Mindful Youth Work Benefits You and Young People
Mindfulness can be a great way to manage stress, anxiety, and distraction. These are challenges all young people and adults face from time to time. So, we could all use mindfulness as a healthy way to cope with and prevent stress.
Bringing mindfulness to your youth work will help you and the young people you serve to slow down. When you’re so busy in your day-to-day work, you need ways to reground yourself and remember why you do what you do.
What is mindfulness?
Is your mind full, or are you mindful?
Mindfulness is simply the practice of slowing down to pay attention. It is being present, in the moment. And doing that intentionally. Without any judgment.
Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. Any kind of meditation exercises work great. They help you learn to notice your thoughts, emotions, and body states. Common mindfulness activities include:
- Focusing on your breath, your body, feelings, emotions and/or thoughts
- Walking meditations
- Mindful eating
- Sitting or lying down to do your own body scan
- Listening without judging
These are only a handful of the many mindfulness activities you could add to your day. But why consider mindfulness at all?
Benefits of being mindful
Being mindful offers many benefits for young people and adults alike. Mindfulness is very effective in all sorts of situations. Using mindfulness will help you with:
- Stress management
- Focus and concentration
- Managing emotions
- Emotional intelligence and conflict resolution skills
- Empathy and respect
- Resilience to overcome challenges
- Physical well-being
- Communication skills
Research confirms there are brain-based reasons why mindfulness can be so helpful. For example, when we feel difficult or strong emotions, the amygdala is activated. But using mindfulness helps this part of the brain be less activated.
We know our brain’s hippocampus is critical to learning and memory. And it also helps regulate the amygdala. Mindful practices stimulate the hippocampus. And that produces more gray matter density.
Another part of the brain that benefits from mindfulness is the prefrontal cortex. This area is associated with maturity, regulating emotions and behaviors, and making wise decisions.
Brain science confirms the benefits of using mindfulness. So, use it to your advantage. Make it a youth work game-changer!
Techniques for all ages
Now that you understand mindfulness and the benefits, you might be wondering how to bring it to your youth work.
Mindfulness can be valuable at any age. And just like most habits and skills, the best way to instill mindfulness in young people is to start early. Mindful youth are more likely to grow to be mindful adults.
The best way to teach mindfulness to young people is to live it and practice it yourself and model it for them. Young people notice everything you say or do, so every day you have opportunities to model healthy skills and habits.
Techniques can be broken down into breathing, coloring, movement, visualization, music, and daily task techniques.
You could try mindful listening, mindful walking, meditative drawing, or breathing exercises.
Encourage the young people you work with to try the ones they may enjoy the most. You can do some simple Google searches for inspiration!
No matter what techniques you choose, putting them into practice is the biggest piece. Remember to keep it simple, explore new practices as trust and comfort builds, and model a routine to reinforce new habits.
Want to learn more about mindfulness and the benefits it can bring to your youth work? YIPA has a fun and unique training to help you understand The Joy of Mindfulness for All Ages. It’s free to YIPA members.
Jade Schleif is the training coordinator of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker. Join us!