Tuesday, February 25

How Buddhism might save your Teenager

I almost never consider Buddhism to be a religion.  The original core tenants of Buddhism come across as more of a philosophy-of-life to me.  I often blend Buddhist philosophy  with my Pagan practice because of this.

I was watching a short video by Waylon Lewis, from ElephantJournal (a subscription website chock full of awesome - 4 articles per day are FREE).  In it, he offers up some of the best non-spiritual Buddhist practices that can help us remove negativity from our daily lives.  Listening to this after spending yesterday hanging with a teenaged neighbor, it struck me how these four Buddhist teachings could improve the emotional lives of teenaged children.

First, here's the video:



The techniques he covers are Posture, Clothing, Tidiness, and Downtime. I remember being a teenaged girl and have listened to plenty of stories of teenaged boyhood from Papa J.  We have agreed that those budding years are ROUGH.  There's pressure everywhere and from everyone.  Teachers, parents, peers... on top of those complete strangers at the mall that you were pretty sure were laughing at your haircut from across the food court.

How can our children use these 4 Buddhist techniques to push that negativity out of their lives?


1. Have good posture.  Sit up, don't let those bodies sag.  Good posture can prevent soreness and muscle fatigue.  It also keeps you more alert, but did you know that it boosts positive emotions and confidence?

Studies have shown that posture can effect our minds in a sort of 'fake it till you make it' method.  If your children stand up straight, walk with shoulders back, and put a smile on their faces, their body will respond with better breathing, better digestion and circulation.

Don't have time for yoga with the kids?  Just have them stand up straighter. Really.  Good posture is recognized by the brain as a 'power stance' and can instantly fill a person with confidence, even a  fretful 8th grader.

Img Source [Pinnacle Physical Therapy, AZ]

2. How we dress.  Dress nice.  Mama Stacey is very guilty of hiding behind baggy clothing. Buddhism suggests that wearing well-fitted clothing forces honesty and openness. In my experience, this works.  When I want to have a successful day or stick to a plan/schedule, I force myself to change out of my yoga pants and sweatshirts and into 'real' clothes.  I put a bra on, I put a nice blouse on, I wear a good pair of button pants... even socks.  I even go so far as to put slippers on over my socks so that it feels like I'm wearing shoes.  I find that I get more work done on a day like this than I ever would sitting on the couch in my sweatpants.

Studies show that there is a link between wearing loose-sloppy clothing and feeling depressed. The occasional Sunday-afternoon-pajama-day isn't to be shunned, but when your teen's normal daily attire is stretchy pants and baggy t-shirts, they probably aren't happy confident kids.  Do your best to make sure your teen has a healthy collection of 'nice' or 'fitted' clothing to wear to school.   I'm not talking about shirts that cause a girl's bust to hang out or pants that are tight on a boy's rear like society would suggest.  I'm saying that perhaps a 13 year old girl will feel better about herself wearing a nice pair of glam-jeans, a fitted tank, a pretty top and some clean flats than she would wearing Fruit of the Loom sweats, a baggy cat t-shirt and clunky sneakers.



3. Keep your environment tidy.  Your environment is an extension of your inner-self and when it is a shambles, your insides become cluttered too.  Have your teen get those clothes off their bedroom floor and into the hamper. Help them to empty their backpack of papers every night.  Encourage them to make their bed in the morning and empty the wastebasket every weekend.  15 minutes of tidying every day can keep their environment fresh and clean, which can brighten their mood, give them confidence when friends come to visit, and keep at bay "that smell" that teenaged boys accumulate so easily. 

Honestly, this works in Mama Stacey's house.  Homework is done lightening fast at a clean and clear table by the window (natural light, yay!) with a glass or fresh water or orange juice within reach, than it ever was done at a cluttered bedroom desk, in dim light, with music blaring and a can of soda pop in hand.

Our neighbor is struggling with depression and so her house is rather unfit lately.  Her teen comes over to do homework beside Doodle Bug at our dining room table.  Her comprehension is up and she's getting her work done in half the time.



4. Doing nothing.  Allow their minds to rest.  Allow their consciousness to catch up.  Allow their breathing to fall back in sync with their bodies.  Busy does NOT equal 'successful' or 'engaged'. Multitasking does NOT equal 'smart' or 'capable'. Over-stimulation causes stress and can lead to burn out.

If your teen fills every moment of their day with reading, writing, moving, driving, television, laptops, cellphones, gossip... encourage them to give their brains a break.  The art of nothing is incredibly difficult, but even the occasional 5-10 minutes of quiet will help.

Yoga.  Deep breathing.  Soaking in the tub.  Waiting at the bus stop without their cell phone or headphones.  Watching the sunset.  Calming and centering just a little everyday helps.

Check out Zen Habits for more 'do nothing' ideas.

Img source [NazReigN]