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helping depressed teens

Mindful Happiness: Strategy for Helping Depressed Teens

The goal of using mindfulness as a treatment option for depression is not to get rid of depression completely—as this may be unlikely for many people—but to accept it and detach from it enough to live a happier, healthier life. At the most recent National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs Conference, our executive director and founder of the Red Mountain Programs, Josh White, hosted a presentation on Mindful Happiness and how this idea can be integrated into a treatment program helping depressed teens.

How Can Mindfulness Improve One’s Mood?

Some people would argue that the present moment is a beautiful experience when one is fully engaged. It is the layers of physical anxiety and negative thoughts that many teens with depression experience that make being present feel intolerable. When caught up in this aspect of their experience, it is not surprising that teens turn to other coping mechanisms to feel more comfortable, and perhaps, happier. 

Mindfulness is a more sustainable way of trying to control the way one feels that has transformative long-term effects. 

Some of the ways mindfulness increases positive emotions include:

  • Greater appreciation of life by engaging in the present
  • Improved productivity as a result of improved attention
  • Increased self-acceptance 
  • Decreased self-judgment and judgment of others
  • Reduced impulsivity

Mindfulness Practice Helping Depressed Teens

In recent years, there has been a growing field of research around Buddhist psychology, or, how to integrate principles of mindfulness into individual therapy sessions as well as how to offer group meditation as a form of group therapy. 

Some of the practices we utilize regularly include:

  • Present moment awareness. Teens with depression often get stuck ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, which compromises their ability to be in the present. Mindfulness practices, like breathwork, noticing one’s senses, or paying attention to one’s surroundings, can help teens feel grounded in the here and now. 
  • Accepting emotions. Often, teens have internalized that depression is a “bad thing” and hold onto shame that they experience depression, especially if they experience recurrent episodes after making progress in therapy. When their goal is to avoid or resist feeling depressed, their symptoms may worsen. Instead, mindfulness teachers recommend accepting when one is feeling intense emotions and acknowledging that their body feels it is an appropriate response to their situation.
  • Thought detachment. This practice can be particularly powerful for depressed teens. After naming negative thoughts, teens are reminded to acknowledge that they are just thoughts and that they do not reflect who they are or have to control their behavior. From there, they may be encouraged to visualize these thoughts floating away.
  • Loving-kindness meditation. This is one of the most popular forms of meditation among Red Mountain Colorado students, as it cultivates self-compassion and empathy for others that they are close to and that they are struggling to connect with. 
  • Intention setting. Many teens with depression feel purposeless and struggle with identifying personal goals. In mindfulness, goals are harder to measure, as they are more open-ended. Instead of planning to do something X amount of times before X deadline, mindfulness encourages teens to keep certain values in mind throughout the day. 

Mindfulness Practices in Depression Treatment Centers

Many of the teens that we work with are new to mindfulness practices when they come to Red Mountain Colorado. Some may be familiar with different philosophies or principles of mindful meditation but have struggled to develop a regular practice. Our teen meditation therapy grogram allows teachers to meet students where they are and do not force the practice on anyone. For some students, meditation is “one tool in the tool belt,” and for others, it becomes a lifelong practice.

Our trained teachers offer daily group mindfulness sessions for both beginners and experienced mindfulness practitioners. Our goal is to teach students the basics of how to incorporate mindfulness practices into their everyday lives. This extends beyond seated meditation, which is what most people tend to think of when they think of mindfulness. 

At Red Mountain Colorado, we believe that mindfulness can not only help aid in helping depressed teens manage their symptoms but that it can help them adopt a more positive and accepting outlook on life. 

Red Mountain Colorado Can Help

Red Mountain Colorado is a residential treatment center for young people ages 14-17. The program focuses on influencing a positive change in the lives of students. Healthy, sustainable activities are also incorporated so that students will be able to apply the things they learn to their everyday lives. Students leave Red Mountain Colorado feeling empowered and in control of their lives.

For more information, call (877) 302-5022. We can help your family today!