IF YOU WANT TO BE HAPPIER, REMEMBER TO JUST . . .
(Click on each letter to learn more.)
How much of your day do you spend on “autopilot,” just going through the motions but not really enjoying much? Living your life with mindfulness means you are present in each moment, living more fully, without judgment. Sounds simple, but for most of us it takes practice. And it requires the ability to really focus, which is something the Internet saps from our brains on a daily basis by delivering overwhelming quantities of images and links at warp speed.
Mindfulness is rooted in your connection to your breath, and breathing is something you do many thousands of times each day. Simple breath awareness practice, done for ten or fifteen minutes just several times a week, has been shown to relieve stress and elevate one’s satisfaction with whatever task is at hand.
Stressed Teens is another helpful site for students, introducing them to the theory and practice of mindfulness.
Be sure to try Dr. Dan Siegel’s guided breath awareness and check out the other online resources available on his pages.
You can learn some guided exercises to help sharpen your attention skills with CDs from Daniel Goleman, author of the best-selling book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. “Focus for Teens: Enhancing Concentration, Caring, and Calm” and “Focus for Kids” in a version geared to 6-to-10-year-olds are available from iTunes, where you can also purchase individual exercises.
Rehearse the tough stuff.
Anticipate the difficult and practice your responses. If you feel yourself getting anxious, let it lead you to productive problem solving. Strategizing your reactions to “what ifs” and role-playing are useful tools. Enlist the help of your support system—friends, siblings, parents, extended family, trusted teachers and counselors, clergy, healthcare providers. Having a couple of solutions at the ready when you are facing a challenge can bolster your confidence and lessen the stress of the unknown and the unpredictable. The expectation that alcohol and drugs can quell your fears or lift you up is faulty; it can only render you less equipped to deal with a challenge. So the time to figure out your answers to “Want to try it?” “Want some more?” “Why not?” and “Everybody does this” is way before you arrive at the party. Practice makes us more effective, at everything.
Engage . . . with enthusiasm.
Being engaged means you are emotionally committed to whatever you are doing, and research indicates overwhelmingly that we need to be engaged in the activities that fill our days in order to be happy in our lives overall. So find your passion and pursue it. Not sure what that is yet? Engaging in the discovery of it can be a joyful, broadening process. And when faced with those mundane, must-do items in your daily routine, turning them into “mindful” pursuits can increase your satisfaction considerably.
Accentuate the positive.
Being positive in your approach is more effort than just attitude. Research shows that being primed for a positive outcome increases your success rate, so start that new project with a pep talk to yourself! Remind yourself often during the day of what is going right; let go of what is going wrong with a few moments of breath awareness. Be grateful for the positives in your life and express that gratitude frequently. Journal your thanks and/or don’t go to sleep at night until you have counted three good things that happened during your day. Scientists tell us the power of positive emotion can reach deep into our lives, even affecting our health and immune system functioning for the good.
Take care of the important relationships in your life.
One good friend who has your back is worth a thousand Likes on your Facebook page. And the people in your household offer the possibility of a valuable safety net as you soar through your teens. Families remain important, even as you naturally widen your sphere of influencers and look more and more to your peers for meaningful connections. Relationships enrich our lives and help us flourish, but they do require care and maintenance. If your focus to date has been, “What am I getting from this person?” perhaps it’s time to ask “What can I offer them?” Generosity and gratitude have a way of increasing the giver’s own happiness—a fact supported by scientific research! To explore the elements of what makes people thrive, read Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Dr. Martin Seligman.
Goal setting, for both the short- and long-term, is one of the critical ingredients for a productive and happy life. Whether it’s your weekend To Do list, or your rank-ordered list of college app deadlines, permitting yourself that sense of achievement in things both great and small is a guaranteed mood booster. If you want to learn more about successful goal-setting, check out Creating Your Best Life by Caroline Miller and Michael Frisch. And to read up on the secret to outstanding achievement, there’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth.
