Without doubt, I would say that my teenage years up to early adulthood were the most difficult of my life to date. Adolescence is a time of immense internal, external, emotional and hormonal change and again, there is no ‘rule book’ to follow to help you get through these years comfortably and with confidence, as both teenagers and as parents of teenagers.
How many times have you heard the sayings or maybe even said them yourself ‘it’s teenage hormones’ or ‘it’s the teenage attitude’? As an adult, who has studied the ‘teenage brain’ in my own training, I now understand that there is a scientific and chemical hormonal response and activity that occurs in the teenage brain during these difficult years. The teenage brain is continuously developing and changing and doesn’t fully mature until the mid 20’s. This now makes so much sense to me!
Dr Daniel Siegel, who is an American Professor of Psychiatry, has done enormous research on the teenage brain and has written numerous books on this topic. He describes how there is scientific evidence of ‘Hyper Rational Thinking’ in the teenage brain. This is where teens experience a dopamine surge when they are excited or thrill seeking. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and is responsible for how we feel pleasure. This is why adolescents sometimes take risks and don’t see the imminent danger or repercussions of their actions in the moment because they are ‘high’ on their dopamine hormonal surge!!
I personally can’t imagine how difficult it is for teens and adolescents growing up in society today. We’re all living in an era of fast paced life, instant life, everything is accessible 24/7 from our bedroom, our kitchen, our living room, our bathroom and there is no switch off time, there is nowhere to escape to. Noting that I was a teenager in the times where there were no mobile phones until you went to college, there was no social media, there was so much time to disconnect from the world and just switch off.
Nowadays, our teens and adolescents are so consumed by social life and pressures, by peers, by continuous news feed from everywhere around the world. How do they manage to turn their brains off? How do they connect to and stay present in their moment when their moment is one of constant and continuous social invasion? How can they feel grounded and aware of themselves with all the external influences they experience every second of every day while also experiencing huge internal and hormonal changes and surges in their minds and bodies?
This is where Mindfulness can be an incredible ‘life-line’ to teens and adolescents. I have been contacted by a lot of parents recently, particularly since the re-opening of schools during the Pandemic, expressing their concern for their anxious, fearful, upset teens. Many have expressed that their teens are experiencing such high levels of anxiety, fear and panic and are feeling so overwhelmed in society at the moment. I sympathise so genuinely with parents and teens as I feel and see how difficult it is to cope daily and create, maintain and live with mental, emotional and physical balance and health at the moment.
I have worked with many teens and am passionate about teaching them about their own inner strength and built in resources that can help them to feel more anchored and supported in any moment. I teach them how to use their own natural internal resources, like their breath, their senses and mind taming exercises to help to calm and focus their minds and in turn their emotions and their physical response sensations.
I teach teens how to realise that their minds and body’s are a ‘safe place’ to be, that they can create ‘switch off’ and ‘downtime’ in their minds through Mindful breathing practices, meditations and by ‘training their brains’.
I empower teens with the training that our thoughts are like ‘clouds’. They will come and they will go. Some will be dark, heavy, stormy. Some with be light, fluffy and empowering. Our ‘thoughts our only thoughts’, they are not real, they are not reality. Our ‘present physical moment’ is reality. I help teens to learn to welcome R.A.I.N in their experience.
A quote I love by Thich Nhat Hanh, who is a famous Vietnamese Buddhist Monk is:
”Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
(Source: Thich Nhat Hanh)
So HOW do I practice ‘Thoughts Like Clouds’ and welcome R.A.I.N?
The following is a step by step guide on how to practice ‘Thoughts Like Clouds’ and how to welcome ‘R.A.I.N’?
By Leona McDonnell Mindfulness and Wellness
Thank you so much to Deirdre Rusk for her amazing images! Check out more amazing images from Deirdre Rusk Photography at https://www.deirdrerusk.com/
As published by The Celtic Media Group in The Anglo Celt, Connaught Telegraph, Meath Chronicle, Offaly Independent, Westmeath Examiner and Westmeath Independent newspapers w/c 19/10/2020)