Want to help your teen become more present, reduce their stress, and relax more? Mindfulness could be the answer.
What Is Mindfulness for Teens?
Mindfulness is the practice of noticing and being present.
In our lives, so much focus is on distractions. We are distracted by the television, our phones and computers, the news, work and school, and the many other responsibilities that we take on. When we do finally get a moment to just breathe, we’re often so tired that we simply fall asleep.
This constant go, go, go of life is not without its negative consequences. So many distractions can cause us to lose our grip on reality. Before we know it, years have gone by, and we still may feel as if we’re running on a treadmill — always moving but never getting anywhere.
In actuality, “getting somewhere” isn’t the point. What is the point is enjoying and embracing the journey. This is what mindfulness is all about.
Teens are notoriously busy, but with mindfulness practice, teens can learn to stop, breathe, and notice the present moment. Recent research from Bangor University even supports this, saying:
“Mindfulness practice could impact on the development of prefrontal brain structures and enhance attention control and emotion regulation skills in adolescents, impacting in turn on their self-regulation and coping skills.”
How Can Mindfulness Benefit Teens?
The middle and high school years can be wonderful moments in our lives. Lasting friendships are built. Hobbies turn into passions. And so much learning and growing takes place. Still, these years are not easy in many ways. Here’s how mindfulness can help:
1. Better sleep
Mindfulness promotes better sleep because it promotes relaxation, and we need to relax our bodies and minds in order to fall into a deep sleep. It also helps sleeps because it restructures the incessant stream of thoughts, worries, and stressors that often plague us right before bed. With mindfulness, you are able to slow down your thinking and simply focus on the present moment. This centeredness will help you drift off much easier.
2. A calming force
“The challenge for mindfulness is to be present for your experience as it is rather than immediately jumping in to change it or try to force it to be different.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn
People who practice mindfulness are notably calmer. In fact, calmness is an inherent byproduct of mindfulness because mindfulness practice slows everything down.
Notice your thoughts and attention on a normal day when you are not practicing mindfulness. In all likelihood, your thoughts are fast-paced, fleeting, and jittery. Mindfulness forces your thoughts to go in slow motion, relaxing your heart rate and quieting your constant stream of judgments in the process.
3. Improved concentration
Mindfulness is all about following your consciousness and noting every single thought, emotion, or feeling that crosses your mind. It’s about living in the present moment and not getting lost in the past or future. Doing this time and again during mindfulness practice will inevitably bleed into your daily consciousness and will thereby improve your ability to concentrate.
4. Less outward focus
Many times, when we aren’t practicing mindfulness, we’re practicing mindlessness. A mindless state is one in which our focus is on outward stimuli. We are constantly reacting to life instead of harnessing our own inner awareness. The practice of mindfulness can help teens, in particular, stop expending so much mental energy on the world around them. It can help us all turn inward for solace and calm.
Tips for Helping Your Teen With Mindfulness
Lead by example
Often, telling teenagers to do something is the “kiss of death.” Instead, show don’t tell. Lead by example. Practice mindfulness in your daily life, and incorporate some mindfulness meditation as well. Trust that the effects will indeed reach your teen.
Practicing mindfulness as a family can benefit everyone and be a great bonding experience as well. Choose a time of day to participate in a mindfulness activity, or, if you’ve already established a meditation practice for your family, consider infusing mindfulness into the mix.
A fitting place to start is with our simple 25-mind Unwind Your Mind session. It’s specifically catered to your unique needs, and all you need is a quite space and a computer, tablet, or phone to get started.
Remember, perfection is not the goal
As you help your teen with mindfulness, remember that the goal isn’t to have a “perfect practice.” In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect practice. Instead, simply teach your teen to find time to be mindful whenever they can — at the dinner table, in the car, waiting in line, or in the morning before school and work. Even stopping and taking a deep breath when things get stressful is a helpful step in the right direction. It’s all “grist for the mill.”
Frequently Asked Questions About Mindfulness for Teens
Q: How do you explain mindfulness to a teenager?
A: It’s not easy to explain mindfulness to anyone, let alone teenagers. Therefore, with teens, you want to show what’s in it for them. In other words, explain mindfulness as a way to cope better with difficult emotions they may be experiencing. If they are feeling stressed, over-worried, or anxious, mindfulness is a tool they can use anywhere, anytime to combat these challenging feelings.
Q: What are some mindfulness activities for teens?
A: It can be a bit more of a challenge to come up with mindfulness activities for teens who may or may not be interested. For this reason, it can be a good idea to incorporate mindfulness into activities that you already do as a family. For example, at dinner, try incorporating the practice of mindful eating. Go for a mindful walk as a family. Or, allow for quiet time in the evening at home. Limit the use of screens and technology, and make homework time more mindful by limiting music and other distractions.
Q: How do you talk to a teenager that doesn’t want to talk?
A: If your teen is difficult to talk to at times, remember first that this is usually just a phase. Second, when you are able to talk to your teen (even if it’s just for a few minutes), be a listener. Resist the urge to jump in with advice at every turn. Additionally, go with the flow of the conversation. If your teen laughs or smiles, laugh and smile with them. If they ask for help, then by all means offer your advice. If not, just being a good listener can be amazing for them and your relationship.
The Miracle of Mindfulness Could Change Your Teen’s Life
Teenagers deserve to enjoy their youthful years. This period should be one of learning, growing, exploring, and being creative. Stress and anxiety should be reduced as much as possible.
If you are a teen who is struggling with stress or anxiety or if you have a teen in this situation, Anahana’s Unwind Your Mind streaming service can help.
With this short introduction to breathing exercises, gentle movements, and simple visualization techniques, you’ll feel better in just 25 minutes. All you need is a quiet place to go for 25 minutes and your phone or computer.
Download Your Mindfulness for Teens Infographic!
Written by Clint Johnson
Clint teaches Yoga, Pilates, breathe, and mediation to students and teachers all over the world. Prior to joining the wellness world, CJ as his friends call him, started his career as a MBS derivative trader and portfolio manager on Wall St. Clint is the founder of Anahana, and holds an MBA from INSEAD.