Something that I have been trying to work on with youth these days is the concept of mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness helps our youth be in the moment. It can help them make better decisions, control their emotions, and helps them relate to other youth better. There is a lot that can go into mindfulness, different techniques or directions that depend on who is talking about it. The three that I try to help youth focus on are mindful feelings, mindful bodies, and mindful communication. Helping our youth be aware of what they are thinking or feeling, what their bodies are telling them and how they are talking and listening to others can make a major difference in the life of a youth. Mindfulness can help bring a sense of control back to the lives of a teenager whose world is often in chaos.
When we are talking about mindful feelings, we also look to the thoughts behind the feelings. Helping youth identify what the emotion is they are feeling, whether anger, sadness, joy or any one of the many emotions we feel as people can start the process to being in the moment. We worry about the past and get anxious about the future and that can lead us to not thinking about the moment. There are two big questions that I like to ask youth who may be feeling overwhelmed: What are you like when you are well? What are some things you need to help you get there? These questions can be a great conversation starter with youth you work with.
Mindful bodies help us be aware of what our bodies are telling us. I typically help youth do some sort of breathing, I personally love a timed rhythm of 4 seconds in, 4 seconds hold, and 4 seconds out for a good breathing pattern to calm us down. While breathing, I ask youth to be aware of their surroundings, take notes of your five senses, do a body scan for where you feel tense. A question I work with youth on through this is what are some early warning signs that your body gives you that you are getting overwhelmed or not doing ok. Many of the responses include they change body posture, clench fists, start crying for no reason, chest feels tight, or get extra tired.
We then move on to who we can use mindfulness when we are communicating. The big part of this is using active listening to be in the moment, not just waiting for your turn to talk or getting distracted in the conversation. Simply asking a youth how do they know when someone isn’t listening to them, and what does it look like when they do can start a conversation and good practice in to using mindfulness to communicate.
Mindfulness is about being in the moment, being aware of what is happening. Many times we get bogged down by the past, future, and our busyness. When we can help young people take control of themselves, we can see them thrive.