Incorporating these mindfulness activities for teens into daily life will show your child how to protect their own peace. Being mindful can start your teen on a path of learning lifelong skills to manage their emotions.
Mindfulness is a way to slow your mind down so you can be conscious, aware, engaged, and intentional. Practicing mindfulness can help one stay in the present moment, be calm, and accept their feelings and surroundings.
Table of contents
- Mindfulness for Teens
- Putting Mindfulness in Practice
- Mindfulness Activities for Teens FAQ
Using mindfulness techniques can be a therapeutic way to help your teen or tween sleep. It can also help reduce their anxiety. Or it may simply bring a little more presence to your family’s daily routine.
Mindfulness for Teens
It’s well known that teens in this era have stressful lives and more pressure than what many parents in our generation knew. On top of school and other activities, teens now have to consider and manage their digital footprint, social media pressures, and a constant barrage of text messages.
In this “always on” landscape, it’s no surprise that many teens’ nervous systems are triggered frequently. And they often don’t have the support or tools they need to regulate their bodies. Mindfulness offers a few ways to help regulate their nervous system.
It’s also important to remember that teens are still kids. They might be big kids, but their brains are still developing. With all of today’s stressors and a fast-paced environment, a teen’s impulsive and not-fully-developed executive function can lead to bad decisions, risky behavior, and stress.
This is where mindfulness for teens can come in to give our kids a break, teach them to self-regulate, and help them develop space for themselves to think things through and learn to be more intentional in their actions.
NOTE ON TECHNOLOGY:
While it can be beneficial to reduce technology use during mindfulness practice, my personal philosophy is if it is being used in a healthy way or as a useful tool, I’m okay with it.
Technology is so tightly woven into the fabric of our lives now, that I feel part of the lesson to our teens can be how to use it as a positive tool. So if it is a yoga or breathing app, a music playlist, or a guided meditation, these can be exceptions.
Use your own instincts. And talk with your teen about technology addiction and decide together what is best for them.
1. Yoga for Teens
Kids of all ages can benefit from yoga, and it can be a particularly impactful way for a teen to practice mindfulness.
Since many teens are social creatures by nature and development, if it is within the budget they can go to a live yoga class with friends too. Including friends is often a good way to motivate teens!
I find that it is helpful to watch yoga on something like Apple Fitness or on YouTube. We do yoga together as a family, and any time there are actual people showing different levels and modifications it helps everyone be included and is great for beginners.
2. Mindful Music
Music can be a wonderful tool to bring into your teen’s mindfulness practice. Music offers many therapeutic benefits to kids.
The purpose of mindful music is to set aside some time to play or listen to music, focus on it, and be present in the moment. Each song can be a way to be aware of how much time has passed, and each can provide a peaceful gateway to take those minutes to focus only on the music.
Music can help relieve stress and calm the nerves. The different sounds and notes in each song can help you feel aware of your feelings and sensations.
If your child plays an instrument, help them set aside time to play whatever feels right to them in the moment. Don’t practice a performance piece. Don’t judge. Just allow the music to flow through them.
For listening to music, try this simple process with your teen:
- Set aside 5-10 minutes.
- Choose one or two relaxing songs. I like to use headphones, but do what works for you.
- Sit, lay, or lounge in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Stay in a peaceful body position, focus on the music, and let your mind take you where the music leads.
- Notice your body and how the music is affecting it, the different sensations, and the relaxing of muscles.
- As your time finishes, take a minute to come back from where your mind was. Don’t rush, and get back to your daily tasks at a pace that feels right for your body and mind.
Any music works. Your teen might feel motivated to make their own playlist for this practice. Otherwise, here are some ideas to get your mindful music playlist started:
- Nature sounds
- Rain sounds
- Light jazz
- Binaural beats
- Music for focus
- Relaxing sounds
- Music for meditation
- Acoustic guitar
- Mindfulness music
- Classical music
3. Mindfulness Journaling
Journaling is likely something your teen has done in school at one point or another, so it is probably not a new concept to them. Journaling is a proprioceptive way to explore your feelings, look inward, and reflect on how you feel.
