Meditation for Teens: A Simple Yet Powerful Way to Help with Mood & Emotional Challenges
As a teen counselor, I work with teens who are struggling with a variety of emotional life challenges. Anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks are becoming more and more frequent. Depression is also a common struggle among today's teens.
And learning to manage stress can be a significant change agent in decreasing many of the emotional life challenges teens face today.
In learning how to better manage stress, there are 4 things that are supported by research that I often suggest to the teenagers I work with in teen counseling. Each of these things alone have been shown to help significantly with emotional challenges:
There is a mountain of research that shows that meditation has been shown to significantly reduce stress. This also helps significantly in helping with anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks and overall well-being in mental health.
John Hopkins Medicine states that teenagers should get 9-9.5 hours of sleep at night. I ask the teenagers I work with to shoot for as close to 8 hours as consistently as they can. And that is an accomplishment if they do!
A research study conducted by Duke University showed that 30 minutes of exercise, 3 times a week for 16 weeks was as effective as an antidepressant medication.
Continued exercise of 30 minutes 3 times a week for an additional 6 months and it was shown to work more effectively than an antidepressant medication.
A healthy brain and body make for improved emotional well-being. Avoiding sugars and other simple carbohydrates, eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables help stave off the effects of stress.
Our brain is where all the emotional life challenges stem from. Creating a health brain system optimizes brain performance and can help us manage our mood and emotion for effectively.
While I suggest these for teenagers, these work equally as well for young adults and adults alike. And while any one of these when done consistently are helpful, combining 2 or more will help that much more with emotional life challenges.
In this blog post, we'll talk meditation and ideas for practical meditation ideas.
Meditation Can Help Improve Emotional Wellbeing
A study conducted by the National Institute of Health showed that meditation can help with
negative mood states such as:
Meditation has also been found to help with ADHD/ADD to help with:
Working memory, and
The study conducted by the National Institute of Health also discovered that you don't have to be a seasoned pro at meditation to gain these effects. Regular, brief meditation can bring you the benefits of meditation.
Meditation also exercises the part of the brain that is involved with the "negative self-critic". The Default Mode Network (DMN) is a collection of regions of your brain that work together when your brain is not active.
As you meditate, you "exercise" the DMN. The more efficiently the DMN can perform, the less of the inner critic you will experience.
The DMN is a training protocol that I often use when doing neurofeedback for anxiety, social anxiety, and panic attacks. And I have had 90%-95% success in training the DMN and alleviating significant symptoms of anxiety.
And you can do this for free in the privacy of your own home through meditation. How cool is that!
Below are various ways that you can practice meditation. You might give each of them a try to see which one works best for you.
One thing I like about Mindfulness Meditation is that it can be done anywhere at any time. Mindfulness meditation is about bringing your awareness to one of your 5 senses:
Let's use sound as an example. When using sound, close your eyes and pay close attention to the things you can hear inside you and around you. Be curious like using a child's mind:
What is that sound?
Where does it come from?
How many different sounds can you hear?
Are there layers to the sound?
The idea is to bring your awareness away from the day-to-day thoughts and focus it on the sounds. When you do, and you will, have thoughts that intrude, gently notice them and let them drift on by and bring your awareness and attention back to the sounds.
You can start by doing this for 5 minutes and work your way up in the amount of time you spend in meditation each time.
Over time you will notice that it's easier to manage the extraneous thoughts that enter your mind. These are the thoughts that create stress, anxiety, and other challenges.
I use sound when trying to go to sleep. I listen to an audio book while I'm trying to go to sleep. I focus on the narrator, the words, the inflections, try to visualize the story being told.
And when I have extraneous thoughts, I gently notice them and bring my attention back to the narrator. And when I do this, I find that I fall asleep faster and have deeper sleep.
Much like mindfulness meditation, movement meditation you can do practically anywhere at any time. The different between mindfulness meditation and movement meditation is that in mindfulness meditation, you are remaining still. Movement meditation allows you to move around.
