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Mindfulness and Mental Health Apps for Youth

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Cell phones may not be the first tool to think of when trying to disconnect and destress, but mobile apps can provide helpful mindfulness strategies and services.

Many apps help provide kids and teenagers with meditations based on their mood, manage mental health struggles, and even connect users with tools and specialists as someone to talk to and help support them.

Depression is the leading cause of illness and disability in teenagers, and studies show that half of those who develop mental disorders start showing symptoms by the age of 14, according to the World Health Organization.

One of top meditation apps, Headspace conducts mindfulness studies with national institutions to advance the field of mindfulness meditation. With 16 published studies, the app has proved to help with stress, focus and compassion. Only 10 days of Headspace reduced stress by 14%, improved self-compassion, and increased positivity and well-being.

Headspace has a subscription designed for children with five themes: calm, focus, kindness, sleep and wake up. The meditation exercises are designed for kids and parents to join, and the sessions can change based on age.

“It’s almost as though meditation was designed for kids,” said Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace. “They just ‘get it’ – there is this elasticity and freedom in their minds which allows them to be present in the moment and free from any external thoughts or pressures.”

Insight Timer offers more than 13,000 free guided meditations, and a collection specifically for kids and teens to help build confidence, overcome restlessness and develop regular sleep patterns.

With a wide variety of meditations, kids and teens can find a meditation for different moods and times of the day, like “Sweet Dreams Meditation for Children,” “For Students: Dealing with Exam Stress,” or “Coming Home to The Breath.”

Stop, Breathe & Think seeks the benefit of daily meditations through mood-specific suggestions. The creators of the free app say finding a few minutes to feel calm is as important as regular exercise.

The app guides you through a few simple questions to find out how you’re feeling physically and mentally, then asks you to add emotions, both positive and negative, using emojis. Taking all those factors into account, the app then recommends meditations with information on what the meditation is and what feelings it helps with. The simple process to recommended meditations makes it easy for anyone to find the right daily meditation.

BoosterBuddy focuses on improving young people’s mental health through “gamification,” making daily activities seem like part of a game to connect fun and motivation.

Occupational therapist Lauren Fox worked with the design team for the app. The app’s fun and easy approach to daily activities makes the daily mental health tool an engaging, positive experience. She explained how the app works in a blog post on Kelty Mental Health Resource Center’s website:

“BoosterBuddy provides a choice of three companion characters, or buddies. The buddy falls asleep every day and the user has to interact with the app to wake up their buddy. When they do this they are also taking steps to manage their own wellness.

“Waking up their buddy includes checking-in with how they are feeling that day and completing three “quests”, or real-life activities, in order to wake up their buddy. Quests are tailored to match how the user it feeling. If they are struggling, the quest will be a coping skill aimed at what is bothering them the most: anxiety, depression, psychosis, drug or alcohol misuse or other problems. If they are feeling better, the quest will be a more challenging task: taking a walk, phoning a friend, eating something healthy or many others. All the quests aim to give users a boost to get started on healthy activities.”

16-year-old Amanda Southworth created AnxietyHelper as a resource to help manage panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. Southworth told Healthline that she had trouble with her own mental health in middle school, and she wanted to create an accessible resource for anyone to find “what they’re up against, how to fight it, and what they need to do next.”

The app features interactive tools for users to cope with mental illness each day and provides information about depression, anxiety, and panic attacks and mental health resources.

Mindfulness apps are not meant to act as a treatment for mental health issues, but they can provide great tools for users manage their daily feelings and provide resources. Having many options of mental health and mindfulness apps allows users to find those that work best for them.

TYP IS PARTICIPATING IN #GIVINGTUESDAY THIS YEAR!

ALL THE MONEY WE RAISE DURING THE 24 HOURS OF THE GLOBAL DAY OF GIVING WILL GO TOWARD OUR YOGA FOR YOUTH PROGRAMS. WE HOPE TO RAISE $5,000 ON #GIVINGYOGADAY!

We are thankful for our community and donors that support our programs and help us grow to serve even more individuals. Your kind gifts provide greater access to healing yoga.

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Simple At-Home Meditations Can Benefit Youths’ Minds and Bodies Daily

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Many studies have proven that meditation classes and programs in schools help youths reduce stress, increase focus, and improve attitudes and self-confidence. Transformation Yoga Project has youth programs for alternative education and schools.

These same meditation benefits for children and teenagers can be achieved at home. They can learn how to reach a mindful state to help later react to stress or handle difficult situations positively.

