeps frustration, anxiety, stress, and other negative thoughts under rational check. It ultimately helps maintain optimum mental and physical health.
Possible Benefits Of Mindfulness For Teens
- Reduced rumination gives an individual better control over their mind. It helps them combat negative thoughts and channelize their energies towards positive actions. Teens need to combat rumination to keep their minds focused.
- Improved attention, concentration, and focus due to reduced distraction equip an individual with clarity and rationality even in the toughest of situations. These attributes are helpful for children and teens to excel academically and personally.
- Enhanced cognitive flexibility allowing the individual to self-observe and self-analyze, primarily based on past experiences. Doing so imparts mental clarity, objectivity, and stability to teens. Besides, it helps develop patience and reduce impulsivity.
- Improved working memory equipping the individual to reason the situation or circumstances and act rationally. The reasoning is core to unbiased decision-making, which molds a person’s overall personality. It also inhibits impulsivity and develops eloquent communication skills vital for maintaining healthy relationships.
- Increased compassion and kindness towards self and others to understand a situation in an unbiased, non-judgemental way. A teen who understands and empathizes with others fits into every situation and adjusts to every situation with relative ease. This ease brings inner harmony vital to control unnecessary emotions, thoughts, and feelings that tend to cause stress and anxiety.
- Increased contentment in life due to better self-control and affect tolerance. These qualities help teens have lesser emotional influxes, raising positivity. A positive and optimistic teen tends to focus on the good rather than the bad, allowing them to enjoy their lives. Such teens also help others fight stress and are an asset to society in general.
Besides these benefits, mindfulness in teens could have several positive physical effects, such as better regulation of physical pain and reduced risk of chronic illness (4).
Tips To Teach Mindfulness To Teenagers
You can introduce mindfulness to your teen by practicing it yourselves. Here are some steps that you and your teen can take to learn and practice mindfulness.
- Set the right example by practicing mindfulness yourself in tough situations. Your serene demeanor, patience, and attention will project the benefits of mindfulness to your teenager. They will learn how these attributes help you deal with the toughest situations with relative ease without compromising one’s health and well-being.
- Talk to your teen and discuss their stresses. Lending them an ear will help them open up to you, improving the bond you share. It will help them understand their perceptions better and make it easier to manage stress. You can also encourage them to focus on positive outcomes rather than becoming obsessed over several possibilities.
- Train them to self-analyze their stresses. Ask them to take a deep breath and question themselves about what is happening in reality and whether that situation warrants being stressed. Children and teens often develop fear, anxieties, and undue stress over things that only exist in mind and not in reality. Therefore, remind them that thoughts are not facts.
- Guide to focus on the positive and good. It will help cease excessive rumination and boost mental strength. Teach your child or teen to focus on positives by asking them to recollect and write all the good they remember in a gratitude journal. Practice this activity regularly to train the brain to focus on positive and hopeful scenarios, even in the worst of situations.
- Show them ways to practice self-care and self-love. Doing so helps realize one’s strengths, necessary to modulate behavior constructively. Teens can hug themselves, read out positive affirmations in front of the mirror, or read a positive story or book to divert their negative thoughts and realign themselves positively.
- Make them aware that emotions change moment-by-moment. Knowing and accepting this fact makes it easy for a teen to self-regulate emotions and develop affect tolerance. Encourage your teen to graph their emotional experiences to check the sentiments that linger for too long. It can also highlight how quickly a feeling comes and goes, and whether it is intermittent or continuous.
- Teach them gentle breathing techniques. Practicing guided breathing exercises for five minutes a day can lower heart rate and calm the body and the mind. A calm mind is an ideal place to instill positive thoughts, to fight negative emotions, and stress. A teen can learn breathing techniques from an expert or indulge in activities, such as yoga and tai chi.
- Suggest them to hear mindful music. It helps divert the mind and keeps a check on negative emotions and stress. Ask your teen to listen to their favorite song, and instead of focusing on the lyrics, focus on the music. While doing so, tell them to ask themselves what emotions the music provokes in them. Instruct them to meditate while listening to music and focus on all the positives in their lives. Doing so can help change the way your teen perceives things.
- Instruct them to avoid electronic gadgets and encourage participation in real-life experiences. Teens today spend a considerable amount of time fidgeting on their phones, playing video games, surfing on the internet, and so on. These activities take them away from friends, family, and nature, making them miss quality recreation time. To avert this, encourage your teen to religiously spend some time every day “gadget-free.” Doing so exposes them to experiences that they can cherish and look forward to during tough times.
- Suggest indulging in positive recreational habits. It works wonders when the teen feels too low and doesn’t want to connect with someone else. During those moments, these activities can help teens practice mindfulness and fight stress. Painting, sketching, pottery, singing, playing an instrument, or strolling in the park are some activities that can help a teen spend some alone time fighting negative emotions constructively.
The world is stressful and competitive. Mindfulness lets teenagers contemplate and evaluate their thoughts to channel their efforts in the right direction. Learning it at a young age teaches them to stay focused on their goal while pushing away self-deprecating thoughts. However, while mindfulness comes naturally to a few, it might be a challenging task to others. Introducing stress-relieving activities or discussing the origins of stress are a few steps to teaching them mindfulness. They may also seek the help of professionals to practice this essential life skill.
- Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of one’s actions and thoughts and not overtly react to the given situation.
- It may be practiced to increase focus, attention, and positivity.
- Teenagers can gain better self-control, improve working memory, and be more empathetic towards others by practicing mindfulness.
- Practice mindfulness yourself to set an example, encourage your teen to discuss their stress, and guide them to positivity.
- Gentle breathing techniques and mindful music can help them understand the virtues of mindfulness.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the different types of mindfulness?
Some proven techniques that aid in learning mindfulness are taking short breaks between routines, practicing meditation while sitting and walking, and including meditation between sports and yoga (5).
2. How do I start mindfulness in my classroom?
You may incorporate mindfulness in your classroom schedule with simple activities such as deep breathing, interactive play-based learning, and learning self-awareness and managing stress (6).
2. Mindfulness; American Psychological Association
3. Mindfulness; Teens Health From Nemours
4. Jessica Lin et al.; Mindfulness-based interventions for adolescent health; NCBI
5. What is Mindfulness?; Mindful.Org
5. Mindfulness in the Classroom; Child Mind Institute.