What are ways that teens can be more mindful?
And how do you present mindfulness and its benefits in a way that won’t get an eye roll, a shrug, or (worse) an “Okay, Boomer”?
It turns out the best mindfulness activities for teens are the things many of them already enjoy—with a twist that can make those activities even more enjoyable.
A mindfulness habit may be just what your teen needs in their life.
- How Do I Teach My Teen Mindfulness?
- How Do Teens Benefit from Mindfulness?
- 15 Mindfulness Activities for Teenagers
How Do I Teach My Teen Mindfulness?
You know the benefits of mindfulness for yourself. And you’ve seen how it’s helped others expand their window of tolerance and become more present for the people they love.
Yet when it comes to discussing mindfulness exercises for teens, most of the suggestions you’ve found so far have you thinking, “Yeah. My kid wouldn’t do that (at least not without bribery or hypnosis).”
A mindful body scan will do them good only if they take it seriously and make it a regular thing.
Try something they already make time for regularly—or something you know they enjoy to get them started with mindfulness.
From there, it’s just a matter of paying closer attention to what they love about those things—and how they’re feeling.
How Do Teens Benefit from Mindfulness?
Growing up, in and of itself, is challenging enough — and digital reliance has rendered it even more difficult.
Online bullying is a legitimate epidemic, more young people are dealing with mental health issues at earlier ages, and the prevalence of e-life has shortened the average human attention span to 8.25 seconds.
But thankfully, there’s an effective anecdote: mindfulness.
How does it help? Benefits abound.
- Alleviates Feelings of Depression and Anxiety: Practicing mindfulness has been clinically proven to reduce symptoms associated with stress, anxiety, and depression in all ages. Sustained practice is the key.
- Supports Healthy Personal Development: A pillar of mindfulness is self-awareness. Teens who develop a healthy sense of confidence enjoy increased emotional stability, making them more resilient and better prepared to face the “real world.”
- Instills a “Just-for-Now” Sensibility: The teenage years can be brutal — especially for kids who don’t fit their mainstream community mold. Mindfulness work combats this sense of alienation (and related psychophysiological stressors). Plus, when appropriate, it helps keep teens focused on the fact that there’s an escape hatch — whether it’s college, a big city, or somewhere better suited to them — just a little further down the road.
- Helps Foster Self-Esteem: Mindful folks often enjoy more self-esteem because they don’t spend much time wallowing in the past or fretting about the future. Learning the value of self-esteem early on is akin to a miracle and can save someone considerable pain and heartache later on. Self-confidence also frees up mental space that can be redirected to more productive pursuits — like studying, growing, and discovering passions.
15 Mindfulness Activities for Teenagers
Some of the following mindfulness activities will appeal to your teenage kids more than others. Read through the options carefully before suggesting those you think they’d find most enjoyable and easiest to add to their daily and weekly routines.
If they already enjoy journaling or writing out their thoughts, why not encourage mindful journaling by getting them a new journal (or a gift card to pick out their own) plus a supply of mindfulness journaling prompts?
Not only are you honoring their process, but you’re also offering some time-tested ideas on how to make it even more effective for them.
2. Taking Walks
If they already enjoy getting out of the house for some exercise, encourage them to incorporate mindfulness by enlisting the help of their senses.
- What smells do they pick up?
- What sights attract their attention?
- And what do they feel as they’re observing their surroundings?
Make it an opportunity to get some exercise and fresh air and make them more aware of the world outside their minds.
Unless music is part of the mindfulness experience, the headphones should stay home.
3. Coloring Books
Even if they were never crazy about coloring as kids, the dazzling variety of adult coloring books, combined with the quality of fine-tip and brush markers, makes this a mindfulness hobby worth considering.
Let them try it, at least, to see if they find it calming as well as enjoyable. Ask them what they enjoy most about it.
If they’d like to try drawing their own pictures to color, you can encourage this, too.
Contrary to what gym class may have taught them, exercise can be fun, whether they choose yoga, strength training, rowing, swimming, Tai Chi, or something else.
Expose them to various options and let them try some of the options that appeal to them. It’s up to them to practice daily self-care, but they need to know it doesn’t have to look like yours or anyone else’s.
They won’t keep doing it if it doesn’t feel right to them, even if they know its benefits.
Whether they want to take a particular dance class or just want to dance alone (or with friends), give them the space to express themselves with movement. This could be their favorite type of mindful exercise.
