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Mindful : June 2014
50 mindful June 2014 neuroscience challenging, the cha nges in the brain that help support the unique emergence of the adolescent mind ca n create qual- ities in us that help not only during our adolescent years, if used wisely, but also as we enter adulthood and live fully as an adult. How we navigate the adolescent years has a direct impact on how we’ll live the rest of our lives. Those creative qualities also can help our larger world, offering new insights a nd innovations that naturally emerge from the push back against the status quo and the energy of the teen years. For every new way of thinking and feeling and behaving with its positive potential, there is also a possible down- side. Yet there is a way to learn how to make the most of the importa nt positive qualities of the teenage mind during ado- lescence and to use those qualities well in the adult years that come later. Brain changes during the early teen years set up four qualities of our minds during adolescence: novelty seeking, social engagement, increased emotional intensity, a nd creative exploration. There are changes in the fundamental circuits of the brain that make the adolescent period different from childhood. Each of these cha nges is necessar y to create the important shifts that happen in our thinking, feeling, interacting, and deci- sion-making during adolescence. 1 NOVELTY SEEKING emerges f rom a n increased drive for rewa rds in the cir- cuits of the adolescent brain that creates the inner motivation to try something new and feel life more fully, creating more engagement in life. Downside: Sensation seeking a nd risk taking that overemphasize the thrill and downplay the risk resulting in dangerous behaviors and injury. Impulsivity ca n make an idea turn into an action with a pause to reflect on the consequences. Upside: Being open to change and living passionately develop into a fascination for life a nd a drive to design new ways of doing things and living with a sense of adventure. 2 SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT enhances peer connectedness and creates new friendships. Downside: Teens isolated from adults and surrounded only by other teens have increased-risk behavior, and the total rejection of adults and adult knowledge and reasoning increases those risks. Upside: The drive for social connection leads to the creation of supportive rela- tionships that a re the research-proven best predictors of well-being, longevity, and happiness throughout the life span. 3 INCREASED EMOTIONAL INTENSITY gives an enhanced vitality to life. Downside: Intense emotion may rule the day, leading to impulsivity, moodi- ness, a nd extreme sometimes unhelpful reactivity. Upside: Life lived with emotional inten- sity can be filled with energy and a sense of vital drive that give an exuberance and zest for being alive on the planet. 4 CREATIVE EXPLORATION with an expanded sense of consciousness. An adolescent ’s new conceptual thinking and abstract reasoning allow questioning of the status quo, approaching problems with “out of the box” strategies, the creation of new ideas, and the emergence of innovation. Downside: Sea rching for the meaning of life during the teen years can lead to a cri- sis of identity, vulnerability to peer pres- sure, and a lack of direction and purpose. Upside: If the mind ca n hold on to think- ing a nd imag ining and perceiving the world in new ways within consciousness, of creatively exploring the spectrum of experiences that are possible, the sense of being in a rut that can sometimes pervade adult life can be minimized a nd instead an experience of the “ordinar y being extraordina r y” can be cultivated. Not a bad strategy for living a full life! ● Excerpted from Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Dr. Daniel Siegel. Copyright © 2013 by Daniel Siegel. Excerpted by permission of Tarcher/ Penguin. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.