In a 2014 national survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 31 percent of adolescents aged 13 to 17 said that their stress increased in the previous year, and 42 percent said they were not doing enough to manage their stress. Many teens turn to external sources for support, such as friends, family, hobbies, or professionals, however they are less likely to turn inwards and look for their own insight. Mindfulness empowers individuals to use skills they already have to be more intentional about their interactions. When feeling overwhelmed, mindfulness can help reduce physiological symptoms of anxiety, identify sources of stress, break down tasks into simpler objectives, and set goals to achieve tasks without sacrificing mental health.
Mindfulness vs Meditation
“Mindfulness is not a magic panacea, it’s not going to fix everyone’s problems,” USC researcher Nicholas Barr claims, “But if you talk to anyone who has practiced for some time in a serious way, you just notice a difference.” Many people are unclear about what constitutes mindfulness. Meditation is seen as a practice of stillness and silent contemplation used in Buddhist and Yogic lineages, however mindfulness has been adapted to be integrated into aspects of everyday life. Mindfulness encourages you to be here now and to notice thoughts that arise throughout your day that either help you meet your goals or get in the way of doing what you want. We often go through life on autopilot without realizing how detached we are from our experiences. While it can be hard to step back and see the bigger picture, it is a reminder that everything we do affects the way we feel and the way we interact with our social environment.
The University of California – Berkeley, describes mindfulness as “a way of being aware of each moment in our feelings, thoughts, surrounding environment, and bodily sensations. It’s a way to pay attention to ourselves and not judge, but accept what’s going on.” General mindfulness lessons include paying attention, living in the moment, and practicing radical acceptance. Examples of exercises include body scans, walking, or a formal sitting meditation focusing on your breath and awareness of thoughts.
7 Outcomes of Mindfulness
- Reduces negative emotions. Increases energy and mood while decreasing restlessness and overwhelming emotions. Lowers physiological stress responses.
- Sets intentions. Focuses on defining and strengthening personal values and belief systems. Instead of setting achievable goals, breaks things down into how you approach those goals and their desired outcomes. Goals are then redefined towards personal development and self-actualization.
- Builds self-esteem. Strengthening one’s belief system strengthens identity and confidence.
- Builds compassion for self and empathy for others. One common technique known as loving-kindness meditation reduces suffering by acknowledging suffering in others and remembering that it is a universal experience. By focusing on the moment, it relieves responsibility of the past and pressure of future expectations and allows people to show themselves kindness in the moment.
- Cultivates positive emotions. By focusing on cultivating positive intentions and healthy ways of relating to your social environment, mindfulness can increase levels of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin while increasing alpha brain waves and neural connectivity. Mindfulness helps manifest self-regulation and pleasurable experiences.
- Encourages openness to new experiences and ability to be present. Focuses finding a balance between grounding and receiving. Limits judgment and fear of experiences. Opens space for reflection and fully immersing yourself in your sensory experience.
- Increases resiliency. Mindfulness practices are associated with recovery from substance use and trauma in redefining memories, reducing cravings, and making meaning of the healing process. People who experience chronic stress can learn skills to manage stressful situations and emotional responses when they arise.
Solstice can help
Solstice is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18. Our girls struggle with managing stress and related mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, ADHD and trauma, when they come to us. Through a unique combination of therapeutic programs based upon both traditional and holistic mental health treatment, we treat our clients with age and gender specific techniques. We offer mindfulness, yoga, physical activity, and neurofeedback to encourage students to be fully present in their experiences and deepen their connection between their mind and their body.