Adults might think they have it tough, but being a teen can be equally stressful! If there was a way to help you handle stress better, and enjoy the moment more, would you give it a go?
Mindfulness can help you to do both these things and has loads of other benefits too. But what exactly is it? Well, it’s all about being aware of what is going on, right here, right now, and noticing how you are reacting. Then you can let go of any negative feelings you might be having, smile, and carry on with your day.
Mindfulness is free, and it’s easy – you can do it wherever you are and no matter what time it is. Once you get the hang of it, this is a really useful tool to apply throughout your life.
Read on to find out how you can start to benefit from mindfulness meditation today.
We already saw that mindfulness meditation can help you stay more calm and focused, but that’s not all it can do. It’s worth the effort to learn how to meditate, and the more you practice the easier you will find it to use mindfulness to help you during stressful moments and difficult times.
Here are five benefits that you will gain from meditating.
Young people these days face more and more pressure in their everyday lives. Growing up can be tricky, and with schoolwork, exams, friends, and peer pressure things can get even more difficult.
It isn’t surprising that 6.3 million teens in the US suffer from anxiety.
Anxiety happens when distracting thoughts about what might happen in the future take over our attention. Because mindfulness helps us to notice distracting thoughts and let go of them, it can help decrease anxious feelings.
The more you practice mindfulness, the better you will get at letting go of those worries and distractions, and you can start in just a couple of minutes.
At the end of the day, I can end up just totally wacky, because I’ve made mountains out of molehills. With meditation, I can keep them as molehills. ~Ringo Starr
With adverts, cell phones, TV, and tablets all clamoring for attention, there are more distractions for today’s young people than ever before. In fact, it sometimes seems as though life is designed to have you jumping from one task to another with no time to stop and think in between.
An Italian neuroscientist, named Guiseppe Pagnoni, found that people who meditate have more focus than those who don’t. Their brain scans also showed less activity in the part of the brain which makes wandering thoughts.
If you practice meditating, you will improve your ability to focus and resist distractions.
Because meditation helps you to be more aware of distracting thoughts, it can help you feel less anxious. We also know that mindfulness can help you focus better. This suggests that meditation could help us to do better in tests and other stressful situations.
Scientists set out to see if this was true, and a number of studies have confirmed that it is. Meditation really can help you get better test results.
At the University of California, scientists had some students meditate before a lecture. These students got better scores in a test taken afterward than the students who didn’t meditate.
A similar study looked at results for children in third grade. These students meditated regularly for two months and scored better on tests after learning to meditate.
We all know that sometimes it can be difficult to get on with the people around us. Brothers and sisters, parents, and even our friends can annoy us, and we might even end up arguing.
After a while, we usually calm down and make things up with our loved ones. But what about when we feel really disconnected? Or if someone bullies us, or is especially mean? It can be hard to even want to make things better.
There is a type of meditation called a Loving-Kindness meditation (see below) that can help us to connect better with those around us.
A program which taught this type of meditation to third-graders found that they could easily see why it would be good to be kind to friends. When it came to ‘bullies’, though, the kids didn’t think they should be as nice.
After practicing Loving-Kindness meditations they were able to see that bullies are people too and that perhaps they act the way they do because they feel bad in some way.
Seeing people who treat you badly as deserving loving-kindness can help you feel stronger. You realize that their actions are not about you, but are about their own insecurities, and that can be a very powerful feeling. You still don’t have to put up with being treated badly, but you can handle things better if that does happen.
There are many times when you can feel that you aren’t ‘good enough’. Maybe you feel pressured to get better test results or to dress a certain way, or even act a certain way.
If we listen to our mind’s wandering thoughts too much, we can start to believe them – even if those thoughts are quite negative.Through meditating you will begin to be more aware of your mind’s chatter. You will notice that your mind always talks and that it often goes quickly from one subject to another.
This will help you to listen less to your minds wandering thoughts and focus on the important things instead. So next time your mind says something negative you can stop that thought in its tracks and switch to thinking about something more positive instead.
We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves. ~Pema Chodron
If you can’t wait to get started, that’s no problem. You can begin to practice mindfulness with very little equipment, and without spending any money. Let’s take a look at some different types of meditation, and where and when to practice.
Meditation isn’t complicated. The idea is that you can practice mindfulness to stay aware of the present moment more and more. If you keep it simple, you’ll be able to meditate anywhere. This means you’ll be able to stay calm when things get tough, and really enjoy the moment when things are going well.
Why not try this simple breathing meditation right now?
