How mindfulness can help teens cope with stress

How mindfulness can help teens cope with stress

How mindfulness can help teens cope with stress, you ask? Ooo, one of my favorite rants. Definitely, better self-soothing is one of the benefits of a regular meditation practice. It doesn’t need to be a difficult practice, either. Yesterday with my students we did something I call a “generosity meditation.” In this blog post, I’ll detail how it works and comment on the student feedback.

What is a generosity meditation?

What’s a generosity meditation, and how is it that this type of practice of mindfulness can help teens cope with stress? Basically, we take a few minutes in silence, in our mindful bodies, after I ring the chime, to count our blessings. As usual, rather than emptying our minds and being zen with the universe, when practicing mindfulness the children and I have a really specific job on which to focus. Sometimes it’s listening to what’s around us, for sounds we normally don’t hear. Just noticing what is. Sometimes we use the breath as an anchor. Sometimes we observe our thoughts and feelings. There are many other types of practice, and sometimes we combine them, too, just as you do during a longer meditation sit.

After this practice, I get such unanimous feedback from every child comfortable speaking out, whether in kindergarten or grade 12, that I felt compelled to write a post! What’s on our list of blessings?

  • #1: Relationships – You got it. Family. Friends. That’s right folks, every child who described their generosity practice identified relationships as the number one thing to be grateful for. Why? We’re pack animals. We need community. It’s both a basic need and soul food. So, no wonder it’s on the top of every list!
  • #2 Basic Needs – Next on the list were the basic necessities: food, shelter, warm clothing (needed in Calgary this winter, as we’ve had a few months now of very cold weather and few Chinooks), clean water, clean air. Not one child mentioned his or her tablet, video games, cell phone, or trips to Mexico. These didn’t even figure into the picture!
  • #3 Soul Food – I call this category “Soul Food,” and group into this category those aspects children identified that made their lives stimulating. Again, not one child mentioned his or her cell phone, video games, or SnapChat! The comments were: education, sports, music, and spiritual practice.
How mindfulness can help teens cope with stress
How mindfulness can help teens cope with stress

The results were so singular across about 100 children, that it made me realize the act of taking time to be mindful and grateful is how and when we re-calibrate to focus on what really matters in life!

Here’s the kicker, and the real meat in my post, relating to stress & teens. My next question to the children was, as usual: “Did you notice how the generosity practice made you feel?” Younger children said, simply, “good.” That’s great; I’m alright with simple and sweet. Some of the older and more articulate children felt that the generosity practice made them feel that their day-to-day stresses were easier to handle, or not so serious.

Yes, being grateful for what we have really puts things in perspective! But, why?  Well, that’s part of the effect mindfulness has on our brain/body chemistry. The act of breathing deeply and the act of thinking positively are literally our superpowers, I tell children. These actions have a profound impact on our mood.

We teach our children hygiene, chores; how about we teach them mental self-care, too? We live in a world where they must rely increasingly on their own state of mind and emotional resilience to function. So, IMHO, and call me biased, but I see it with my own eyes in the classroom: a wee bit of mindfulness can help teens cope with stress! This practice is accessible, fast and easy. It is absolutely worth a try! For more information, please write me.

Kind regards, Rosanna D’Agnillo