Eating disorders in teens are common throughout the elementary school years all the way up to college and beyond. While an eating disorder diagnosis can be challenging to navigate, with the help of a reliable support system at home, early intervention, and access to specialized adolescent eating disorder treatment centers—long-term recovery is possible. 

Additionally, in recent years, research has shown that mindfulness plays an essential role in the eating disorder recovery process. And this practice can be especially helpful for teens who are finding eating disorder treatment challenging. Mindfulness has many emotional, spiritual and even physical benefits that can make it easier to navigate common eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Keep reading to learn more about mindfulness and the role that it can play in eating disorder treatment for adolescents.

What Is Mindfulness?
When it comes to the many different words and terms that families must learn during the eating disorder recovery process, mindfulness is pretty straightforward. To put it simply, mindfulness is the basic human ability to make oneself fully present and aware of where they are, what they are doing and how they are feeling. Mindfulness allows an individual to not feel overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world around them.

The practice of focusing on one’s body and where they are at a specific place in time can be very helpful in a wide variety of scenarios. For example: if someone has a big test or interview coming up, and they feel nervous, taking a few moments to be mindful of their body and mind can help them to re-center, gain control of their body and breathing, and focus their thoughts on the task at hand. Being mindful prevents the mind from taking flight and obsessing over things that really have nothing to do with the present moment, reducing anxiety and nurturing positive coping skills.

How Can Mindfulness Apply to Treatment for Eating Disorders Like Anorexia Nervosa?
Eating disorders in teens can result in many negative mental and physical health effects. And most teens with eating disorders find it difficult to soothe themselves in a positive manner. With mindfulness and associated practices like yoga and meditation, teens can discover new coping skills that help to focus their thoughts and actions into positive outcomes.

Instead of dealing with anxiety and obsessive thoughts surrounding food with negative behaviors from the past, their energy is now focused on being mindful of their feelings in the moment and redirecting them in a way that makes them feel better in the long-term. Regularly practicing mindfulness techniques empowers teens to fully live in the present and give themselves the opportunity to observe all the interesting and beautiful things in their lives.

Navigating Eating Disorders in Teens: 5 Useful Tips for Practicing Mindfulness
1. Work to fully exist in the present moment. Let go of the past and stop worrying about the future. Be in the here and now.
2. Pay attention to the details of the here and now. Teens should take a mental register of the sights and smells, sounds, feelings and even tastes that they are experiencing right now.
3. Make sure to avoid reacting to others immediately. And instead, pause and give oneself time to simply observe.
4. Teens should also avoid judging others and circumstances outside of their control. Accept the world around them as it truly is.
5. Greet this moment of mindfulness with appreciation, warmth, and acceptance.