The same principle applies. When you are in movement meditation, bring your attention and awareness to the activity you are doing.
When extraneous thoughts enter in, gently notice them, let them pass on by, and bring your attention back to the activity you are doing. Be observant with a child's mind. Be curious about what you are feeling, experiencing, feeling, sensing, etc.
Some examples of activities you can do in movement meditation could include:
Playing a musical instrument,
Doing the dishes,
The possibilities are endless in movement meditation. I use movement meditation after a round of neurofeedback with a client. After I am finished with a teen, young adult, or adult who has completed their round of neurofeedback, I wash the cap that was used.
While I'm washing the cap, I bring my attention to:
The feel of the cap.
The feel of the running water.
The temperature of the water.
The sound the water makes.
The feel of the soap, etc.
When I have extraneous thoughts come to mind, I notice them and bring my attention back to the experience of washing the cap.
Visualization & Guided Meditation
This is a great way to meditate if you are new to meditation. Guided meditation allows you to listen to a narrator walking you through a meditation using guided imagery. All you have to do is get in a comfortable, relaxed position and follow the directions of the narrator.
There is usually peaceful, calming music that plays in the background while the narrator is talking. While the narrator is talking, you visualize in your mind the imagery they are guiding you through.
Depending on your preference, you could select guided meditation and visualizations around:
Sitting by a lake,
Watching the night sky,
There are many places to find free guided meditations. The Apple App Store or Google App Store are excellent places for guided meditation apps.
In the app store, just search for the term "guided meditation" and select an app with high ratings. It's best to listen to guided meditations with ear buds or headphones. Just download the app to your phone and enjoy.
And a Challenge: Practice Imperfectly
I know people have tried meditation before and have given up shortly after as they didn't see the results they wanted. In our drive through, fast food culture, we sometimes have a difficult time with wanting things now vs. working for them.
While some people don't start because they believe they don't know how to meditate and do it right. They are concerned because they may not have as much experience and that the results are coming quickly that they must be doing something wrong. Meditation is one of those things that you need to do consistently over time to reap the benefits.
And one important factor to meditation that I want to emphasize is that, as research has shown, even novice meditators experience the benefits from meditation when consistently part of a regular practice.
There is no wrong way to practice meditation. Everyone does it imperfectly.
Thoughts will intrude. And as you continue to practice you will very likely see that you have more control over your thoughts. You will come to find you have a greater ability to manage your mood and emotions. Stress will likely decrease and your ability to focus and concentrate increase.
Things like anxiety, depression, panic attacks, social anxiety and that annoying voice of the inner critic will subside.
What if My Teenager Needs a Bit More Than Meditation?
Meditation can help as a very effective coping skill in reducing a wide range of emotional life challenges for teenagers. And some emotional life challenges may need a bit more than meditation.
If because of your teen's emotional challenges, they are not able to enjoy life and/or it's interfering with the ability to go to school, get the grades they were getting, not hang out with friends like they used to or other challenges, teen counseling may be a good option for your teen.
In teen therapy, we explore the underlying causes that may be leading to your teen's emotional struggles. As we identify those underlying causes, we can help your teen resolve those causes and help relieve them of the major symptoms.
What is left after that are the emotions that most people feel in life. The regular ups and downs that life can bring.
They will no longer be sunk by their emotional experience but instead, be able to float on the waters of life as they continue to live a happy life.
Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Providing Teen & Young Adult Counseling in Katy, Tx & Houston
Your teenager does not need to live with depression, ADHD/ADD, panic attacks, social anxiety, or generalized anxiety any longer. There is hope and there are answers.
With 70+ years of combined experience in teen therapy our therapists are here to help.
If you are ready to start teen counseling or young adult therapy at our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Talk with one of our caring therapists
Start the healing today
Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:
Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Group Therapy for Teens