"We may only need one generation before we transform the world." Dr Julia Mossbridge, cognitive neuroscientist, futurist and Loving AI principal investigator.
Life is complicated for all of us, especially for teenagers. When my young adult sons used to give me grief I reminded them I survived university without Google! I didn’t grow up with the pressures, stressors, digitalisation and climate issues we now have though. Cue the Aquarian Age, the digital age, the age of self-mastery. Our youth chose to come to the planet at this escalated, poignant time to serve, grow and facilitate change. They are needed and deserving of our support. This generation’s makeup is different from any other, they are cognitively cut from a different cloth; when teenagers tell you you don’t understand, believe them, you don’t.
With the current difficulties teens face meditation can assist with their sense of self, sleep, study and socialisation. By using meditation to purposefully choose something calming and positive to change the way they think or feel they can learn a valuable practice to have in their toolbox to carry them through a multitude of situations.
Consider the acquisition of a regular meditation practice as a preventative tool, rather than waiting for a problem to present allow them to develop a healthy habit by acquiring this powerful tool to have on hand when the next life challenge or set of stressors presents.
"Teens can sometimes be impulsive and angst-ridden even during the best of times. Behavioural health therapist Jane Ehrman MEd explains the amygdala (in the brain) is part of our survival mechanism. It’s always looking out for what is going to hurt us. If you’re dealing with anxiety or past trauma, the amygdala can be more reactive to stress.
During the teen years, the frontal lobe of the brain — which helps make good decisions — isn’t always communicating well with the amygdala, which responds immediately and instinctively to triggers. At this age, the pathway in the brain between the amygdala and frontal lobe isn’t as strong. But Ehrman says, through meditation, the brain will rewire.
“With 15 minutes of daily meditation for at least three weeks, the brain becomes more responsive and less reactive — which can be especially helpful to teens prone to anxiety or erratic behavior,” she says."
Source: How to Use Meditation for Teen Stress and Anxiety, Cleveland Clinic.
- Improved sleep habits – Mindfulness can help students put their minds at rest and get a better night’s sleep.
- Improved attention span – Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis can help students improve their attention span. This helps them to pay attention better in class which can lead to improved grades.
- Reduced levels of anxiety – Learning to turn from negative thoughts and stress help students to lower their anxiety levels.
- Lowers the chance of substance abuse – The Addiction Centre reports that some teens with anxiety disorder turn to substances like alcohol and drugs in an effort to numb the stress that they are feeling. When they know healthy ways to handle anxiety, stress, and depression it reduces the chance that they will try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
- Helps to regulate emotions – In society, it’s commonly known that teenagers can be more emotional. They are dealing with a new influx of hormones and it can make them feel like they are out of control. When they practice mindfulness they learn how to connect with themselves on a deeper level and gain control of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.
Source: PsychCentral’s The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation for Teens.
“Tech neck” and spinal rigidity is a result of sitting for long periods of time and focusing on screens causing postural misalignment, this can also be reduced with the mind body awareness a regular meditation and stretch practice brings.
The work ahead on the planet for our young citizens will demand they develop a strong inner and outer self; their neural velocity (mental agility to process inordinate volumes of information, sort, dissect, cull and prioritise), self-esteem, self-belief will be vital. The more movement and breath work they adopt the better they are going to be able to strengthen their nervous systems and manage stress and anxiety.
Meditation creates a hypometabolic state where the metabolism is in an even deeper state than sleep; the oxygen consumption also reduces to a level even lower than sleep. Meditation is the only activity which reduces blood lactate, a stress and anxiety marker.
Source: Meditation As Medicine, Dharma Singh Khalsa MD and Cameron Stauth.
I often meet adults who have lost their mind, body, soul connection; they reach their mid lives and say, “I don’t know who I am anymore, I’ve lost touch with who I am. How did I let this happen?” In my own experience I never did lose myself because the seeds of mind, body, soul connection were planted in me when I was young, I had a pathway; I vividly experienced the connection as a teenager. I hadn’t consistently had a spiritual practice throughout my twenties or thirties but the pathway was always there, I just had some weeding to do to get back on the path!
Calm, Headspace, Mindful Moments Mindfulness Meditation and similar apps are available and I love Dr Ramdesh Kaur's guided meditations wherever you stream music. I will offer monthly and hopefully fortnightly classes on the Gold Coast if the classes take off. You will have more success encouraging your teens to meditate if the parent, guardian, mentor or role model meditates, if you’re practicing what you preach. As much as teens may disagree there is an element of see + do!
If your youth try meditation but don’t stick with it think of it as a door that has been opened, it’s up to them whether they walk through or not, and like me one day when they need it they will remember it and step through. Open the door, it will be one of the most valuable tools you ever give them.
Image by Marieke Koenders.