As the knowledge and research of the mental health field continues to evolve, the interdisciplinary nature of mental health therapy continues to reveal itself more and more. We can no longer look at mental health as being separate from physical health. Similarly, we see the proof of connections on the mental, emotional, and physical levels that we would be amiss and negligent not to incorporate. Just a few examples of these include how fluctuating hormones due to puberty can trigger or worsen symptoms related to the hormones related to Mental Illnesses; how the endorphins released from exercise can help to alleviate the imbalance often present with Depression; how the calming of the nervous system through breathing techniques can slow down quick cycles of thought, which can tend to “downward spiral” in cases of Anxiety Disorders. The connections are numerous and significant This is why at Paradigm we’re committed to conducting holistic-based therapy, drawing upon knowledge that allows us to provide teens with every resource possible in order to empower them to realize their own recovery.
Meditation is a practice that has recently grown to be a fairly common tool within both the mental health and physical health treatment realms, even including such realms as Cancer Treatment hospitals and clinics. According to the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “regular meditation can reduce chronic pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, cholesterol, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder in Vietnam veterans, and blood cortisol levels that are increased by stress (sometimes called “stress hormones”), as well as reducing the use of health care services.” These days, meditation is regularly implemented within Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment contexts, as it’s a tool that teens can implement independently of a therapist, and draw upon, whenever they need. Though the word “meditation” has a number of different meanings, which vary in their degree of spirituality, generally speaking, it refers to a number of different techniques that work to create a mind-body connection, which serve to relax the body and calm the mind.
In the context of Teen Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse Disorders, in which teens commonly experience a sense of losing control over their thoughts and/or mood, the value of being able to slow down and calm the mind is substantial. Many of the different techniques of meditation are simply tools to help the teens focus on something specific, in order to alleviate the rushing-in of certain thought patterns, which can trigger a bombardment of negative feelings and symptoms. What we hope, in teaching teens meditation techniques alongside helping them become aware of their own triggers and patterns, is that teens will be able to draw upon their meditation techniques in order to slow down this process, and by doing so, avoid going to these low points.
All in all, meditation techniques are relatively simple. Some of the most common ones we teach to teenagers are breathing and visualization exercises. Breathing exercises are basically just controlled breathing, with a focus on any number of different aspects of the breath, including the length of the inhale, holding the breath in, holding the breath out, and/or the length of the exhale. The concentration on the breath helps to build an awareness and connection between the teens’ minds and bodies, while also helping to “distract” the mind from other thoughts that may be present. Through this process, teens can actually calm the nervous system and slow down the brain, which allows them to gain relief from overwhelming thoughts and feelings they may be experiencing and/or are about to experience. Essentially, meditation can serve as the “brakes” for teens to use, when they sense or fear their negative symptoms are coming on.
More than anything else, Teen Meditation is a valuable tool because it’s something teenagers can implement in order to create their own relief, as well as to defend themselves against the negative onset of thoughts and feelings. This is extremely important to us at Paradigm, as we are trying to make our time together here as valuable and transformative as possible, so that our teens can thrive independently, when they leave here. In this sense, we not only want to help teens to gain relief from their symptoms, but to learn to prevent them in the future, so that they continue to grow, heal, and thrive.