Regular physical exertion is good for the mind as well as the body. In addition to all the physical benefits of an exercise regimen—yoga, sports, aerobics, weights, power walking, biking, treadmill, it’s all good—a workout enhances your brain’s functioning, making you more alert during exercise and more focused afterward. It also relieves stress and improves your memory. Among the several neurotransmitters released in the brain during the physical “stress” of exercise are endorphins (those are our “feel good” chemicals) and serotonin (known for its role in countering mood and depression issues). So if you want to experience a natural high, get moving. If you want to get deeper into the science of exercise, Google “exercise and the brain,” and view some of the many TEDx lectures available on YouTube.
The ideas presented in the “BREATHE” acronym are based in part on the research and writings of Dr. Martin Seligman and his PERMA theory. Use this link to learn more about the “Positive Psychology of Happiness.” You can discover more about yourself (the sign-up is free) at Dr. Seligman’s Authentic Happiness testing center, maintained online by the University of Pennsylvania. There you can take, and retake, numerous web-based questionnaires that measure your personal degree of happiness and compare it to others like you.
If you are concerned about someone close to you, or you have concerns about your own use of alcohol or drugs, this self-evaluation for teens may give you some insight and direction.
Pick your pledge from this collection, display it in your selfie, and post it with “Ossining Pride” on our Facebook page.
Click on these images to find more support, suggestions, and reliable information.
Never hesitate to dial 911 if you are witnessing or experiencing a drug- or alcohol-related emergency.
New York State’s Good Samaritan law provides legal protection for 911 callers against criminal charge and prosecution for underage drinking, possession of controlled substances (under 8 ounces), as well as possession of any amount of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and sharing drugs. This protection applies to the person seeking assistance as well as the person needing help. These protections do not extend to outstanding warrants, those with pending court cases, probation or parole violations, felony-amounts of possession, drug sales, and other nondrug crimes. To fully understand the scope and limits of these protections, click on the New York State map.
Only about half of our Ossining High School seniors perceive moderate-to-great risk in using marijuana recreationally. One of the best ways to evaluate the opportunity to experiment with drugs is to educate yourself on what this choice has the potential to do to you. What can drugs do to your body? Your brain? Your life? Start gathering information at NIDA for Teens.
Approximately 80 percent of new heroin users are coming to heroin after having abused prescription opioids. Heroin, on the other hand, has varying levels of purity and often is laced with adulterants, making it much easier to overdose. Get your drug facts here.
Almost 43% of Ossining students in the 7th through 12th grades say they are experiencing depression. Alcohol and drugs are never the answer to this problem, but often are used by young people as a form of self-medication. To find out how other young people feel about alcohol and drugs, and to share your own thoughts, visit Above the Influence.
Depending which study you focus on—there are a number of them, all coming to the same conclusion—you are four to seven times more likely to become dependent on alcohol in adulthood if you begin drinking by the age of fifteen. The earlier your use begins, the higher the odds stack against you as compared to your peers who don’t use alcohol. To learn more, if you are in middle school, The Cool Spot is presented just for you. If you want to read about alcohol abuse and dependence from a scientific, research-based perspective, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Their site offers many publications and resources on topics that affect your age group: binge drinking, risky drinking, alcohol and your health, alcohol overdose, drinking habits on campus, and much more.
The information contained in the Ossining Communities That Care (CTC) website is not meant to provide medical advice, but to provide information to better understand the health consequences of substance abuse and underage drinking. The behavioral approaches suggested on this page are not intended as therapeutic treatments and should not be used as a substitute for seeking psychological or physical evaluation by those individuals whose use of substances is impacting their daily lives. Ossining CTC urges you to consult your physician or other health care provider if you or a loved one has an alcohol or drug problem. See our Assistance page for more information on seeking help.
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OSSINING IS THE
Comes together to secure the long-term health and well-being of Ossining youth and their families
Assists our residents—especially parents and young people—by providing education, resources, and services for substance-abuse response and prevention
Reduces the use of alcohol and drugs in Ossining and prevents underage drinking
Esteems the accomplishments of our young people and supports them in making smart choices
Reach Out to Us
Ossining Communities That Care | Alice Joselow, Coordinator | 165 Main Street | Ossining, NY 10562 | 914-502-1304
“Breathe” acronym, text, and design on this page copyright Hellmich 2017. All rights reserved.