My teenage son has been struggling with terrible anxiety lately. He is chronically stressed; his mind keeps whirling with worries about grades, getting into college, SAT’s & ACT’s, school activities, and his girlfriend. He is having trouble sleeping at night due to his anxiety. It is starting to impact his performance at school because he can’t seem to focus! A friend recommended that he try mindfulness & meditation. Can that really help him?
My answer is a resounding YES! Mindfulness & Meditation practices (M & M’s) are surefire ways of combating anxiety! These practices are becoming so pervasive in our culture, particularly in schools, because they work! Teens are desperately seeking tools to help decrease their stress levels, and it is no wonder– research shows that teens are the most stressed group of people in America today. M & M’s (and I don’t mean the chocolates!) can be highly effective antidotes to all the pressures they face day in and day out.
In this fast-paced, demanding world that we live in, teens rush from one activity to the next, unaware of how they feel in any given moment. Mindfulness helps teens slow down, take a breath, and tune into themselves and the world around them. It allows them to be present in the moment without judging themselves. Meditation is one of the many ways that teens can experience mindfulness on a regular basis. It can be done in any safe space where teens have the opportunity to relax and shut their eyes, as they turn inward and notice their breath, thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. It can take just a few minutes to experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, some of which are listed below:
1/Mindfulness reduces anxiety symptoms. It decreases the size of the amygdala, the area of the brain that is responsible for stress, anxiety, and fear. It also gives teens a break from technology, which can be a major source of stress!
2/ Mindfulness improves focus. It decreases activity in the Default Mode Network (DMN), the area of the brain that controls mind wandering.
3/ Mindfulness reduces depressive symptoms. Research findings indicate that meditation can be just as effective as anti-depressants to boost one’s mood, and to motivate us to act with kindness and compassion.
4/ Mindfulness improves memory, learning, and emotional regulation. It increases the corticol thickness in the hippocampus region of the brain, which results in greater school, work, and social success.
5/ Mindfulness helps test performance. Studies show that students who meditate before an exam perform better than students who do not.
6/ Mindfulness improves sleep. Current findings indicate that teens who practice mindfulness regularly achieve greater total sleep time, better quality sleep, and more alertness during the day.
7/ Mindfulness cultivates compassion & empathy for others.
As you can see, the research informs us that M & M’s should be an essential part of the “wellness diet” for teens. So how do you help them get this type of nourishment? Individual therapy sessions in Bethesda, MD are the perfect place for teens to learn about mindfulness and meditation, and to begin integrating these practices into their lives! The most stressed out teen can start seeing results very quickly when they are working with a mental health professional who incorporates M & M’s into their treatment plan.
So why not start today?
This post was written by Caryn Malkus, an experienced individual counselor for adolescents and family therapist at Emily Cook Therapy in Bethesda, MD.