Or it could just be something they do as a pick-me-up. It doesn’t have to be a specific kind of dance to be beneficial, either.
Whatever they’d want to do more than once can be made into a mindfulness exercise.
6. Blowing Bubbles
Bubble solution is usually easy to find at dollar stores, but you can also mix dish soap and water. If you don’t have a bubble wand, try using an egg dipper or a slotted spoon.
With the bubble solution in a shallow dish, your kids can enjoy creating bubbles and watching them float in the air, admiring the rainbow-colored sheen, and popping a few, or seeing how many land without popping.
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7. Listening to Music
Encourage your teen to listen to music that helps them feel calmer when they’re stressed.
You can even play some of their favorite calming music when they get home from school so they’ll linger long enough to enjoy it, along with a snack and a refreshing drink, both of which they can also enjoy more mindfully.
Remind them to pay attention to how they feel when they listen to certain kinds of music. And encourage them to spend more time with music that helps them feel better.
8. Puzzles and Games
Mindfulness games for teens are supposed to be something they would choose without being prompted or paid.
Whether they choose a jigsaw puzzle, a puzzle app (like Sudoku, crosswords, etc.), or a classic board game, the goal is to practice awareness of what’s going on — in and outside their heads — and practicing nonjudgmental acceptance of what is.
They can’t control all the details of the game, or there would be no point in playing.
9. Preparing Food
If your teen enjoys making food, mindful food preparation can calm their nerves while resulting in something they can enjoy with their family or friends.
Whether it’s cooking, baking, cake decorating, charcuterie, or something else, encourage them to try new things and learn from their mistakes. A few burnt cakes or runny meatloaves doesn’t mean they’re “not good at this.” It just means there’s more to learn.
10. Savoring a Meal
Once they’ve prepared something tasty, encourage them to savor every mouthful of it. Food isn’t just for fuel. Everyone partaking in the food can quietly, mindfully enjoy it together.
It helps, too, if you all agree that this is not a time to critique any part of the experience. No one says anything unless it’s necessary (and not critical) or complimentary.
You want your kids to feel the satisfaction of having made something they and the people they care about can enjoy. So, make this time about mutual enjoyment and support.
11. Taking a Bath (or Shower)
If your teenager enjoys a good soak, encourage them to take one if they feel overwhelmed or depressed. Encourage the use of aromatherapy and music.
Afterward, they can enjoy their favorite tea or a mug of hot cocoa. Warm towels fresh from the dryer are a nice touch, too, so make sure your teen knows how to do laundry. They’ll thank you someday.
Also, a hot shower can be just as soothing for some. We’re not all bath people.
Encourage your teenager to make time each week (or even each day, if possible) for a creative hobby like knitting, crocheting, drawing, gardening, woodworking, etc.
If they love birds, encourage them to build a birdhouse to hang on a tree branch — preferably one they can watch from one of your windows.
If they’re interested in making their own Christmas gifts, help them get the materials they need to learn their chosen craft and practice with it. Encourage them to create a quiet space where they can mindfully enjoy their work.
13. Mindful Breathing
Sometimes, all we need is to take a time out and just breathe for a few minutes to decompress. While your teenager is doing this, encourage them to pay attention to how they feel with each breath and find a breathing pattern that helps them feel calmer.
A short, guided meditation can help make their breathing time even more restorative, helping them banish both tiredness and nervous energy.
14. Playing Brain Games and Puzzles
Tackling a crossword, Sudoku, and other brain-teaser games is a great way to “tune in and turn off.” The brain becomes fixated on the puzzle and stops paying attention to the plaguing thoughts that colonize most teenage brains. Instead, concentration flows to the immediate task at hand.
Caveat: If the teenager in question suffers from anxiety about their intelligence, this may not be the best option. Failure to complete a puzzle or do it quickly may catapult them into a self-critical tailspin.
15. Taking Digital Detoxes
The studies came back, and they all agreed: hyper-digital attachment is messing with our minds on multiple levels. Excessive “screen time” damages cognitive function, online “silos” reduce our capacity for compromise, and social media has metastasized into a mental health minefield.
So if you want to help a teen stay positive, centered, and well-adjusted, implementing a digital diet makes a lot of sense.
Start slowly with a daily, 20-minute blackout period and work your way up to one day a week where the whole family unplugs together.
Now that you have 15 teen-friendly ideas for building a mindfulness practice, which ones stood out for you? And which will you encourage your teenager to try first?