If your teen processes their feelings with words, this is a wonderful avenue for them to take with their mindfulness practice.
For this mindfulness activity, any notebook will work. Some people find that journals with specific writing prompts (like this one) are helpful, whereas some people find that free journaling about whatever is on their mind works best.
I personally like to keep this journaling as free and open as possible, without strict writing parameters. As a writer, this can feel so freeing and helps get you in a different mental zone. So just go for it! Let your handwriting be messy. Don’t stress about punctuation. If you think in lists, make a list. One-sentence paragraphs? Yes! This should be free flow.
If using a blank journal, having a list of writing prompts for mindfulness can help get the writing juices flowing. Here are journaling prompts to get you started:
- How are you feeling right now – mentally and physically?
- What is the best way you’ve found to calm yourself when you are anxious or sad?
- Where do you feel the most safe and why?
- How do you feel about social media?
- Do your parents give you an appropriate amount of responsibility and trust?
- What is something you love about yourself?
- Describe the last time you felt content.
- In what ways do you want to personally grow in the next year?
- What is worrying you today?
- What’s the one thing you could do right now to make yourself feel more at ease?
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This mindfulness activity for teens is a wonderful technique for them to learn now, as it can be a tool they use as they go into adulthood.
Progressive muscle relaxation is essentially a process of tensing and relaxing one muscle group at a time. This mindfulness practice can be helpful for sleep and reduces anxiety with the mind and body connection.
These are the basic steps to progressive muscle relaxation:
- Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down where you can relax your body.
- Take a few deep breaths to become grounded where you are.
- Starting with tensing your toes upward and then downward, flex as you take a deep breath in and count to 4.
- Next, as you breathe out and count to 4, quickly and completely release the flexion in your toes.
- Wait 10-20 seconds before beginning the next muscle group.
- Progress this process up your body from your legs, calves, knees, thighs, and hands, and onwards up to your neck, face, and head.
For more detail on the specific order of progressive muscle relaxation, this article is a great resource.
5. Meditation for Teens
Meditation can be a really effective way for teens to help manage anxiety, calm their nervous system, and process whatever life brings their way. The best part is that meditation can happen almost anywhere, and can take as little as only 5 minutes.
As with yoga, there are many avenues that a teen can take to learn to meditate. Here are some options that I like to use:
- A guided meditation script can be a great way to get started, try this one for guided deep breathing.
- Try these 5 minute guided meditations for teens on YouTube.
- Headspace is a popular meditation app that is inviting and great for teens to use for guided meditations on relaxation, managing stress, and finding focus.
- AppleFitness has different lengths and styles of meditation too. It’s user-friendly and simple to use for a quick break or on the go.
6. Mindful Walking
Mindful walking is pretty much exactly how it sounds. Take a walk whether it be around the neighborhood or a wooded path, breathe in the air, and notice the sounds and sights around you. If it’s nighttime or you can’t get out for a walk, try a guided forest walk meditation script.
Let your mind take a break and soak in whatever the outdoors has to offer you. Notice how your body feels, and check in with yourself to see how your mind feels before and after your walk.
To let your mind notice your footsteps, breathing, and the sounds of the birds or wind in the trees, it’s often a good idea to be alone for a mindful walk.
The power of friends is usually strong for teens, so if a mindful walk taken with a friend is what will motivate your teen to do it, I think there can be a huge benefit to that too. Sometimes all it takes is 10 minutes, but let your teen set aside what time they have to fit it in.
Teens might find themselves relying on this mindfulness practice to think and process their feelings. This is how my oldest son survived his high school years during the pandemic, and now as a sophomore in college, he still walks every day.
7. Deep Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing is a helpful tool to use for mindfulness, as it can take place anytime and anywhere. Helpful for calming anxiety, managing stress, slowing your mind, and getting to sleep, there are many different deep breathing strategies to use.
Yoga practice and meditation can both be great guides to using this method in daily life as well.
Here are the basics to begin deep breathing exercises:
- Have soft belly muscles while you inhale through your nose.
- Feel your lungs fill completely from bottom to top as you feel your belly rise.
