If you’re wondering what to do with your teen this summer, how about helping them get naturally high? Boredom, craving excitement, lack of confidence, escaping problems, coping with stress, wanting instant gratification and having a common ground for bonding with peers are potential reasons why teens begin using drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol work quickly and feel really good, which this makes it even more tempting for teens to turn to them as a shortcut to happiness. Because teens’ brains are still developing, they lack the ability to think through the consequences of trying alcohol and drugs.
Parents can help teens steer clear of alcohol and drugs by supporting them in getting “naturally high.” A natural high comes from any activity that makes you feel good—but doesn’t involve drugs. Doing something you enjoy releases natural “feel-good” chemicals in your brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation and pleasure.
Here are some ways and resources through with teens can get naturally high:
Exercise. High-intensity anaerobic exercise (like running, crossfit, basketball, football, tennis, racquetball and baseball) produces the biggest rush of feel-good hormones, but any movement outside of the ordinary is beneficial. If your teen doesn’t get much exercise, encourage them to start with taking the dog for a walk in the neighborhood or just dancing around the house to their favorite music.
Meditation. Although it can feel awkward at first, meditation is a powerful tool for helping teens become comfortable with themselves and feeling the energy around them. When they allow themselves to sit quietly and just “be,” they can experience a different state of mind and can feel peaceful and free.
Nature. In today’s society, teens tend to be removed from nature. Working in a garden or spending time at a park, on the river or in the woods – without electronic devices – can help teens feel a sense of connectedness, meaning and purpose.
Writing. Writing can help your teen take a break from the rest of the world while exploring their thoughts and feelings. It can be a great opportunity for exploring creativity and also working through problems. Anything your teen writes should be kept private unless he or she wants it to be read. If he or she wants to publish a blog, controls can be established to keep people from posting comments on the blog unless the author approves.
Music. Playing music provides a sense of belonging for teens and allows them the freedom to just be themselves, be different or be whoever they want to be. It helps them release or control their emotions and learn to cope with difficult situations.
Yoga. Yoga can help teens learn how to connect with and become in tune with their bodies, which will give them a “high.” Yoga is becoming popular among teens, so it is likely that your teen will find peers with whom they can try different poses and exchange tips. It is important to emphasize that yoga is not a competition and that everyone progresses at their own pace.
Pets. Living with an animal, or even just visiting one, can have health benefits, including improvements in mental, social and physical health. A pet’s loyalty can help a teen (or anyone!) feel strong enough to push through tough times. They are amusing and comforting and they never tell secrets or tease. If you don’t have a pet at home, a great way to be around one (and help an animal in need at the same time, which is also a natural high), is to volunteer at a local animal shelter. There are many ways teens can help, including cuddling, playing with and walking animals with supervision.
Art. Painting, sculpting, drawing, photography, woodworking, needle crafts, making jewelry, scrapbooking and cake decorating are some examples of creative activities that can leave teens feeling mentally clear and calm. They don’t have to be good at it to reap the benefits!
Additional resource: 2017 Roanoke Summer Camps
It is extremely important that parents support and encourage their teens in finding THEIR OWN natural high, not what their parents want for them. You might not be thrilled with your teen’s desire to study tattoo art or play electric guitar in the basement, but you should support them as best you can. Any hobby is a good hobby if it is legal, safe and keeps your teen from using drugs and alcohol!