Substance abuse prevention and intervention with young people is especially important as teens struggle with drugs and alcohol to cope with more stressors such as school, family and conflicts at home or with friends. Mindfulness is a great tool to practice awareness of one’s mental, physical and spiritual self while focusing on the present moment. Learning some tools to support teens in recovery from addiction can be beneficial in many aspects of life, not just in battling addiction.
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness enhances the ability to react differently to situations which may arise in a teen’s life. Often addiction is associated with immediate gratification, or what feels good right now. The negative feeling a person experiences needs to go away as soon as possible which happens when drugs or alcohol are used. In recovery, teens learn the power of using tools to stay away from reactive thoughts and behavior to move towards positive thinking strategies and coping with life minus alcohol or drugs. Mindfulness helps teens stay present, in the moment and focused on the here and now.
Using mindfulness techniques with teens in recovery can help adolescents feel more calm, in control and less anxious about moving into the new phase of life. The following three practices can be helpful in getting started.
Teens can learn to use mindfulness techniques by practicing slow, deep breathing. The instruction to simply breathe slowly and deeply can help bring a wandering mind back to awareness and focus. Deep breathing allows the diaphragm to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which supports a relaxation response. Young people often report feeling calm immediately following deep breathing.
Another way to incorporate mindfulness tools with teens in recovery is by checking-in with the youth. Ask the adolescent to check in with the present moment experience and report back using descriptive words. This helps a teen get into a present-moment state of mind without formally meditating. This can be done at the beginning of a group, class, family or one-on-one session. It is also helpful to intervene with a check-in during moments of anger, frustration or strong emotional outbursts.
Stop, Breathe, Imagine
STIC (Stop, Take a breath, Imagine future consequences and Choose) is a cognitive acronym along with other such acronyms focused on encouraging mindfulness in the moment. This includes helping the teen to visualize the last time he or she had a chance to do drugs or drink. Visualizing the scene, the teen then thinks through the acronym. The teen will stop what is happening, take a breath, imagine the consequences and make a choice. The goal is to build resilience and a brain map for the focus to come back to choosing sobriety over drug or alcohol use in the future when the teen may face similar circumstances.
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness or other therapeutic techniques that are helpful for teens with drug or alcohol addiction, call The Villa. We are here to help guide you to the right resources and information to support a teen with addiction.