It’s not easy to be a young person in today’s chaotic and constantly changing world. Dealing with the burdens of our over-stressed, over-committed society — all while trying to grow, develop, and find happiness can lead to emotional overload.
Youth mental health is a society-wide issue, and statistically, young people, 13- 25 are suffering from some serious problems. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up report that up to 20% of children and adolescents suffer from a disabling mental illness. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents worldwide, and 1 in 5 children and adolescents between 9 and 17 have a mental health disorder that actually impairs their daily functioning.
That’s rough stuff when you’re just starting out in the world.
These numbers might sound scary, but there are ways to help our kids develop coping strategies that can improve their mental health and help boost the effectiveness of any other treatments.
An Evidence-Based Approach
Modern medicine has come a long way in treating psychological issues; finding skilled and compassionate psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists can help young people get better. Finding the right doctor is key; they need to be able to connect with their patients and offer tools and knowledge that support positive change. In addition to traditional treatments, there are support programs that have been proven to be extremely effective.
Good Habits for a Healthy Life
Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to help kids manage life’s struggles and even and transform how they perceive them. One study of college students found that meditation lowered blood pressure due to psychological distress. It also improved coping skills and helped lower their risk of hypertension.
Another study tested mindfulness meditation among students with learning disabilities (teens who tend to have higher levels of anxiety, school-related stress, and other issues). Participants showed major improvement, including decreased state and trait anxiety, enhanced social skills, and improved academic performance.
Less Stress, More Self-Esteem
Yet another study tested mindfulness-based stress reduction in 14 to 18 year olds in an outpatient psychiatric facility. Those who went through the program reported reduced anxiety, depression, and somatic (bodily) distress, and increased self-esteem and sleep quality. Also, a large-scale review of meditation interventions suggested that these programs increased self-awareness, self-reflection, emotional intelligence/regulation, and social skills. Pretty impressive stuff.
Best of all, a new study has shown that mind-body practices (meditation, yoga, etc.) can literally change DNA. As NBC News put it: “they actually have the ability to reverse molecular reactions to stress in our DNA that can lead to poor health and depression.” That’s huge, particularly for young people who are trying to adopt healthy habits for a thriving life.
The evidence is everywhere! Mindfulness and meditation can make a major difference when it comes to youth mental health.
Coping Skills Are Key
If you’ve got a teen in need of mental health help — or you’re a young person yourself — there are lots of ways to benefit from a mindfulness practice. Here are some suggestions:
- Try SOS Method – it’s meditation reinvented – it works in just 5 minutes – even if your mind isn’t still. Kids say it’s so enjoyable they actually like practicing it. SOS has programs specifically for teens that promote rapid positive change. The Happy Kids program helps to shift a negative state of mind, and develop new habits that cause wellbeing and lifelong happiness. The Happy Kids series is filled with tips, tools, and stories they can relate to, some about young people who noticed positive changes within hours.
- Use technology in a positive way. While smartphones and computers can be distracting, they can also serve a positive purpose. Kids, teens, and college students can use their favorite tech to do quick, easy meditations in five or 11 minutes via the SOS website or app. Greater calm and stress-relief is literally at their fingertips.
- Lead by example. If you’re the parent of a child or teen, make sure you’re engaging in a mindfulness practice yourself. Set time aside each morning or afternoon to dedicate to meditation. Once they see how much happier it makes you – and how great it makes you feel – they’ll want to get on board, too. Psychologists have long known that children imitate adults, so give them something awesome to emulate! Adult mental health = youth mental health. And, it gives you both a common ground where communication improves as well as kindness and caring.
- Take it outside. It’s summer, it’s sunny, and fresh air is SO GOOD FOR YOU. You’re your meditation out practice outdoors — use the SOS Elevate & Energize series, which you can do while walking or driving with the kids. Or, take the whole family out and do a group relaxation before kayaking, hiking, or swimming. Being out in nature will make it super fun for everyone and set the stage for a fantastic day.
- Reward positive habits. If you’re a parent, guardian, or teacher, give kids incentive to #Power UP, practice meditation, by offering challenges and rewards for daily practice. Make sure you’re doling out lots of healthy goodies – tasty snacks, special outings, fun games — or anything else they’re really excited about.
- Add it to the workday. If you’re a young adult just starting out in the work world, bring mindfulness to your office environment. Add a five-minute meditation break to your lunch hour, or make sure it’s the first thing you do when you arrive in the a.m. Meditating will bring inspiration and focus to everything you do.
Youth mental health affects all of us — and impacts our global community in a big way. We need to give our teens and young people the tools to make sure they’re happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. We can create a happier, kinder, and more inspired world together!