When a student’s amygdala (the primitive fight, flight, or freeze center of the brain) is activated, the prefrontal cortex(primarily responsible for higher function learning) and the hippocampus (responsible for storing and recalling memories) are less accessible. Many students who learn differently, especially those with ADHD or anxiety, live the majority of their lives in this ‘fight-or-flight’ state, making it difficult for them to successfully learn.
By pausing and replacing impulsive reactions with thoughtful responses, the amygdala is deactivated. This ultimately allows the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus to carry out their functions, giving a student the opportunity to achieve greater success.
Another name for this pause is MINDFULNESS.
A study conducted by Kaiser Permanente reported an 80% reversal in mental health diagnoses across adolescents through integrating moments of mindfulness. Another study conducted through UCLA found that 78% of participants who practiced mindful awareness reported reduction in their ADHD symptoms, such as:
- Better focus and concentration
- Increased sense of calm
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Improved impulse control
- Increased self-awareness
- Skillful responses to difficult emotions
- Increased empathy and understanding of others
- Development of natural conflict resolution skills
- Stronger executive functioning
Doesn’t this sound magical?
How might a student who learns differently begin to experience the magic of these mindful moments? Here are FIVE exercises, varying in age/maturity, that your teen can use to increase his/her mindful awareness:
- When you breathe, pay attention to where you feel it in your body. Belly? Chest? Nose? Somewhere else?
- In a familiar room at home, try paying attention to your senses – can you see or hear five new things you’ve never noticed before?
- Listen to a bell or an alarm – first with your eyes open, and then with your eyes closed. Do you notice any differences when your eyes are open versus closed?
- Pick an activity: bike riding, running, skateboarding, swimming, yoga, etc. Put your attention on your feet. Does this make the activity easier?
- The next time you sit down to take a test, take three, deep mindful breaths into your belly before starting. When you get stuck on a question, pause and take three more mindful breaths before answering the question. Notice how this makes you feel before, during, and after the test.
Are you interested in learning more about the magic of mindfulness for your student? Here are a few apps that Mindfulness for Teens recommends:
Stop, Breathe, and Think: Free web and mobile app for youth, with meditations for mindfulness and compassion
Calm.com: Free website and mobile app with guided meditation and relaxation exercises
Insight Timer: Free mobile app with virtual “bells” to time and support your meditations
MindShift: Free mobile app for teens developed by AnxietyBC, with mindfulness and other coping skills for anxiety
Smiling Mind: Free mobile mindfulness app for young people, from Australia
Headspace: “Meditation made simple.” This app has a free introductory period, after which it requires a paid subscription to continue to use.
Kaiser Permanente: https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org
Journal of Attention Disorders: http://Mindful_Meditation_training.pdf
Mindful Schools: http://www.mindfulschools.org
Mindfulness for Teens: http://www.mindfulschools.org
* * * * * *
* * * * * *
TEEN THERAPY CENTER CAN HELP!
Would you like additional guidance in this area? Teen Therapy Center provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.