The Making of a Focused Mind: The Benefits of Mindfulness for Children and Teens
When our mind is full and busy, a feeling of calmness is impossible to achieve.
A peaceful calm mind is more able to creatively tackle the challenges that life presents in our life path.
People have been practicing mindfulness for thousands of years. Unfortunately, there have been relatively few formal academic studies conducted on mindfulness practiced by teens and children when compared with adults. The handful of studies into the benefits of mindfulness suggest generally positive effects including decreasing anxiety and increasing cognitive performance. Four reasons to consider mindfulness training for children and teens include Firstly a greater self-awareness and the ability to self-regulation, the development of compassion and stress management skills and finally a needed break from screen time and an introduction to a new perceptive . Of course, the development of healthy practices in youth helps prepare individuals for the stress and strains of young adulthood.
Self-awareness and Self-regulation – leading to stronger ability to take charge
Mindfulness helps to develop greater personal awareness. Its practice teaches youth to be more aware of their thought processes and reactions in the present moment. So instead of racing ahead in a negative thought cycle a child is more likely to be able to think in a more removed manner, noticing patterns in their reactions and being able to view situations in terms of their typical reactions and the potential costs and benefits of those reactions in the past. This ‘mindful overview” promotes understanding of being in charge of one own emotions and behaviours. This also encourages children to have a stronger sense of their own responsibility and ability to take charge of situations – including their studies and friendships.
Compassion and the attraction of personal ethics
The practice of regular mindfulness/meditation can promote compassion. Having the ability to be compassionate with oneself is just as important as being compassionate towards friends and family. Having compassion and empathy is associated with stronger resiliency and emotional intelligence which are now considered very important skills in the job market. In developing compassion for others and self, children are asked to reflect on their own values and identity. Reflecting on research conducted by the University of Michigan, Dr Michele Borba indicates that having a strong sense of personal ethics is considered an advantage to demonstrate in key university applications and interviews.
Understanding anxiety and stress
During mindfulness practice students are taught to tune in and listen to their bodies, how it feels, where they feel tension, and how to release tension in specific areas. This skill is extremely helpful when understanding how each individual process and holds stress within their bodies. Being mindful of the presence of anxiety and stress in the body is associated with stronger stress management skills during latter years.
The end of a love affair: Breaking children’s devotion to screen time and social identities.
Technology has had a huge impact on the day to day lives of our youth. Computers, Mobile Phones, iPads, online TV providing 24/7 entertainment, and are altering children’s experiences during their formative years. Today’s youth have access to instant information (and misinformation) which is something particular to this generation.
While ‘screens’ have many benefits they also place new demands on youth that can have negative effects. The developing brains of youth are potentially negatively affected by some issues raised by a frequently or constantly online lifestyle.The practice of mindfulness can help to mediate some of the negative impact.For example, the impact of social media on youth culture and perceptions of self. Mindfulness asks children and teens to experience their reactions to postings and requests and be able to be more reflective of the communication taking place and its worth to them. Whilst screen time increases, face to face interaction, and the ability to manage real world emotions and empathise with others can be reduced. The practice of mindfulness promotes personal understanding and knowledge, and an greater empathy towards others rather than artificial connection.
Additionally, whilst learning mindfulness practice students are challenged to fully experience each moment of their lives, through all of their senses, and to question those instances where they are performing activities which are simply distractions from experiencing life ( for example surfing the net, likes, games etc, which are essentially bubble-gum for the mind). Mindfulness encourages participants to look within and observe what sensations they might prefer to have instead of those experienced (or avoided) during screen time. Awareness of activities and how these activities contribute to our enjoyment of life, is helpful in making a decisive shift to activities with greater life experience impact.