As school vacations begin, lifelong resident and former Santa Monica College (SMC) student, Julia Tung, voices her frustrations with the difficulties young adults face in making connections, with both her peers and the adults in the Santa Monica community. This is a notion backed by Stefanie Goldstein, of Insight LA and Center for Mindful Living Los Angeles, who aides teens and young adults to make those important connections by teaching them to understand their emotions, communicate more effectively, and be more mindful.
Tung mentioned how little there is in Santa Monica to connect residents from different age groups, or even within the same ones, “Outside of school, there are very few block parties or farmers markets where you feel like you can really meet your neighbors.” Thus, outside of her friends from school or friend’s of her parents, she had very few people in the community, despite growing up and going to public school in Santa Monica.
Making deep connections with those around you is one of the keystones of feeling like a part of the community, agrees Goldstein, “and despite or because of technology, we’re seeing kids who feel more lonely than every. We see the idea of ‘alone together’ where they’re hanging out in a group, but on their phones and not connecting” This drops the amount of connections young adults are making, and makes them less valuable, and leaves the youth feeling more alone.
Stefanie is a big advocate and leader in mindfulness, explaining that being more aware of oneself and the present moment can make it easier to open up and connect with others. She also says that sometimes deep connections can be felt even while doing “alone together” things, when they’re not digitally and focus instead on mindfulness and spirituality (spirituality, which she defines as, “a personal, internal connection to some form of a higher power… it could be God, and something within the context of a religious organization, or something having nothing to do with one”), “going to a meditation or yoga class can feel very powerful, it’s like, oh, I can hold on, go through the pose way longer if I’m in a class because I see and know the other people are doing it. So you feel more connected to the group for doing it together and to yourself for doing more than you likely would if you had meditated on an app at home”. On top of individual experiences, groups can also be very valuable, “we see a lot of religious youth groups that form really intense bonds because of consistent age and belief system”
Her biggest piece of advice on connecting with others, both with young adult peers and older folks, is to just get people talking, “Be serious about people, sometimes we have to go out of our way to make those connections, ask older people to tell their stories. Start with adults that you feel safe with, share yourself, be curious and ask questions about their life. People want to connect.” Another SMC student mirrored this idea, “There are opportunities, if you just put the effort in”. This thought goes both ways though, Stefanie says that “They want to serve and want to be connected and do good things; they want to be listened to. They care, and that’s all we can ask of our future generations.”
Goldstein, with her business Mindful Living Los Angeles, teaches mindfulness during online and in person classes. She is a clinical Psychologist with a focus on adolescence and spirituality, and is the co-creator of the teaching program, “CALM: Connecting Adolescents to Learning Mindfulness.” You can see her class list at MindfulLiving.org/classes