When Teenage Girls Meditate
Parents know that eye-rolling and door slamming are coming when their daughter is approaching her teen years. Sometimes it doesn’t end up being so bad. Sometimes it’s worse than you could have imagined. Who is this creature that has the face of the adorable child you raised and nurtured but the behavior of a disrespectful, angry stranger?
According to Psychology Today, “Many people blame raging hormones for teenagers’ reckless behavior, and no doubt that’s one reason.”
Adolescence corresponds roughly to the period between the ages of 10 and 19. During adolescence, some increase in moodiness is normal. Hormones flare during puberty and adolescence, so teen girls’ reactions and the way they process emotions is different than during their earlier years. Tears and rages and impulsive behavior are not at all unusual so a parent has to remember not to take it all personally, but to treat each episode or mood in a respectful way.
“It’s normal for teens to get moody, frustrated, and irritable from time to time,” explains Dr. Vinay Saranga, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in North Carolina. “Adolescence is a period of transition and teens have to work through new emotions, thoughts, and feelings.”
Psychology Today weighs in again with some helpful reminders that will help you support your daughter during her teens:
- Acknowledge her emotions.
- Listen to her requests.
- Respect her privacy.
- Avoid treating her like a child.
- Avoid criticizing her every move.
- Spend time with her talking or doing something mutually interesting.
- Set up a weekly meeting where everyone can clear the air.
- Set clear family rules about behavior and communication. For example, “We speak respectfully in our family.”
- Your comments should focus on her behavior and how you feel about it. (In other words, avoid making comments about her personality or character.)
- Set and explain consequences—but try not to set too many.
- Give her space.
Experts’ advice probably comes naturally to most mothers anyway. You already nourish your daughter’s mental, physical and emotional health. Sometimes kids make it difficult, but parents know that a proper, nutritious and delicious diet is really important. Some parents say that it’s difficult to get their teen off their electronic devices, so it can be frustrating trying to make sure they get enough sleep and some athletic activity or exercise—all of which we’re assured will improve their health and spirits. Most moms already see benefits when they give their daughter praise and appreciation—setting her up to succeed—and by avoiding judging and complaining. Psychologists say that when you talk to your daughter—her eyes may roll and her tone may be aggressive, but she hears you. They say she’ll respond more favorably if you can answer her questions and concerns rather than addressing her tone of voice—not always easy when you’re getting overwhelmed.
Many parents who have daughters who have learned the Transcendental Meditation technique recommend it to other parents and teenagers. TM increases happiness and calmness, strengthens focus, balances hormones, and supports more orderly thinking. TM reduces stress hormones by activating certain functions of the parasympathetic nervous system while calming the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates the fight or flight response. The TM technique even reduces PTSD and ADHD symptoms, often lessening the need for medication.
A psychotherapist writing for Psychology Today stated, “Meditation is a natural tension buster. At first, the thought of successfully motivating our perpetually wired, A.D.D.-addled teens to regularly meditate may seem implausible. But a study in the American Journal of Hypertension proves that it’s not only possible, but it can also yield remarkable results.” This 2004 study by Dr. Vernon A. Banks, a physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia, and his colleagues, examined how TM affected inner-city adolescents. The researchers thought that regular Transcendental Meditation practice would aid in lowering stress levels through decreasing subjects’ ambulatory blood pressure. For four months, the teenagers practiced the TM technique twice a day for 15 minutes each time. Afterwards, blood pressure measurements revealed that, compared with the control group, those who practiced TM experienced a measurable decrease in daytime systolic and diastolic blood pressure and in daytime heart rate. In other words, Transcendental Meditation decreased stress and increased relaxation.
So those are the evidence-based facts about how TM can help girls (and their parents) through the teens. But what do teens think of TM?
One girl, a high school student in Arizona, learned TM and, after a few months, commented, “I’m a lot more cranky when I don’t meditate. I tend to see that. Like if I don’t meditate in the morning, then in the afternoon I’m really irritable.” Another said, “Most kids, when they’re having problems or something, they just blow up, you know. And meditation helps me to think about what I’m going to do before I do it.”
Here are interviews we conducted with two fourteen-year-old girls who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique:
I am 14 years old in year 8. I have three older siblings who have all also learned TM. My favorite subjects in school are probably Mathematics and FoodTech. My favorite hobby is baking, especially cakes!
I learned Transcendental Meditation at the age of 10 in year 4. Before I learned it, I thought it looked very peaceful and relaxing but also a little bit strange. After I learned TM, it completely changed my mindset and I felt enlightened and I had a new outlook to life.
TM came effortlessly to me. During TM I feel completely relaxed and I feel as though all my thoughts are left behind and my mind and body completely transcend to a completely rested and relaxed state.
My hobby of baking and playing the piano have been enhanced in many ways since I learned TM. When I bake, I like to use my creativity to create a dessert that is interesting and captures the attention of others. I have been playing the piano for 8 years and since I have learned TM my understanding of music has grown greatly.
Learning Transcendental Meditation helps to open your mind to a new and optimistic view of the world.
I’m 14 years old. My favorite subjects are English/Literature, Art and Swimming. I have two younger siblings.
Meditating seemed a bit hard at first because I made it more complicated than it actually is (I kept, incorrectly, concentrating and trying to focus), but it quickly became easier. It feels like I’m taking a break from the world and just relax. Sometimes I feel… nothing? No thoughts bombarding my head, no stress, just me and peace.
Since learning TM, I found that grudges that I held from disagreements were easily forgiven and bothered me less. Sometimes, instead, I’d find myself trying to solve them or look at them in a different view.
I like to do TM first before practicing my piano. Because it’s hard to practice or study something when my head is filled with thoughts, I do TM first and refresh myself before starting on something, especially something new—it makes it so much easier.
The Teenage Brain
According to neurologist Frances Jensen, author of “The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults,” the frontal lobes of the brain aren’t fully connected until we are in our twenties or even thirties. The frontal lobes are responsible for moral judgement, discrimination, decision making, planning and self-awareness—and can act to reduce impulsive behavior starting in other regions of the brain. Dr. Jensen writes that teens’ undeveloped brain function helps explain why teens act out in seemingly irrational ways.
Neuroscientists researching TM’s effects on brain function found that, during the TM practice, the brain produces high-power alpha waves, corresponding to a state of relaxed, blissful, inner wakefulness. This orderly functioning often spreads throughout the brain and enlivens the pre-frontal cortex—the seat of the brain’s executive judgment. For example, a study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology in 2009 showed that university students who learned TM showed increased broadband frontal EEG coherence.
In a previous article on our blog entitled Mysteries of the Teen Mind, we quoted neurologist Dr. Gary Kaplan. His quote is worth repeating here:
How do we keep our teens from inadvertently hurting themselves, while each has a more or less under-developed prefrontal cortex, lacking strong connections to the rest of the ‘thinking’ brain? There are no medications that are truly effective in curbing impulsivity and risk-taking. Behavioral strategies and education… are inadequate, though we often recommend them. What is needed is a way to bring the prefrontal cortex ‘online’ with the rest of the cerebral cortex…. I recommend this (TM) technique in particular because it is simple. Adolescents learn it easily. Moreover, it is the only technique I know of that increases coherent prefrontal activity (as measured by EEG). Well-controlled studies demonstrate positive effects on attention, decreasing anxiety and substance abuse after only weeks of practice.
About the Author
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals in the USA.