Adolescence; A time for mindfulness
Written by Clare Abercrombie The teenage or adolescent years range from the ages of 13 to 19 years old and are considered the transition into adulthood. This time can be fraught with emotional and physical changes. While this age group is learning how to adapt in their pubescent bodies and deal with emotional stressors, it is important to provide an emotional support system. Life as a teenager can be confusing at a time when issues of self-identity, sexuality, independence, external appearance, self-worth, and adult responsibilities come into effect. Providing an environment in which a teen can feel safe and supported by their peers and mentors is of key importance to steer teens from: substance abuse, recklessness, depression, stress, and suicide.
As integrative medicine practitioners, we focus on treating patients holistically and are thoughtful of the mind-body connection. Creating practices that develop ways to deal with life’s stressors like the practice of mindfulness, may aid in boosting your immune system, preventing depression, and increasing cognitive function. The practice of mindfulness can particularly help adolescents become more self-aware and comfortable with themselves, strengthen their identify, and boost their self-esteem
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your surroundings. It incorporates being aware of our thoughts, feelings, environment, and bodily sensations. This practice involves both recognition and acceptance of feelings and thoughts within the moment.
A few aspects of the practice include:
- Paying attention to your breath especially during stressful situations
- Noticing physical sensations in the moment
- Internalizing the moment through sights, sounds, and smells
Mindfulness in Schools and at Home for Adolescents
Supporting a healthy mental state especially during formative years can have a significant impact on life-long health. Since research supports the utilization of mindfulness to prevent adult onset depression and anxiety disorders, elementary and high schools in the UK have begun implementing the practices into their curriculum. Dr. Williams of Oxford University and the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, spearheads school programs to help students learn healthy coping-mechanisms. It is imperative to create an environment either in school or at home that allows adolescents the ability to develop healthy coping-mechanisms and overall mental wellbeing. Whether it is developing an open-line of communication between you and your adolescent, practicing meditation with them, or practicing mindfulness at home; nurturing a healthy mental state is of utmost importance. Working with an integrative medicine practitioner can allow you to develop a program that works with you and your adolescent to incorporate a holistic, healthy lifestyle. I often suggest free apps like Calm and Headspace as a good reference or starting point for teens.