Wherever you are – simply stop what you are doing. Take a moment to just ‘be’.
Now take your attention to your breathing. You don’t have to change anything – just observe as you breathe in, and breathe out.
Is there one place where you can feel the effects of your breathing more? It might be that you can feel the cooler air entering your nose, turning to a warmer out breath as it leaves your body. Perhaps you notice your tummy moving in and out as your lungs fill with air. You can pay attention to any one place that you choose.
As you breathe in, try saying silently – In…
As you breathe out, say to yourself – Out…
If your mind wanders (it happens to everyone) just bring your attention back to your breath as soon as you notice. As you practice you will be able to pay attention to your breathing for longer periods. You can try to count up to ten, counting one with each in-breath and out-breath. It can be surprisingly difficult to get all the way to ten.
If you notice thoughts popping into your head as you practice, label them and let them go. You can think – OK, there is a worry, or, OK, there is a thought – and then return your attention to your breathing.
You can meditate this way for just a few breaths, or for a few minutes if you have time.
This mindfulness practice can help you to get really good at dealing with difficult situations. By taking a moment to breathe you can recognize that worries or anxiety are forming in your mind, and move the attention away from them.
How did you feel after taking a few mindful breaths? Did your body feel calmer? Was your mind more focused?
When your attention moves into the Now, there is an alertness. It is as if you were waking up from a dream, the dream of thought, the dream of past and future. Such clarity, such simplicity. No room for problem-making. Just this moment as it is. ~Eckhart Tolle
A sitting meditation is what most people think of when they think about meditating. A monk, in robes, sitting cross-legged on the ground.
You don’t need to sit cross-legged if you don’t want to. Some people find it more comfortable to sit on a chair. It can help you to stay aware if you sit up without leaning your back on the chair. If you do lean back, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up practicing snoozing, and not mindfulness!
If you would like to sit on the floor, sitting cross-legged can help you to sit up straight while staying relaxed. Sitting on a folded blanket can keep you comfortable and sitting half-on, half-off a cushion can help your position, too. It’s all about finding a position where you can relax, but not fall asleep.
Your hands can rest on your thighs or in your lap.
Once you find your comfortable position, you can choose how to meditate. You could do some mindful breathing, or listen to a guided meditation. If you decide to follow your breathing, it can help to set a timer, so that you won’t have to think about how long you’ve been sitting. You can put your full awareness on your breath, knowing that the bell will tell you when it’s time to finish.
If sitting down to meditate doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, why not try a walking meditation? The aim of a walking meditation isn’t to go somewhere. People usually practice this form of mindful awareness by walking in a circle, or back and forth. The aim is simply to pay attention to the sensations as you walk.
Pick whatever speed feels right to you – going slower will let you really tune into the small feelings of walking. If you feel wobbly going slow, speed it up a little – there is no right or wrong way of practicing mindfulness.
Start by standing straight and feel the sensation of your feet against the earth. Feel the tiny movements your body makes to keep balanced.
When you are ready slowly take a step. Concentrate on the feeling as your foot rolls, as your leg lifts through the air and your balance shifts to the other leg. Continue taking and when your mind wanders, gently direct your attention back to your walking.
Your walking meditation doesn’t have to be deadly serious – having fun with it can help you stay focused. Pretending to be a superhero in slow motion or a fashion model on the catwalk can be great ways to bring your attention to your walking. Or you could try balancing a book on your head to really focus.
There are chances to practice mindfulness all around us. One way of practicing is to choose a daily chore or everyday event and try to give it your full attention.
For example – have you ever eaten something and then realized that you paid no attention whatsoever to the experience? Next time you eat, you can use the moment to practice mindfulness.
Before you eat, pause and take a few mindful breaths. Then really pay attention to what you are about to eat. What does it look like? Does it smell sweet, or bitter, or something else? Is it heavy? Warm or cold? How does the food feel in your mouth? Is it soft, chewy, crunchy?
There is a free guided meditation, here, all about eating a raisin with full awareness. Try it – were you surprised at how much sensation is involved in just eating a raisin?
You can try this type of mindfulness during any daily activity. Perhaps riding your bike, playing an instrument, drawing, or brushing your teeth.
Body Scan Meditations can help you to be more aware of your body throughout the day. Eventually, you will notice if you are scrunching your shoulders, or frowning because something is bothering you, and you will be able to put that right and relax almost instantly.
To do a body scan meditation, find somewhere comfortable to lie down. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to settle yourself.
Notice your belly rise and fall with your breath.
