Meditation and Mindfulness For Families

Are social media channels making children unhappy, and is there a link between using these sites regularly, and a rise in depression and anxiety?

Several studies carried out in recent years have found a correlation between the two, with teenagers and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms having a substantially higher rate of depression compared to those who spent the least time there. The rise is roughly sixty six percent.

Does it mean that these social media channels are responsible for causing depression? The studies show that there is a correlation but couldn’t accurately define a causation. However, digging a bit deeper shows the negative effects of social media on teenagers and young adults.

Social media and depression

Can Meditation and Mindfulness Within the Family Help?

Over the last few years meditation and mindfulness practices have started to crop up more frequently in schools, colleges and workplaces. They aren’t just a fad. Numerous studies have shown that teaching these practices helps young (and not so young) adults increase their concentration and attentiveness. They also improve their interpersonal skills, including self-control and empathy. In addition, their stress levels come down, as does their hyperactive behavior.

It all comes down to giving our youth the tools to fight off negative thoughts and behaviors, while affording the opportunity to increase their self-respect and their attitude towards others.

As responsible parents, learning these tools, and knowing how they can help your children can make a world of difference. Further, utilizing them within the home as part of a family based meditation program can help you all better connect with each other and learn to relax. This opens up lines of communication and from that, better relationships ensue.

In an increasingly technology dependent world, making yourself aware of the advantages and disadvantages of social media, and from that, learning how to better manage any problems that arise can be incredibly helpful.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a parent, caregiver, guardian, aunt, grandfather, babysitter or working in a profession where you spend a lot of time interacting with children and young adults. The following ideas for mindfulness meditation practices that can be done together are a useful tool to help with anxiety and depression (whatever its cause may be).

Mindfulness Meditation Exercise Idea: Guided Breathing Exercise for Teenagers

Sometimes convincing teens or young adults to take part in mindfulness meditation can be half the battle. They might think it’s not very cool, or that it’s a waste of time. It can help to start off in a small way, introducing exercises that are simple - that won’t take up too much time, but that can give instant results. Trying this first exercise is a great way of introducing the concept.

A guided breathing exercise such as this is not just a great way for teenagers to learn some simple techniques, but for the whole family.

This exercise will need roughly five minutes to complete, though adding in pauses and time for thought and reflection may make it longer.

Take another pause, staying calm and still.

While it’s good to think about your breathing, what we want to achieve with this exercise is to focus and concentrate on the proper physical sensations that breathing creates. What does inhaling and exhaling feel like, right now, as you do it?

Many people don’t use all of, or the correct parts of, their lungs when they breathe. Often, we all inhale far too shallowly, and only get air into the top third of our lungs. In order to breathe in the right way, our bellies must expand too. In the general run of the day, take a moment to check your breathing and you’ll see that this is true.

This exercise encourages you and your teen to really stop and take notice of how slow, deep breathing ‘feels’ in your belly. It should gently expand as you inhale and soften as you exhale.

After every long, slow inhale and exhale, please pause and notice the calmness and stillness around you. Let your attention focus on your breath, wherever you feel, or notice it most.

At the end of the exercise, pause again for a moment or two. If your eyes have been closed, open them now and allow yourselves a moment or two ‘be’ in the moment.

Mindfulness Meditation Exercise Idea: The Balloon

For younger children, this Balloon Meditation is a powerful and fun way to introduce mindfulness and meditation. It adds a playful visualization to a simple and time-tested breathing exercise. You can do this either sitting down or standing up and it is a perfect practice for a small family or group to do together.

Keep in mind that a calm and quiet room with low lighting can help to invoke a sense of relaxation for this practice.

Find a comfortable sitting or standing position and relax your body.

Begin to focus on your breathing, imagining that with each breath in, your belly is filling up with air like a big balloon.

Then very slowly exhale, deflating the balloon in your tummy as you release your breath.

Again, breathe deeply and slowly in through the nose, as if you’re trying to fill up a balloon your belly with your breath.

And exhale relaxing the body as you breathe out, and imagining the tummy deflating of air like a balloon. You can even go as far as encouraging children to make a hissing noise (to replicate the sound of air being slowly released from a balloon).

Continue this practice for five minutes.

If you have slightly younger children taking part in this group exercise it’s possible to add a little more interest and fun into the exercise to keep them in the moment. Ask them to stand up in a relaxed manner and to follow the next easy steps:

Make them think about their favourite colour and get them to imagine a balloon in that hue. They then have to take slow, deep breaths through their nose, filling up their tummy with air, as if they were blowing the balloon up. When their imaginary balloon is full, have them hold their breath for a few seconds, then ask them to ‘pop’ the balloon in their mind and slowly let them exhale. They can slowly fall to the floor as the balloon deflates. As well as adding a bit more fun to the routine, it really does make children more aware of their breath. It can be fun to let older teenagers help guide their younger siblings with this exercise too, as a form of bonding.

Mindfulness Meditation Exercise Idea: Guided Relaxation Practice

This last technique is perhaps one of the oldest mindfulness meditation techniques, and yet it remains highly relevant and powerful to use today.

It really works especially well for teenagers who are very stressed and may be having trouble sleeping or disconnecting from their smartphones. It’s a more thorough and complex relaxation exercise, but one that really is very beneficial and can help the whole family.

This technique was developed almost one hundred years ago by Dr Edmund Jacobson and is known as guided meditation for relaxation. Sit with your teen, or indeed your whole family, and guide them through the following steps:

  • Sit or lie down comfortably on the floor, on the bed or on chairs and get everyone to close their eyes. Pillows or blankets are often useful for extra comfort and warmth.
  • Ask everyone to take a few deep, slow breathes to try and relax.
  • Encourage everyone to focus their attention on their right foot, firstly. Get them to notice how it feels. Squeeze it together, make a fist out of your toes. Tense and squeeze them tightly. Hold the tension for two, long, slow, deep breaths.
  • Get everyone to then release all the tension in their foot. It may make it tingle slightly, but this will soon pass. There is an immediate feeling of relaxation from this.
  • Stop. Take a deep breath and then move on.
  • Stop. Take a deep breath and then move on.
  • Once this is done, move round the different limbs of the body, following the same pattern, and using a progression that takes into account every single limb in its turn following all the rules as outlined above. Once every limb has been tensed and relaxed, the final step is to tense the body as a whole, hold the tension for two long, slow, deep breaths and then let that go.

Once the exercise is run through, encourage everyone to sit still, in the calm and quiet, breathing slowly and deeply.

Try all of these methods. It may be that one is more successful than another, or that you like to switch between all three of them to keep things interesting and create a sense of fun. Practicing anywhere from daily to three times a week can have a very beneficial effect on everyone’s mental health and wellbeing as well as fostering better family relationships and encouraging bonding and better connections.

If you still find that your child or young adult is having problems with social media dependence or finding it difficult to switch off from their smartphone, setting some sensible ground rules can help.

For instance, allow them time to connect with their peers on social media, but make sure there are strict boundaries about how long this can be done for. Ensure that before bed, phones are either switched off and put away, or not left in bedrooms – which is when they can cause a distraction.

For instance, allow them time to connect with their peers on social media, but make sure there are strict boundaries about how long this can be done for. Ensure that before bed, phones are either switched off and put away, or not left in bedrooms – which is when they can cause a distraction.

Always keep a dialog with your children, be open and honest and encourage them to do the same, without adding any addition pressure. Lines of communication that are always open, will stay that way!