Benefits of Meditation or Mindfulness for Youth
Research in neuroscience has proven that meditation provides numerous benefits for children and adolescents. Benefits of meditation include:
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and even depression
- Improves grades and performance on standardized tests
- Increases attention and concentration
- Changes the brain in ways that protect against mental illness and improve control over emotions
- Increases compassion and empathy
- Improves sleep
Although it might seem impossible to convince teenagers of the value of slowing down, disconnecting, and breathing, we have some suggestions for how to encourage the practice:
Benefits. Ultimately, all of us what to know “what’s in it for me?” whenever we consider undertaking a new idea, project, or habit. Take the time to inform your teen of the benefits listed above. When teens hear that science has found such positive effects, you might see them become more willing.
Role Model. If you are stressed out and never slow down, it will be very difficult to try to convince your teen that it’s a good idea to act any differently. Your teen needs to see you prioritizing time each day to practice meditation and/or mindfulness. It will be an even more effective sell if you can demonstrate an ability to manage stress better as a result of these practices. Teens take seriously whatever they see in action.
Explore Science. Despite their attitudes about school, teenagers are usually pretty interested in the brain and how it works. Do a little research and you will discover that meditation can actually transform our brains in the same way that physical exercise can transform our bodies. Meditation actually increases gray matter in the portion of the brain responsible for self-awareness and compassion.
Use Technology. Meet teens where they are… on their phones! There are several mindfulness and meditation apps that are very popular and helpful. Three good ones are Calm, Insight Timer, and Omvana. For adolescents that are very engaged with technology, using an app might be the best way to entice them to trying these techniques.
How to Practice Meditation
If your teen is interested in trying meditation, then encourage them to start with the breathing exercise. Your teen should find a comfortable spot to sit in a quiet room where he won’t be interrupted. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Tell him to close his eyes and inhale and exhale slowly and deeply. He can choose to focus on his breath (noticing how his body feels with each breath) or he can think about inhaling positive thoughts and exhaling negative thoughts or worries. Every time he notices his mind wandering, he should just refocus his attention on his breath.
How to Practice Mindfulness
If your teen is interested in trying mindfulness, then encourage them to set aside some time to be present and observant. Your teen can do this in a quiet room or outside taking a walk or engaging in some other peaceful activity. The idea is to observe the present moment. Rather than trying to clear your mind, as in meditation, you are trying to pay attention to the here and now. You might notice how your body feels, what noises you hear, the comfort of your environment, or what smells are present. Whenever your teen recognizes a judgmental or wandering thought, encourage them to notice and label it, and then return to the present moment.
Exploring the idea of meditation with your teenager is worth the effort. Whether they like the idea of trying it or not, the truth is that meditation trains the mind to relax, focus and stay positive. It reduces anxiety, creates a sense of contentment and helps teens overcome the challenges that life throws at them. Encouraging your teen to try meditating just for five minutes a day for three weeks can help your teen reap the benefits and decide if the practice is right for them.