How Meditation Can Improve Stress Levels in Youth
There is no doubt that we live in a stressful world. The fight or flight response that served our ancient ancestors so well, protecting them against predators, has many forces working against it in our world. All of the noise and motion and constantly blinking lights can serve to amp up a system meant to protect us and cause it to work overtime. When your stress response kicks into high gear and does not want to shut down, that is called anxiety. Anxiety can have serious physical and mental negative consequences for the sufferer. Teens can be particularly susceptible to stress as they try to navigate the transition from childhood to the adult world. Excessive exposure to social media, the 24/7 news cycle and electronic devices only serve to increase stress levels in youth. Meditation has been found particularly helpful in dealing with anxiety and can be useful even to teens. Here are some ways in which a meditation practice can help your teen deal with stress and its negative consequences.
What Does Stress Look Like?
First, let’s make it clear that stress does not always look like you think it will. Stress can make a person agitated, however, there are a number of symptoms of stress that the average person may not realize are the result of stress. For example, agitation can cause a person to be short-tempered. It can effect mood, appetite and sleep. Relationships may suffer. It can affect a person’s ability to concentrate and to focus. A difficulty with focus may result in reduced grades and also affect work performance at a job or if one is involved in extra-curricular activities. Having difficulties in any or all of these aspects of life will only perpetuate the stress. Stress then becomes a continuous cycle.
Meditation Can Help With Focus and Mental Clarity
Our minds tend to wander. It is just a fact of life. But if your mind wanders too much, it can affect your work and your studies. It can be pretty disruptive. A study done at the University of California, Santa Barbara found that college students who spent two weeks studying mindfulness– a type of meditation that focuses on making participants aware of their thoughts– scored significantly better on the GRE than the control group. They also showed a higher working capacity memory.
Meditation for Relaxation
In the 1970s a Harvard Researcher found that test subjects who practiced transcendental meditation had an involuntary response that was the opposite of the “fight or flight” response. Since then research has discovered a wide range of short-term benefits to the nervous system including lower blood pressure and heart rate, less stress and anxiety which may be the result of lower cortisol levels in the blood, and an improved sense of relaxation and well-being.
Current research is exploring the possible long-term benefits of a regular meditation practice.
Meditation for Improved Mood and Anxiety Levels
A British study conducted through the University of Cambridge researched the effects of meditation on 14- and 15- year- old boys. After the trial was conducted, the boys reported an increased sense of well-being including feeling happier and more contented. Boys who suffered from high levels of anxiety were the ones who seemed to benefit most from the study.
How to Meditate
There are a number of ways to meditate but one simple practice goes like this:
1. Sit or lie comfortably.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Do not try to control your breathing. Just breathe naturally.
4. Now pay attention to your breath and how your body moves as you breathe. Focus on the rise and fall of your belly or your chest as you breathe. How do your ribs and shoulders move? Do not make any effort to control any of this, just pay attention to it. If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breathing.
5. Start by doing this practice for two or three minutes at a time. Gradually, you will be able to increase the time you spend meditating.
Beginning a teen meditation practice can be useful in dealing with anxiety and stress levels in youth. It will help to clear the mind and calm the body. If your teen is in serious need of assistance with mental health or substance abuse issues, do not hesitate to contact Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center today.