Notice all the places where your body touches the floor or bed you are lying on.
Then, starting at the top of your head, notice the feelings in each part of your body. Is there a warm or cool feeling? Can you feel your blood pumping through your veins? Perhaps there is a tingling sensation or a numbness?
When you have investigated that part of your body, try to relax it (yes, even your head!) and then move on down your body.
At the end of your meditation, spend a few minutes enjoying the relaxation. Were you surprised at how much you could notice about your body? And how much we usually pay no attention to?
There is no one special time of day when it is best to meditate. You will get the most benefits from meditation if you practice regularly, so it is important to experiment and find what works best for you.
You are more likely to complete a meditation if you plan it, rather than just trying to squeeze it into your day. For this reason, some people find helpful if they get up a few minutes earlier than usual to do their practice. This has the added advantage of helping you start your day off in a calm and focused way.
Others prefer to relax with a meditation before bedtime. This can help you sort through the day and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
And don’t forget – there’s no reason why you can’t meditate more than once each day.
Again, there are no rules about how long you ‘should’ meditate for. The younger you are, the harder it can be to sit still and focus, so it is fine to start off with just one or two minutes and build up from there.
Some people say that building up to one minute of attention for every year of your age is a good guideline. So if you are 15 years old, building up to 15 minutes of meditation.
Remember that there are no right or wrong ways to practice mindfulness. It is all about pausing, keeping your mind focused on one thing, and bringing your attention back if your mind wanders. What is important is that you practice – not that you count the minutes.
Meditating can be as simple as sitting on the ground and following your breath. This is what makes it so useful – you can do it anywhere, anytime.
But there are some things that can help you get started and stick with regular sessions. These things can help you be successful in the long run, even though they aren’t essential.
Guided meditations are available on CDs and to download online. You can find many for free on meditation websites.
It is worth trying a few different tracks until you find ones that suit you. There are guided meditations with just a voice helping you to focus, and others use natural sounds like waves, raindrops or birdsong to help with relaxation.
Guided meditations all focus on different things. Some may help you get to sleep, others are all about relaxing, and some are about healing. It’s up to you which ones you do on a regular basis – just give some a try and see which you like best.
Although you don’t need a special place to meditate, it can help you to feel calm and concentrated if you have a place that you use just for your practice.
A meditation space can be just a corner of a room, or you could even place a cushion on the floor in front of a small table. On the table, you can place some objects that will remind you why you want to meditate. These objects should be beautiful and meaningful to you – maybe a picture of a favorite place, a small statue, or a special feather, flowers, or another natural object.
Some people like to gather objects to represent the elements – a feather for air, a pebble for the earth, a candle for fire, and a small bowl of water.
If you have good weather you could try meditating outside. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a beautiful tree to sit beneath?
You can even follow a guided meditation to make a special place in your imagination. That way, the place can be however you want it to be and you’ll always be able to carry it with you – even if it’s a mountain, a forest, or a fantastic palace.
You can sit on a chair to meditate or even on the floor. If you choose to sit on the floor with your legs crossed, you can sit on a folded blanket to keep your ankles and knees happy. Sitting on the front half of a cushion can position your back nice and straight, allowing you to be relaxed but aware at the same time. Any old cushion will do, or you could choose a special one, to make your meditation space special.
If you sit on a chair to practice your mindfulness meditation, try not to lean back. This can relax you too much, and you might even fall asleep! Sitting up will keep you awake.
You can wear anything you like to meditate, but it can help you to stay focused if your clothes are comfortable. Anything loose or stretchy will be less distracting than fitted clothes or tight waistbands.
Taking off your shoes will also help you to get more comfortable and put you in a relaxed frame of mind.
There are plenty of apps available to help you practice mindfulness. They often combine guided meditations, learning, and meditation timers. There are some great apps which cost nothing – we’ve added some of our favorite free apps below.
Insight Timer is home to a huge community of meditators from all around the world. There are lots of free guided meditations you can listen too, and you can bookmark your favorites. There are forums where you can ask questions and a great timer that allows you to choose which sound you would like to end your meditation with.
The MindShift app has been designed especially for children and teens who struggle with anxiety. It aims to give you the tools to face your anxieties and learn more about them so that your new awareness helps you to deal with them as they arise.
Breathr was built to make meditation fun and easy for young people. There are meditations lasting from one to twenty minutes, simple, quick breathing exercises, and resources to learn more about meditating.
This app is all about making meditation easy for people. There are different age groups you can choose from, and even special meditations for sports people to enhance their performances.
