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Five Ways Adolescents Can Prioritize Their Mental Health

According to a study done by Mental Health America, many adolescents are struggling with their mental health. Adolescence can be a trying time for many, and by adding in the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation that comes with it, more teens are struggling than ever before. 

In fact, 9.7% of youth in the U.S. reported having severe major depression in 2021, compared to 9.2% the year before. Throughout the pandemic, youth ages 11-17 have been more likely than any other age group to score for moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the rates of suicidal ideation were highest amongst youth, in particular LGBTQ+ youth.

While those are sobering statistics to hear, we can all do things to encourage positive mental health in adolescents. Lori Rugle, Ph.D., ICGC-II, BACC, was a keynote speaker at the 2020 National Council on Problem Gambling Conference and addressed listeners on improving mental health through practicing fierce compassion and mindfulness.

Mindful, self-compassion-focused therapy provides a way for clients to develop a sense of kindness, warmth, and emotional responsiveness to themselves as they face mental health challenges. 

Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, not just in therapy. Here are five practical ways the adolescents in your life can practice mindfulness and self-compassion daily.

  1. Spend time outdoors. Going outside regularly and getting fresh air can have multiple positive effects on mental health. The outdoors are a great place to connect with nature and check-in with yourself.  
  2. Get creative. Having a creative hobby like painting, singing, or drawing is a great outlet for mindfulness. By taking time to stop and use your imagination, you can be more present in the current moment.
  3. Don’t deny feelings. Accepting hard feelings like disappointment, sadness, or anger is an important mindfulness technique. While you don’t want to sit in those emotions, honoring where you’re at in the present moment can actually help you move on.
  4. Engage in physical activities. Exercises like walking, biking, or swimming can help teach determination and reduce your body’s stress levels and increase endorphins, boosting your mood.
  5. Take pauses to relax throughout the day. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing can significantly improve mental health and bring your attention to the present moment.

Hopefully, these mindfulness tips are helpful, and remember, if you’ve noticed your child turning to excessive gaming, fantasy sports play, or mobile phone apps to reduce their stress or anxiety, they might be at-risk for developing a problem with gambling. Visit ChangeTheGameOhio.org for more information on the signs of youth gambling and how to get the child in your life help if they need it.

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