The Power of Mindfulness for Teens Mental Health

By Robert Common, Managing Partner, The Beekeeper

Adolescence is a time of major change for preteen and teenage aged children. Increases in various responsibilities, and gains and losses of friendships, among other changes, can cause intense and prolonged experiences of confusion and stress. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), teens report both higher levels and more frequent experiences of stress compared to adults (1,2).


During this stage of development, older children are developing skills such as empathy and self-control. However, the inevitable stress that comes along with adolescence can have many detrimental effects on this development. If unmanaged, this level of stress can lead to mental health issues. According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 10 children have a mental health disorder(3).


Addressing stress management and mental health is necessary, as when either of these go unaddressed, they can have long-lasting negative impacts in adulthood.


Mindfulness Techniques for Building Resilience
Mindfulness techniques are an especially effective method for managing stress and promoting overall wellbeing and positive mental health states. By regularly practicing mindfulness, older children can establish their own state of stress resilience.


Scientific studies provide strong evidence for the positive effects of mindfulness on many aspects of a teen’s mental health, including improved self-esteem and reduced self-reported anxiety levels(4). These findings on wellbeing are also reported by the APA(5), further showing scientific support for the effectiveness of mindfulness!


Discussed below are recommended scientifically supported techniques for building resilience and improving overall wellbeing in older children.


Creating a Safe Space
Creating a safe space is a mindfulness-based technique often used in therapeutic practices.The creation process involves taking a mindfulness approach by thinking about what brings you relaxation and makes you feel calm, and then using that information to develop an emotional sanctuary. Utilizing a safe space by visualizing yourself in it or interacting with it during times of stress is an excellent coping tool for managing overwhelming, stressful situations as they come.

Full Body Scans
Body scan meditation is a commonly used method for promoting wellbeing in the moment.While in a relaxed position, take a moment to deliberately focus your attention on each part of your body, moving from head to toe. This will help you become aware of any sensations, tension, or emotions associated with each part of your body. By establishing this mind-body connection, you’ll learn to become aware of how your mental state is influencing your physical state, and additionally, how you can change your thoughts to improve them both.


Breathing Meditation
Breathing exercises are a quick and efficient way to promote wellness.


This mindfulness technique can be done in as little as five minutes. In times of stress, spend a few moments focusing on your breathing. Allow your breathing pattern to be natural and then count your breaths, think about the physical sensation of breathing and where you feel your breathing in your body. Focusing on breathing patterns in this way can lower your heart rate and have a calming effect on both the mind and body.


Thinking Before Acting
Another useful mindfulness technique is pausing to think about your situation or environment before acting on your emotions.


Take a moment away from what’s happening and instead focus on what thoughts are directly causing your stress. Is it fear of failing? Rejection? Being unsuccessful? Once you have defined it, ask yourself if these negative thoughts are true, or if the stress you feel is causing this interpretation of your environment.


Being mindful and introspective in this way can stop negative streams of self-criticism and help you focus on what you need. This will inform better actions when you are ready to respond to your stressor, resulting in better outcomes.


Being Mindful of How You Think About Yourself
Learning to accept yourself is one of the most beneficial aspects of practicing mindfulness. Similar to thinking before acting, when having negative thoughts about yourself, step away from them and think about what is causing them. Doing so will help you realize that the negative opinions you’re holding of yourself are not reality and will allow you to have a healthy and positive mindset toward yourself. An excellent way to improve your mental health is remembering to treat yourself the way you would treat a friend.


Practice, Practice, Practice
If you’re not already, begin practicing mindfulness on a regular basis – the benefits of doing so are invaluable.


The various techniques described all have the ability to promote wellbeing while also establishing helpful tools for older children to be resilient during stressful situations. These techniques are ones that can continue to be used as you approach adulthood and beyond. By practicing mindfulness, you can improve your own mental wellbeing while also developing the skills you need to be successful in your adult life.


References:

1. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/highlights

2. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/02/teen-stress

3. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html

4. https://acamh.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/camh.12057

5. https://www.apa.org/topics/children-teens-stress

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