“At its simplest, conscious living is the art of feeling your feelings, speaking authentically, knowing your life purpose, and carrying out effective actions that contribute to your well-being and the well-being of others. The moment we commit ourselves to living consciously, we embark on a journey of wonder through the real world.” – Gay Hendricks, Conscious Living: Finding Joy in the Real World

Conscious living is a lifelong practice, but teens have an edge in developing the skills to live in a more satisfying, self-aware way. During early adolescence the brain undergoes explosive growth in metacognition, or awareness of and ability to understand one’s own thought processes. Sometimes called “thinking about your thinking,” metacognition helps teens self-reflect, evaluate their own thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and make more thoughtful choices. The teen years are also when long-term habits develop. It\’s the perfect time for parents to provide teens with tools and techniques to grow into living consciously.

7 Strategies To Help Teens Embrace Conscious Living

  1. Model metacognitive thinking Parents are their kids’ best role models when it comes to making conscious choices. The opposite of conscious living is going through life on autopilot, reacting instead of reflecting and responding to challenges. To boost your own self-awareness, cut down on mindless multitasking and find ways to practice mindfulness, even if it’s just a few moments of meditation each day. Let your kids observe you thinking through your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and taking action to change things that don’t serve you. When you put your own conscious-living practices in place, teens will take note.

  2. Invite self-reflection When your teen talks to you about decisions or challenges, they’re facing, be genuinely curious. Avoid the temptation to leap to conclusions or give them advice. Ask open-ended questions and encourage them to explore their own thoughts and actions out loud. Thoughtful questions (instead of suggestions) help teens develop their metacognitive superpowers. Try asking “What do you think would happen if you tried ___?” or “What do you think your teacher meant by ___?”

  3. Identify unhelpful habits Most of us, including teens, have a few unconscious habits that keep us from focusing on the things that are most important in life. Letting go of unhelpful habits is empowering for teens, but they have to be intrinsically motivated to do so. Parents can help by noticing when de-energizing habits (like staying up too late) are impacting activities that are important to teens (like getting to practice on time). Help teens see that they’re making a choice between values, and they’re ultimately the ones who decide where to put their energy.

  4. Prioritize inner awareness For all of us, worrying too much about what other people think can get in the way of conscious living. Teens tend to be especially susceptible to worrying about the opinions of others and may ignore their own inner awareness if they think others will judge or exclude them. Living consciously means being brave, trusting our intuition, and making decisions based on our personal values. Parents can help steer kids back towards trusting themselves and letting go of the fear of being different.

  5. Remind teens what they are in charge of A big part of conscious living is taking responsibility for the things we can control and letting go of the things we can’t. A powerful reminder: we are in charge of our own words, values, choices, mistakes, efforts, and behavior. We can’t control the words, values, choices, mistakes, efforts, or behavior of others. When teens are dealing with difficulty, help them find a response from the things they can control, instead of feeling frustrated by the things they can’t.

  6. Encourage emotional intelligence Teens often experience surges of new, intense emotions. When they aren’t sure how to process these feelings, they can get overwhelmed, feel anxious, and either zone out or act out. Conscious living means accepting all emotions as valid and listening to and learning from them. Parents can help by normalizing talking about feelings and giving kids tools to process intense emotions, like mindful breathing, journaling, or talking things through with a mentor.

  7. Spotlight how choices lead to change At its heart, conscious living is all about making choices – choices about what we value, where we put our time and attention, and how we want to live. Living consciously helps teens take empowered action towards ever-greater alignment with their values, vision, and goals. Parents can remind teens that whatever the circumstances, they can always choose how to respond, and any situation can be changed through reflection and action. Even through seemingly small acts, teens can craft the life they want to live, one conscious choice at a time.

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