The importance of mindfulness for young people
Guest blogger Jessica Brown asks how we can help our young people with "mindfulness"
Statistics released last week indicate that children as young as five are being diagnosed with mental health problems - and a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group has shown that girls as young as five worry about body image – a statistic that has been on the increase.
This shocking revelation suggests that a lot needs to be done to tackle this growing problem – but aside from outside influences that we can’t control, such as the media and advertising, what can we do to help?
In 2010, 72% of GPs reported that they thought mindfulness-based treatments, such as meditation, would help their patients that have mental health problems. Parents have been identified as one of the main influences on children, and this is where mindfulness can help tackle mental health problems in young people.
Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment, objectively and purposefully. It has originated from Buddhism, but is becoming increasingly acknowledged by the West as an effective relaxation technique. There is significant evidence linking it to decreased stress and anxiety, improved self-management, relaxation, self-awareness and mental health.
By encouraging mindfulness with children, we can hope to combat some of the early-onset mental health difficulties that are sometimes exacerbated by external influences. Mindfulness targets unproductive emotions, such as anger, fear and jealousy, by recognising their unhelpfulness and letting them go.
Mindfulness in children involves encouraging focused attention, being aware of the present, savouring activities and recognising negative thoughts. Helping to redirect and focus your child’s attention onto what’s important and inspiring is a good way to start. If you’re sitting outside together, for example, draw your child’s attention to nature – to the simple sounds, smells and sights. Being mindful not only increases the productivity of parents, but passes on positive behaviours that children are influenced by. It might seem like a subtle step, but it's one in the right direction.