How can I practice mindfulness as a busy teen?

Sheri Van Dijk

There are many benefits to mindfulness (including increasing your enjoyment of life;increasing your ability to cope with physical illness; improving your emotional and physical health; reducing anxiety, stress, depression, and sleep problems; improving your immune system; and improving your ability to tolerate upsetting thoughts). Because it's such a helpful tool, it's beneficial to anyone and everyone to practice some kind of mindfulness as often as possible. But you're right, many of us lead busy, busy lives, so how do we fit yet another thing into our day?

Well, if we keep in mind that mindfulness is about doing one thing at a time, in the present moment, with your full attention, and with acceptance, the answer might seem easier than you expect. Many people have the idea that mindfulness has to be a meditation; that you have to set aside 30 or 60 minutes every day for practice. But this isn't the case. There are different types of mindfulness practice: formal, and informal. The formal types of exercises are those that you need to set aside time for - 15 minutes to do a breathing exercise, or a 20 minute progressive muscle relaxation or body scan, for example. While these practices are absolutely helpful, not everyone can carve an extra 20 minutes out of their day.

Informal mindfulness practice refers to doing things you would be doing anyway, but bringing mindfulness to them - for example, walking your dog mindfully, listening to music mindfully, or sitting in class mindfully. When you think about mindfulness in this way, it becomes obvious that we really CAN make time for mindfulness, we might just have to get a little more creative about it.

Remember that both of these types of mindfulness are helpful: formal exercises will help you develop self-awareness and inner calm, and improve your ability to tolerate distressing thoughts and emotions. And informal exercises will help you to live your life more mindfully, so that you're no longer operating on automatic pilot. As much as you can, practice both in order to get the full benefit; but if you can't find the time for a formal exercise, remind yourself that two minutes of brushing your teeth or 60 minutes at soccer practice is still going to go a long way!

Gina M. Biegel
Have you ever walked someplace and not realized how you got there? When you walk to class, to your locker, or to lunch, you obviously get from point A to point B. You might even have a brief interaction with a friend along the way without paying much attention to it. Walking mindfully allows you to use movement to bring yourself into the present moment.

Choose a path about 10 feet long; it can be anywhere you will be safe -- in front of or behind your house, on the grass, or near your house or school, for example. The overall path doesn’t have to be long because you are not trying to get anywhere.

For five to 10 minutes, slowly walk back and forth on this path; you can always add to your time later. Move your arms in whatever way is comfortable to you. There is no need to focus on your breathing; just breathe as you normally do. Start to experience what it is like to just walk and notice the sensation of actually walking. Notice what it feels like to lift your foot, step, move, place your foot, and then start again with the other foot. You might want to attend to what causes your leg to lift or what sensations you have in your body. At the end of your path, turn around, paying as much attention to the process of turning as you did to walking.

Your mind may wander while you are walking, and that is normal. When you get distracted, give yourself permission to stop walking. Take a moment to pay attention to the thought, the sight, or whatever it is that distracted you, and then continue walking. What is important is the awareness that you got distracted and started walking again. Each time you engage in a walking meditation, try not to evaluate how you did. There is no good or bad way to do this meditation. Sometimes it will feel great and sometimes it won’t, but if it doesn’t, that does not mean you did it wrong.
The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness Skills to Help You Deal with Stress (Instant Help Solutions)

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