Identifying the stress in their life is a major part of mindfulness, and according to the 2018 American Psychology Association’s Stress in America survey, Generation Z is the most likely to report poor health and seek help for it.

Developing the skills to practice meditations and be mindful daily can help with these stresses, anything from major transitions in schools or relocating to schoolwork to troubles with staying focused.

Mindfulness expert Laura Cipullo explained to NorthJersey.com that mindfulness has “four prongs”: being aware in the moment, being present in the moment, being nonjudgmental, and narrating to yourself as you go along.

Practicing meditation prepares children to stay mindful daily. Some meditation practices Cipullo explains are gardening, hiking, practicing yoga or engaging in art. These activities all have steps that require focus and awareness of the mind and body — noticing the leaves and birds when hiking, or noticing the movements and focus in painting or yoga.

These meditations don’t have to be daily or very long. A simple 20-minute meditation can help disconnect and gain that mindfulness. This can be a conversation between a parent and a child, a few simple yoga poses, or some mindfulness games. Here are a few meditations from Positive Psychology Practice and Do You Yoga for young children and teens:

  • Mindful Posing: The Superman – stand with feet just wider than the hips, fists clenched, arms reaching out, stretch the body out as long as possible; The Wonder Woman – stand tall with legs wider than hip-width apart, place hands or fists on hips

  • Counting Meditation: Sit or lie on your back and count backwards from 100 to 1, focusing on the numbers and concentrating on counting down free from thought. If you lose count, restart at 100 to regain focus.

  • Silent Walk: This practice focuses on keeping mind and body together and being present. Start walking around a room or outside, focusing on each step and breath, your feet connecting with the earth, breathing and smelling the fresh air, and listening to the natural sounds around.

  • Spidey Senses: Instruct the children to “turn on their Spidey senses” and be super-focused on taste, smell, touch, hearing and sight.

  • Blowing Bubbles: Tell the children to focus on their deep breaths and long exhale as they blow the bubbles and see the shape of the bubbles while forming, while in the air and when the pop.

Although the APA’s study found that Generation Z is the most likely to report stress and poor health, teaching these meditations and mindfulness tips at-home can be a great advantage for kids and teens to take on life.

TYP is participating in #GivingTuesday this year!

All the money we raise during the 24 hours of the global day of giving will go toward our Yoga for Youth programs. We hope to raise $5,000 on #GivingYogaDay!

We are thankful for our community and donors that support our programs and help us grow to serve even more individuals. Your kind gifts provide greater access to healing yoga.



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How Yoga for Recovery Helps Youths Affected by the Criminal Justice System

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With 16 trauma-sensitive youth yoga programs, Transformation Yoga Project focuses on providing yoga as a way to effectively help young people develop self-regulation, mind-body awareness and physical fitness.

TYP’s youth programs focus on various settings: behavioral health, detention, alternative education and school, shelter and residential, and other community-based settings.

October is Youth Justice Awareness/Action Month. Declared in 2009, the Campaign for Youth Justice advocates for a movement to end the prosecution of youth in the adult system. The campaign first started as Youth Justice Awareness Month, and the “tremendous growth in activism and advocacy” has turned the month into Youth Justice Action Month.

TYP’s programs are just one way to raise awareness of YJAM and the issues that impact nearly 200,000 youth each year.

A study from the Journal of Applied School Psychology found that at-risk youth who participated in school-based yoga programs demonstrated significant reductions in anxiety, depression and psychological distress after participation.

A TYP participant from the Glen Mills School, an alternative residential school for youth who are court-referred, said, “I like how it helped me escape a little within my day. It helps me relax and focus. The most helpful part of yoga was that it lifted up my mood.”

Another study explained that a yoga program offered in an urban school found that student’s perceived four main benefits from yoga: self-regulation, mindfulness, stress-reduction and self-esteem.

“The best part of yoga was the stress relief, being able to take an hour out of the day to rest,” said another Glen Mills School TYP participant. “What helped me the most was the way it boosted my performance for sports.”

TYP trauma-sensitive, research-based programs strive to meet the unique needs of individuals, communities and institutions. Training and educating our staff, instructors and the public, helps youth affected by the criminal justice system.

TYP is offering an in-depth training on December 1 and 2 for yoga teachers, social workers, school teachers, counselors, and interested yogis. This is an opportunity to learn about trauma-sensitive, mindfulness-based tools to share with young people that foster resilience, decrease stress, and increase emotional regulation. Check out the training information at the event page.

