One of the techniques we teach our teens at Mindful Healing, is… no surprise…Mindfulness. Now that is a word that is used a lot but what is it really… and how do we teach teens to utilize it?
Mindfulness is a practice, which is very relevant for our lives today. It simply means being in the “now,” paying attention to the present moment, observing our thoughts and physical sensations without judgment. This means that as we observe our thoughts, when, for example, we are anxious about the possibility of failing an upcoming test, we are not saying to ourselves, “I am ‘stupid’, but are just observing we have that feeling and it pass. Also, we are not, for example, narrating a catastrophic scene, when a thought such as “I am feeling anxious about going to that party tonight” pops into our mind. We simply are aware of the thought, accept it and let it pass. As we become more practiced at using mindfulness, for breathing, for body sensations, and for routine daily activities, we automatically learn to be mindful observers of our thoughts and feelings, and more accepting of them. This results in less distress and increases our ability to enjoy our lives.
With mindfulness, even the most disturbing sensations, feelings, thoughts, and experiences, can be viewed in the mind, almost as if it were a movie, and not as if it were actually true. (Brantley 2003).
As we become more skilled at being mindful, then even in times of emotional crisis, we will be able to automatically use these observer skills and the mindful breathing that is part of this process where, as we focus our attention on our breathing. We simply observe the distressful thoughts without believing or disbelieving them or arguing with them. If our thoughts become overwhelming, too strong or loud, we just move our attention once again to our breath, to our bodily sensations and to the sounds around us.
Jon Kabat-Zinn (2004) uses the example of waves to help explain mindfulness:
“Think of your mind as the surface of a lake or an ocean. There are always waves on the water, sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes almost imperceptible. The water’s waves are churned up by winds, which come and go and vary in direction and intensity, just as do the winds of stress and change in our lives, which stir up waves in our mind. It’s possible to find shelter from much of the wind that agitates the mind. Whatever we might do to prevent them, the winds of life and of the mind will blow.
You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”!
Does your teen need support in learning to manage negative feelings?
Contact us to learn more.