It is really saddening to know that more than 1 in 4 young people between the ages of 13 and 18 suffer from anxiety disorders. But in some ways, it’s not surprising. Navigating the pressures of social interaction, as they transition from childhood to adulthood, can be very intense for kids.
Many of today’s generation have grown up spending lot of time behind a screen—whether it be watching movies, playing video games, or on the web— rather than developing the healthy life lessons and skills gained through real world group interaction (i.e. playing). In addition, it’s difficult to completely shelter kids from the pop culture bombardment of sex, drugs, and violence.
Adolescence is intense enough by itself with enormous real-life peer pressures, yet many teenagers also have to contend with the stress of managing their online social reputations. It can all be a bit overwhelming to say the least. It’s no wonder therefore that so many teens are struggling with anxiety.
Unfortunately, rather than addressing the potential lifestyle causes of anxiety—such as diet, unhealthy relationships, lack of exercise, and so on—antidepressants and other medications are often introduced. I was encouraged by a recent article, Kids with Anxiety Disorders ‘Significantly’ Benefit From Mindfulness Exercises, to see that researchers from the University of Cincinnati are exploring other treatment options for anxiety disorders, namely practicing “a wide range of therapeutic techniques that include meditation, yoga, and learning how to pay non-judgmental attention to one’s life.”
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According to the co-author of the university’s recent study, “Mindfulness-based therapeutic interventions promote the use of meditative practices to increase present-moment awareness of conscious thoughts, feelings, and body sensations in an effort to manage negative experiences more effectively.”
In the article, it described that children who are high risk for bipolar disorder or other anxiety disorders often have poor coping skills when confronted by stress, and only a few get the help and support they need. It is so important that we help our children develop coping skills from an early age.
That’s where yoga comes in. Yoga isn’t just for adults. Regular practice of yoga asanas, simple breathing techniques, and meditation can help children prepare for all the hormonal changes and emotional challenges they’ll face during adolescence. This is one of the main reasons I’ve produced my extensive line of Little Yogis products. By making yoga fun for kids, it gets them active and exercising with enthusiasm. This, in turn, nurtures their attraction to a health-giving yoga lifestyle and offers them practices to help them stay grounded throughout their sometimes tumultuous teen years.
I was glad to see this common sense approach backed up by a scientific study. In fact, the results were encouraging as they indicated that the anxiety of the patients was significantly reduced following treatment, and the more mindfulness they practiced, the less anxious they felt. After the 12-week experiment, the researchers concluded that mindfulness therapy increased neural activity in a part of the brain that plays in a role in processing cognitive and emotion information and also increased brain activity another part of the brain that helps monitor how the body feels psychologically.
For people who might be reluctant to start their kids on medication, yoga and mindfulness based therapies offer an exciting alterative choice. Every person and every case is different, but at least knowing there may be more natural alternatives to antidepressants will give many parents hope.
Wishing you and your family well,