Mindfulness for Teens
May 31, 2017 01:41PM
by Cia Ricco and Kimberly Long
If you are the parent of a teenager, you are facing problems never before faced by previous generations. Attention spans are shorter than ever. ADD is on the rise. Mindless or compulsive eating is giving rise to an obesity epidemic affecting our youth. There is an upsurge of violence on the screen and in our lives, while the advent of the smartphone has taken over the social lives of our youth. Addictions are rampant, and technology has become an addiction in itself.
The level of available stimuli is so high that youth crave increased amounts in order to feel “alive.” The consequent pleasure-seeking behaviors are often self-destructive. The rebellion of non-compliance hurts the teens themselves who are rejecting interests, activities and relationships which could support self-esteem and empathy.
Connection has now taken on a new meaning. Empathetic connection with self, others and nature is increasingly scarce.It’s a small wonder that mindfulness is growing so rapidly in popularity among parents and educators seeking a solution.
Mindfulness is the gentle practice of focusing attention on thoughts, feelings and the environment in the present moment. This is a simple awareness of “What Is,” an awareness of self, presence and connectedness. In order to become present and aware, the rapid-fire thoughts and compulsions of daily existence must slow-down. There is space for true thought, feeling, connection and creativity.
The principle of mindfulness is ancient with its roots in Buddhist meditation, particularly Vipassana or “insight into the true nature of reality” which became known in the west as “Insight Meditation” in the early ‘70s when mindfulness took hold.
The term “mindfulness” took a giant leap forward in 1979 when, under the auspices of Doctor Jon Kabat-Zinn, it was introduced into a medical setting with demonstrable results. He developed the now well-known Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program which, along with other mindfulness programs, gradually found its way into many settings including prisons, the military, and numerous schools and universities throughout the country.
According to a UC-Davis report, mindfulness training triples students’ ability to focus and participate in class activities.While a sitting meditation practice can be of real value, that is understandably challenging for teens. One of the advantages of mindfulness is the ability to practice it, even in the midst of activities such as eating, walking, connecting with nature and even through communication.
The benefits of mindfulness for teens range from reduction in stress, anxiety, depression and addictions, better impulse and anger control, increased self-esteem and leadership skills. Research has shown that mindfulness can rewire the brain’s reactions to external stimuli—boosting the areas of the brain responsible for concentration, learning and memory, rational thinking, empathy and compassion.
Contact your school, a mindfulness counselor, the Sarasota Mindfulness Institute or the authors of this article to find out how you can help your son or daughter develop sound life habits at a time when they can make a real difference.
For more information on a two-week Teen Mindfulness Camp this July, email [email protected] or visit MindTimeKids.com.