Our teenagers are suffering. The COVID 19 pandemic has created and highlighted an existing crisis of anxiety and stress for teens in particular.
As a psychologist with a private practice dedicated to teens and young adults, before the pandemic, I was telling schools and parents and really anyone who would listen that anxiety was a huge epidemic in the teen population with a massive downside. Our teens are being inundated by information from outside themselves: social media, news, YouTube, TikTok, you name it. It used to be that information was power but now we have too much information and it is frying our brains.
These days, clarity is power -- being able to sort through massive amounts of information and figure out what really matters. The problem is that our teens have a hard time discerning what is important and what is not. The noise from the outside is drowning out their inner voices. And, it is their inner voice that can be the guide posts that help them navigate this increasingly complicated world.
There is a Solution
As a society and especially in the young adult population, we need to find better ways to cope. Mindfulness and meditation can help youth not only survive the pandemic, but actually thrive. And what I love the most is that research has confirmed that these strategies positively impact the structure of our brain (Lazar, 2011). So, it not only makes you feel more centered and calm, it actually impacts neural pathways to help you regulate stress, sleep, emotions, concentration and energy.
Another plus of this coping strategy is that mindfulness and meditation require very little of you. You just need to set aside some time and be willing to do the practice. And before I begin the many ways in which this practice can help you, let me demystify meditation.
Mindfulness itself can be defined as: paying attention in the moment, on purpose and non-judgmentally. The practice of meditation can help you live a more mindful life. Meditation is a technique that calms your nervous system and trains your brain to be more focused, engaged and less reactive. One common misconception is that you have to ‘empty your mind of thoughts’, and this is just impossible. It is like telling your eyes to stop seeing. Your brain is an organ that is made to think.
Meditation is simply a form of concentration, of being a curious observer of your thoughts without getting tangled in them. So there is no right or wrong, no success or failure with meditation. The simple act of quieting down and focusing on one thing is enough. Even if your mind can’ t stop, just noticing that is what meditation is all about.
Here are 5 ways these simple practices can help you.
Give It a Try
Here are a couple meditations to get you started. In Joon's new guided meditation series, I will lead you through simple practices that only take about ten minutes. Keep an eye out for new meditations!
In Sleep, you will find a place of deep rest that allows for a smoother transition to sleep.
In Self-Inquiry, you will look inward, understanding who you are and what you want and need. This process of introspection, allows you to get in touch with yourself and deconstruct negative habits and limiting beliefs.
Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry research, 191(1), 36–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006