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It Takes a Village

Whether it’s yoga, professional football, or another path, many organizations work toward criminal justice reform.

Transformation Yoga Project uses its trauma-sensitive yoga programs to serve those who are incarcerated, in reentry, in communities disproportionately affected by incarceration and those working within the justice system. The yoga and mindfulness programs give the organization a platform to speak about criminal justice with research and its impacts.

Working around the Philadelphia area, 35,000 people have gone through the TYP programs, and 50 trauma-informed teachers go into facilities every week. Working with the participants, the organization hopes to address the high rate of psychological stress and reduced well-being experiences by those affected by the prison system.

Philadelphia Eagles Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long, along with many other NFL football players, tackle the same issues off the field in a different way: using their platform as NFL players to raise discussion about social injustice.

In an interview with CBS News, Jenkins spoke about “learning the ins and outs of our justice system” and using that to change minds:

“It’s really not that tough of a change. When you look at politics, it really comes down to priority. And we’ve talked to lawmakers all over the place that would agree that a lot of these reforms need to change, would agree that things are unfair, are just a little unjust. But if voters aren’t clamoring about it, then it’s not high enough on the priority to change things.”

In 2010, the Eagles safety launched The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to bring positive change in the lives of youth in underserved communities. The foundation’s various programs emphasize mentorship, character development, leadership, education, life skills health and recreation.

Also using his platform to enact change, Long donated his entire 2017 contract to increase educational equality. His first six game checks were donated to fund scholarships in his hometown, Charlottesville, Virginia. Then he launched the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign, which contributed more than $1.3 million for education equity and opportunity programs.

“Football provides a livelihood for not only us, but the other 2,000 players that are in the league and those to come and those who came before us,” Jenkins said in the interview with CBS News. “So we never want to do anything that's going to damage the game… but at the end of the day lives of everyday Americans are more important than my ability to make a living."

This vision and voice for those who may not be given such also spreads through the actions of the Players Coalition, an alliance formed by NFL players two years ago to achieve social and racial equality and impact systemic social and civic change. The Coalition successfully lobbied for three criminal justice reform bills this past off-season:

  • Massachusetts raised the juvenile detention age from 7 to 12

  • Louisiana restored voting rights to people convicted of a felony who’ve been on probation or parole for five years

  • Pennsylvania passed the Clean Slate Act, which seals the records of those with misdemeanors after 10 years, along with those arrested but not convicted of a crime

Malcolm Jenkins co-founded the alliance in 2015 with former NFL-player Anquan Boldin, and they added a Task Force Board of 12 voting members, including Chris Long, Doug Baldwin, Kelvin Beachum, Demario Davis, Devin McCourty, Josh McCown, Josh Norman, Rodney McLeod, Torrey Smith and Benjamin Watson.

In August, the NFL backed the Players Coalition with a social justice partnership, pledging $89 million in support of their programs and activism. The Coalition’s latest focuses are to End Cash Bail, Rock the Vote and support other social issues to end social injustices and racial inequality.

“Once we were able to lend our platform, our voices and be able to sit down with legislators, it made a big difference,” Jenkins said in the CBS News interview. “That's why we laugh when people say, 'stick to the sports,' because we see firsthand how much impact we can have.”

Jenkins led a discussion on the first Sunday of the NFL season called a “listen and learn” session in Philadelphia with business, community and government leaders about bail reform and jobs.

Last year, the Eagles player visited Graterford Prison to learn more about the criminal justice system and mass incarceration. There he met Kempis Songster, who spent 30 years incarcerated. In 2004, Songster picked up yoga fully and went on to graduate from TYP’s 200-hour trauma-sensitive yoga teacher training. Since then, he’s helped with the organization’s special events, providing his insights and knowledge to the yoga teachers.

And after his release in January, Songster was invited to Super Bowl LII by Jenkins. In an interview with the NY Daily News, Jenkins said he wanted to do something special for him after learning about him getting out.

"I didn't know what, but I knew I wanted to do something to celebrate him coming home because I understood he really dedicated himself to a life of service and he's trying to repay what he's taken from society,” Jenkins told the Daily News. “I know he has some great ideas and we're trying to accomplish the same thing when we talk about reform and healing our communities."

TYP admires the commitment Jenkins, Long and the Players Coalition have to the community and is happy to be doing work alongside them. As members of the City of Brother Love, we are glad to offer our programs and positively impact lives.

This blog post was written and researched by Connor Fogel. For more information or to contact Connor about the blog, you can reach him at connor@transformationyogaproject.org.

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