I wish I had known about the concept of mindfulness when I was a teenager. I was a perfectionist — my grades, body, and personality all had to be exactly right.
I was a friendly kid, for the most part — as friendly as a teenaged girl can be, I suppose. But I was always so afraid of disappointing those around me and of disappointing myself. I was in constant movement. I worked, volunteered, studied, and socialized.
Now, I teach teenagers. Spending time with them in classrooms for the past 20 years has shown me that many teens grapple with the same concerns I felt when I was their age.
I cringe when I hear people tell teenagers that their problems are “small” or “don’t matter.” The fear of failure is palpable to them, and it is affecting their bodies and brains. According to the American Psychological Association, stress levels reported by teens exceed those reported by adults. My students tell me they do not sleep or eat well. They feel like they’re at the ends of their ropes, just like I did.
Thankfully, there are lots of resources and strategies that can help teens cope with stress. Practicing mindulness, through activities like yoga or breath meditations, can be particularly helpful ways to get through this challenging period. And the lessons teens will learn by practicing mindfulness throughout their tumultuous adolescences will stay with them for life and guide them through future struggles.
Here are 10 books that get teens started on a path toward staying present and keeping a clear and uncluttered mind:
This book provides a compelling introduction to mindfulness practices, and connects techniques with situations that teens will likely encounter. With chapters on eating, peacemaking at home, playing sports, managing school stress, and resolving conflicts with friends, this text can serve as a guide for readers struggling with all kinds of challenges.
2. Dharma Punx by Noah Levine
This memoir follows the story of Levine as a young adult in the world of drugs and conflict. When he realizes that he’s chosen a path full of destructive and unhealthy behaviors, he turns to the Buddhist practice of mindfulness to help him survive.
3. Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens by Diana Winston
Director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center, Winston is adept at providing a pedagogical foundation for the ways she teaches young adults to find quiet in a loud world. This book focuses on the body, mind, and spirit, and teaches teens how to develop a holistic mindfulness practice.
4. The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness Skills to Help You Deal with Stress by Gina Biegel
This workbook gives teens 37 activities to learn how to incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives. By the end of the scaffolded chapters, young adults are given the tools to help them pause before they react in a given situation, which is often the root of conflict, strife, and anger. The book empowers teens to feel like they can face challenges head on.
5. Buddha in Your Backpack: Everyday Buddhism for Teens by Franz Metcalf
Praised for its tone of humor and approachability, Metcalf's book engages young adult readers with its account of the basic tenets of Buddhism's mindfulness practice. “Buddha in Your Backpack” covers many topics relevant to teens, including sex, family, body, and school.
6. A Pebble for Your Pocket by Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh has done tremendous work in helping Western readers understand Eastern concepts and practices of mindfulness. This book offers parables for its audience to use in understanding the scope of the mind's ability to soothe itself. This text emphasizes the interconnectedness of all beings to help readers understand they are part of something larger and to feel less alone in their practice.
7. Mindfulness Meditations for Teens by Bodhipaksa
Perfect for the resistant reader in your life, this audiobook guides the listener through the importance of concepts like peace, security, relaxation, and love by using mindfulness techniques and exercises.
8. Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life for Teens: A Guide to Living an Extraordinary Life by Joseph Ciarrochi, Louise Hayes, Ann Bailey
This workbook focuses on the use of mindfulness to manage anxiety and self-doubt. Using ACT, acceptance and commitment therapy, these exercises shepherd teens through the difficulties of growing up and understanding one’s identity.
9. Mindfulness for Teen Anger: A Workbook to Overcome Anger and Aggression Using MBSR and DBT Skills by Mark C. Purcell, Jason R. Murphy
From the same workbook series as “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life for Teens,” this volume focuses on anger and aggression issues and how they can be mediated using mindfulness practices. This book focuses on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and dialectical behavioral therapy as the foundation for its exercises that speak to the lives of teens.
10. Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being by Thich Nhat Hanh
This book offers ten moving routines to help young mindfulness practitioners who may find a sitting practice — a mindfulness exercise that encourage stillness — challenging. The included DVD shows each series for added comprehension.
For even more resources such as apps and websites on mindfulness practices for young adults, check out this list.
Happy — and calming — reading!
Want to learn more about how meditation is changing education? Check out Mindfulness in the Classroom: A Conscious Route to Success and innovative schools that are implementing these approaches.