- As you exhale through your mouth, your stomach will fall into a rested position.
- It can help to have your hand on your stomach.
From here, try the 4-4-4-4 breathing technique, also known as box breathing.
- Inhale slowly for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
- Exhale for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
- Repeat until calm
8. Grounding Techniques
Using grounding techniques is a way to bring your mind and whatever it is experiencing or perceiving to focus on the present moment. This technique works well for anxiety, painful memories, sadness, and managing anger.
Here are a few grounding techniques that are easy for a teen to get started with:
- The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding rule brings your attention to the present moment by finding 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
- Take a barefoot walk on the grass, and take deep breaths of fresh air. Notice the sensation on your feet, and the way the outside air feels in your lungs.
- Put your hands in running water, and notice how it feels. Change the temperature from cold to warm, and back to cold. Focus on the difference of how the temperatures feel.
- Hold a piece of ice in your hands, focus on the sensation and how long it takes to begin melting.
- Explain your physical surroundings to yourself, what the wall looks like, what color the table is, etc…
- Pet your cat or dog, or squeeze a stuffed animal.
9. Body Scan Meditation
Doing a body scan is a process of bringing awareness to parts of the body and body sensations from feet to head in specific order. Here’s a body scan meditation script you can use with your older child. Or give them the highlights like this:
- Start by laying or sitting comfortably, and relaxing your breathing with slow belly breaths.
- Notice any tension, pain, or discomfort as you work your way up your body.
- For each place you mentally scan and bring awareness to, ask yourself what you feel, what that area needs, and what you can do.
I like to focus my mind on bringing the energy of my breathing to any place that feels tension or is holding stress.
Positive affirmations don’t always feel natural to some people. Teens are often very astute. They may call BS on saying things that aren’t actually true (or aren’t true yet). So approach this tool without any expectations.
Best-selling author, publisher, and self-help expert Louise Hay taught that affirmations are like planting a seed in the ground. You don’t say, “I am wealthy” and get a million dollar tree instantly. But if you plant seeds of positivity and tend to them often, you can create the conditions you wish.
Let your teen come up with their own affirmations. Some simple but powerful ones are:
“I am safe.”
“All is well.”
“Everything is working out for my highest good.”
“I love my body and my body loves me.”
“I create positive and fun relationships with those around me.”
If your teen needs more ideas, have them listen to Snoop Dogg’s affirmations song. It’s designed for younger kids, but people of all ages on TikTok agree it is pretty catchy!
Putting Mindfulness in Practice
Practicing mindfulness is a habit that your teen will benefit from well into their adult years. It is not something that needs perfection, and their need for various mindfulness activities will likely grow as they do.
Getting started with these mindfulness practices is a great way for your big kids to get their feet wet when it comes to taking care of their mental health and being intentional with self-care.
It really only takes a few minutes per day. Talk to your teen about when to use mindfulness, and let them choose the activities that feel right to them. They can take the lead from there.
Mindfulness Activities for Teens FAQ
By practicing mindfulness, teens have more tools to work through anxiety or panic attacks. As they get more comfortable using these techniques, they may be less likely to experience intense anxiety because they know how to keep a stressful situation from spiraling out of control.
Deep breathing, staying present, and reminding yourself that you will be ok all send signals to the brain that you are safe. Feeling safe prevents some of the physical manifestations of stress. This may help teens feel more balanced, or even head off a panic attack.
The easiest ones to build into a daily routine are yoga, meditation, walking, and journaling. Each of these can also be done when a moment feels intense for your teen, but are great practices to also do each day when they are calm to make it a habit.
The 5 main areas of mindfulness that are helpful to teach to teens are:
– non-judging of emotions
– non-reactivity to intense feelings
This Mindfulness Questionnaire can be very helpful to assess where they are.
Teaching mindfulness to teens or anyone at the early stages is successful when you ease into it. Start slowly with the basic practice of noticing the breath. Deep breathing exercises like the Figure 8 Breath offer something for the brain to focus on. Mindfulness is all about being present here and now. So, invite them to just sit quietly for a few minutes and notice what’s going on around them.