If there is one thing people can agree most teens struggle with, it is the presence of the mind. The ability to be in the here and now is something that a lot of adults have a hard time with, as well, but learning to master this skill can have actual therapeutic benefits – regardless of your current mental health. Mindfulness for teens can be a great tool to promote healthy coping skills, build patience and discipline, and discourage maladaptive behavior.
Emotional Regulation and Balancing Mental Health
Why do these things matter for mental health and emotional stability? Our mental health at any given moment reflects the psychological equilibrium that we have. In other words, good mental health is balanced. Healthy reactions and emotional regulation show a clear mental state.
On the other hand, poor mental health is often characterized by inappropriate or unhealthy thought patterns, behavioral patterns, or moods.
Feeling uncharacteristically sad over long periods of time for no known reason. Having boundless energy and feelings of grandeur at random. Experiencing intrusive thoughts that are inconsolable through healthy means.
Building Mental Resilience
Our mental health is affected by the sum of controllable and uncontrollable factors – from traumatic events or the genetic lottery to the things we do and the way we react to things done to us. Biological, social, and psychological factors each play a role in how we think, what we feel, and even what we do.
Mindfulness for teens can be a crucial tool in helping build mental resilience in times of stress, as well as adjust to negativity in a healthier manner and learn to be present rather than be distracted by the failures of the past or the anxieties of the future. But like any other skill, it must be trained.
What is Mindfulness?
Put as simply and vaguely as possible, mindfulness is the ability to be mentally present. Put more concretely, mindfulness is a practiced skill that requires a person to pay attention to the moment they live in, tuning out thoughts of the past, worries of the future, and everything that is not immediately relevant to the present.
Mindfulness Can Be Natural
Mindfulness can come naturally. One common example of this is the psychological state of flow. In productivity, flow is described as a mental state that a person enters where their creativity and cognitive ability are at near-peak; a point in time when a person is completely immersed in whatever it is that they are doing. A person can experience flow while drawing, coding, writing, cleaning, shoveling snow, or driving down the highway.
The opposite of flow is when a person is distracted, wanders and daydreams, ruminates on negative thoughts, dwells on things in the past, or thinks solely of something in the future.
Mindfulness Can be Practiced
While flow comes naturally, mindfulness can be practiced. You can utilize breathing techniques, traditional methods of meditation, as well as activities that you like to frequently immerse yourself in to promote the act of being mentally present and aware of the moment. The more time you spend being mindful, the less likely you are to struggle with distraction, and the more you can train yourself to enter mindfulness – and a state of flow – on command.
Methods of Mindfulness for Teens
There are different methods of training mindfulness for teens. Therapists utilize different approaches to help teens actuate and recenter – to actively catch themselves in moments of rumination or negative thought and say, “no, stop. I will focus on this activity ahead of me.”
Learning to utilize mindfulness as a framework for different coping skills, both for avoiding rumination and negative thoughts, and to help build resilience against stress through frequent stress relief, can be immensely useful in maintaining, improving, and adjusting one’s mental health.
Mindfulness lets you:
- Be aware of yourself and others.
- Pay better attention in class or when you’re participating in an activity.
- Learn more from being attentive and listening actively.
- Make fewer mistakes by ingraining the things you hear and taking the time to put them into practice more often.
- Improve your overall mood by finding different ways to circumvent negative thoughts or avoid rumination through an active skill.
- Get better at finishing tasks well before they are due.
- Enjoy a healthier work-life balance with fewer school- or work-related anxieties.
- Become a better listener for friends and family, and become a better partner in your relationships.
- Learn to avoid grudges and unnecessary emotional baggage, and deal with frustrations in a healthier manner.
- Learn to stay calmer under stress and duress, and develop resilience against different challenges in life.
- And much more.
The Struggles of Being Mindful
Mindfulness is not necessarily easy to cultivate, and there are people who struggle far more with being mindful than others. Some mental health conditions actively fight against a person’s capacity to be mindful – for example, inattentive symptoms in ADHD are a prime example of anti-mindfulness. Mood disorders can make it much harder to try and focus on anything other than intrusive negative thinking and the rumination spiral that it creates.
Mindfulness as a serious therapeutic tool must be combined with a dedicated treatment plan and, in cases of severe mental health problems, medication. Mediating symptoms through medication and therapy can help teens begin to apply mindfulness in their daily lives through rituals, chores, stress-relieving activities, schoolwork, and even through daily conversations with friends and loved ones.
The Importance of Support and Consistency
Mindfulness, as a key part of managing one’s own mental health, is important. But that does not mean you are alone in your journey, that your mental state is exclusively your fault, or that only you alone can affect how you feel and what you do. Another important part of addressing your mental health is learning the importance of support. Friends and family build the backbone of our support system – the people we trust the most, who we rely on when things get bad or beyond our control.
Like any other skill, mindfulness for teens is best practiced consistently. We can enlist the help of our loved ones to enforce that consistency – to remind us of our exercises and short-term goals and the discussion points elaborated upon in therapy.
Like our physical well-being, our mental health is a lifelong journey. Helping teens cultivate awareness of their mental health at an early age can serve them well.
For more information about teen mental health and therapies, visit Visions Treatment Centers today.