The adolescent years are a period of growth and development in which personality traits and behaviors are formed and carried into adulthood. Due to the ever-evolving mind of a teenager, new patterns and behaviors can be created before they are set in stone.
And that’s important to remember. According to recent studies, 20 percent of teens have a diagnosable mental health disorder, with suicide being the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults. With the impressionable cognitive functions in teens, introducing healthy coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety can create a healthy headspace throughout their development.
Some of the best forms of stress-relievers can be creative and fun, thus focusing on the positive effects of interaction and group activity rather than the clinical healing of mental illness.
Athletic correlations to mental health
Participating in group sports creates an environment of teamwork, leadership, and inclusion. When teens have the ability to come together and release their daily stressors in a healthy, physical way, it can reduce their mental burdens significantly.
Being a vital part of a larger entity encourages group participation over isolation and self-centered decision-making. When a teen is able to relate to a group of teammates and come together for a common goal, the newfound ability to assess and implement a plan carries over into daily life.
On top of the mental effects that group sports create in the teenage mind, physical exercise greatly increases mental health as well. When the body is active, our body experiences an increase in blood circulation to the brain, thus creating a decrease in anxiety and stress. When the body stays consistently active, it can lead to boosts in health such as:
- Improved quality of sleep
- Increase in endurance and energy
- Mental clarity
- Weight loss
- Improved cardiovascular functioning
When physical health improves, it directly correlates to the health of the mind and vice versa. A creative way to encourage groups of troubled teens through sports could include the creation of a weekend tournament. Throughout the course of the weekend, teens would have the ability to interact and discuss their common interests as well as struggles in order to relate to one another.
A Lansing sporting event, for example, could consist of a weekend-long tournament in soccer, football, lacrosse, or another chosen sport. Spending time with like-minded individuals in a fun, relaxed environment can aid a group of teens in finding common-ground and releasing stress in a healthy, physical manner.
Feeling a sense of purpose can often fuel an increase in mental health as it increases self-esteem and boosts confidence amongst young adults. Residential programs for at risk youth will often include experiential treatments to aid teens in finding their life’s calling. Activities such as equine assisted therapy, hiking, surfing, creative writing, and music therapy are all part of the daily schedule for teens attending mental wellness programs.
Upon arrival, young adults will meet with their assistance team member who will evaluate their individual needs and create a schedule for optimal health both during their stay and after. This focused care creates an environment of individualized healing along with group activities to boost social skills, form healthy coping mechanisms, and establish lifelong habits.
While teens attend their therapy programs, they are also involved in in-house education programs to continue their education and consider options for higher education. Their education will span further by scheduled outings to various museums, local historic landmarks, and other scholarly activities to immerse themselves in cultural experiences, which can be very beneficial.
Similarly to the ways in which team sports foster connections, these experiences can increase one’s understanding, compassion, and self-awareness in a way that ultimately impacts mental wellness.