If you enjoy mindfulness training, you might want to learn more about it, and practice some different kinds of meditations. You might wonder about the religious uses of meditation and where you can go to dig a little deeper into this powerful practice.
There is some sort of meditation practice in all the major religions. Some of them may look a little different, but you can see the similarities if you look deeper. For example, Hinduism has yoga. This is a form of body awareness meditation, a bit like the walking meditation above.
Have you ever heard monks chanting prayers? This is very similar to a mantra meditation, like the loving-kindness meditation below. Activities like calligraphy in Zen Buddhism are a form of meditation, in a similar way to the everyday mindfulness we talked about earlier.
Sometimes people can be put off meditation because they think that it is religious. Sometimes parents may see meditation as part of a religion very different to their own, or they may want you to have no religion.
Meditation doesn’t have to conflict with any spiritual beliefs you might already have. Simply training your attention and focus has lots of benefits, as we saw earlier.
If your parents are concerned, it may help to talk to them about why you want to meditate. This video talks about how meditation and religion are not the same. You could let them listen to some guided meditations with you, and maybe try one together.
Below is a meditation that is used by Buddhists, but can be used by people from many spiritual backgrounds.
Loving-kindness, or ‘Metta’ meditations originally come from Theravada Buddhism. This school of Buddhism values loving-kindness, or friendliness towards others, very highly and this kind of meditation is designed to help you build up feelings of kindness and empathy.
Sit down and take a few deep breaths to start your meditation. When you are ready, imagine lots of love surrounding you, and say to yourself, ‘May I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering.’
When you are ready to move on, imagine someone that you love. See them surrounded by lots of love and say to yourself, ‘May they be well, may they be happy, may they be free from suffering.’
Next, imagine someone that you feel neutral about. Imagine them surrounded by love, and repeat the phrase, ‘May they be well, may they be happy, may they be free from suffering.’
Finally, imagine someone who you find it difficult to like. See this person surrounded by love, and again, say to yourself, ‘May they be well, may they be happy, may they be free from suffering.’
If you wish, you can end the meditation by sending loving kindness to every person (and animal) on the planet in the same way.
Give this meditation a try and see how you feel at the end. You can follow a guided loving-kindness meditation here, or use your own words. It’s not unusual to feel very happy and full of compassion and kindness towards your friends, family, and other people.
Meditation has been proven to help people feel calmer and less worried and depressed. Because of these benefits, people often begin meditating in times of stress. Most of the time meditating is a very pleasant and relaxing experience.
Sometimes, though, meditating can bring up feelings that are hard to deal with. You may find yourself thinking about unpleasant things that have happened. This is okay and is all part of the process.
After all, the aim of focusing our attention is so that we can notice thoughts and feelings as they pop into our minds. But we also notice that they leave our minds too. They are not permanent. Sad feelings may come, but they go again too. Angry feelings come and go, and so do worries.
Knowing that feelings come and go can help us to be less bothered by them. But it can still help to talk to someone you trust about them. Sometimes you might need more than meditation to help you, and a trusted adult – a parent, teacher, doctor, or school counselor – will be able to help.
There are many ways to learn more about meditation. There are plenty of resources online, and guided meditations and books can be helpful too. Many of these are aimed at young people and will have meditations designed specially.
If you’d like to meet up with other people who enjoy practicing mindfulness, it’s likely that there are meditation classes near to you which you can join. You can often find very nearby classes by looking at the notice boards in local shops. Classes calling themselves mindfulness classes are less likely to be linked to a spiritual practice. There are also likely to be teachers offering classes especially for young people.
Perhaps you could ask your school if they would be willing to offer mindfulness training. They might be enthusiastic if you tell them about the benefits, including better attention and better exam performances!
Now that you know more about mindfulness meditation, you can get started on your own practice.
Whether you’d like to focus better, feel happier and more focused, or improve how you react to stressful situations, meditating can help, and there’s plenty of scientific evidence to prove it.
You can try any or all of the different types of meditations – walking, sitting, body scan, etc – and guided meditations and apps are available to help you.
You don’t need any special equipment to meditate, and there are no rules about how long you practice for. In fact, starting with just a couple of minutes once or twice a day and building up is a great way to get into healthy mindful habits.
If you do want to make a special place to meditate, it can help you to get into the right frame of mind and can help you to make mindfulness an important part of your day.
Most importantly, listen to your intuition. Meditation is a very personal thing, and how exactly you go about it is up to you. We hope that you are very happy in your new meditation practice – and we’re sending loving-kindness your way!