Mindfulness and Teens
Did you know that mindfulness techniques such as meditation could help regulate an adolescent’s emotions (Snyder et al., 2012)? Mindfulness-based strategies have become popular within the recent decade due to its promotion of psychological health, and more meaningful interpersonal relationships (Burke, 2010; Snyder et al., 2012). Studies have found that applying mindfulness meditation to adolescent populations resulted in enhanced emotion regulation, self-esteem, self-control, regulation and overall well-being (Wisner et al., 2010). By practicing mindfulness an adolescent can further develop self-awareness by learning to non-judgmentally acknowledge the present moment as opposed to automatically responding to one’s emotions (Snyder et al., 2012; van der Oord et al., 2012).
Mindfulness practice can be relatively easy to integrate into day-to-day life. In my practice I often teach mindfulness of our 5 senses; that is attuning to and bringing our focus to each of our senses. Try these straightforward examples to build mindfulness into your life:
- Attuning to 5 senses. Look around the room, and name 5 things that you see that are pleasing to you. Next, name 4 things that you feel (this could be emotion or sensory input such as “my back against the chair”). Next, 3 things that you hear (focus on close and far away sounds). Next 2 things that you smell, and finally 1 thing that you taste. This is a quick grounding activity that is useful in times of crisis to help orient us to our present moment.
- Mindful Taste. Pick a food -my favourite is chocolate! You are going to eat this food in a mindful way. This means that you are going to pay attention to all aspects of eating this food. You will first take some time to appreciate the look of the food. You may notice features such as colour changes, textures, and size. Next, appreciate the feel of the food – how does it feel in your hand? Is it heavy or light? Does it have unique texture (like an orange peel)? Engage your sense of smell. Take in the aroma of the food. What do you notice about it? Does it smell as you thought it would? Finally, engage your sense of taste. Notice the flavours of the food – does it stay consistent, or change as you enjoy it? How does it feel in your mouth; what is the texture? Notice all the details you can about the qualities of this food. Enjoy and be present while you consume it.
With both of these activities, you may find that your mind wanders and thinks of other things. This is normal and to be expected! Our minds often want to think of many things. Mindfulness is not about judging our mind for wandering; but noticing that it has wandered. When you do notice that your mind has wandered, gently, and without judgement, return your thoughts to the present moment.
Have a mindful day!
Meghan Lederman is a child and adolescent psychotherapist working in Welland, ON. and Oakville, ON. Meghan holds an M.A. in Counselling Psychology, and has been working in child and youth mental health for 15 years. She is a frequent speaker on topics such as: adolescent depression and anxiety, trauma, and childhood behaviour problems. Email meghan – email@example.com for more information or to request a consultation.
Burke, C., A. (2010). Mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents: A preliminary review of current research in an emergent field. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 133-144. doi:10.1007/s10826-009-9282-x
Snyder, R., Shapiro, S., & Treleaven, D. (2012). Attachment theory and mindfulness. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 709-717. doi: 10.1007/s10826-011-9522-8
van der Oord, S., Bögels, S., M., & Peijnenburg, D. (2012). The Effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 139-147. doi:10.1
Wisner, B., L., Jones, B., & Gwin, D. (2010). School-based meditation practices for adolescents: A resource for strengthening self-regulation, emotional coping, and self-esteem. Children and Schools, 32(3), 150-159.