Research shows that the average person has more than 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day (Davis, 2013). That’s about 35-48 thoughts per minute! Imagine if we fixated, focused, or acted on each thought we had, not only would we be overwhelmed, but everyday tasks would become more difficult and almost impossible. Interestingly, “nearly 50% of our awake life is spent mind-wandering. Yet, mind-wandering is associated with lower levels of happiness, possibly through pathological forms of self-referential thought focused on the past or future, such as rumination [that is, repetitive focus on negative emotions and events,] or worry” (Marusak, 2018). Regular mindfulness practice is incorporated into the Mathom House treatment program and has been shown to help adolescent boys control these wandering thoughts and decrease anxiety, depression, maladaptive behaviors, and impulsive behaviors (Marusak, 2018).
Over time, consistent mindfulness practice can lead to the formation of new habits and healthier ways of thinking or dealing with our emotions. This “rewiring” of the brain is known as neuroplasticity. Students at Mathom House learn that through mindfulness practice they can gain control over the dysfunctional thoughts that contribute to their anxiety, depression, impulsivity, etc. Being present in the moment, focusing on breathing, labeling thoughts as they enter the mind, and letting thoughts go are tools we all can use throughout our lives no matter the situation.
At Mathom House we see first-hand the ways many youth struggle with managing their thoughts. Failing to let go of certain thoughts can cause boys to spiral into a depressed or anxious state or react impulsively with disruptive behaviors. Often these youth meet their need for power and control by sabotaging relationships and sacrificing values that are important to them. We teach the boys mindfulness practices to help take power and control over their thoughts, feelings, and emotions so they can nourish healthy relationships and decrease their destructive, impulsive behaviors.
The Mathom House milieu provides a safe environment to practice mindfulness with instant feedback and support. Mindfulness practice is inherent to Mathom House programming and is incorporated into our daily routines. Weekly yoga and mindfulness groups are part of the regular routine. The Clinical team guide residents in the skills of being present, acknowledging our thoughts without judgment, and understanding how our thoughts affect our mood. Therapists also utilize a variety of assignments and tools to assist students in becoming more aware of how the body connects with the mind.