Meditation technique enhances children’s mental health

Mindfulness, a form of meditation, has been shown to help with a wide range of mental health conditions and improve well-being in adults. However, few trials have evaluated its effectiveness in children.

Professor Willem Kuyken from the Mood Disorders Centre at the University of Exeter is presenting new research findings from a feasibility trial which show how the mindfulness technique is also effective in improving well-being in young people. Speaking at the Mindfulness in Schools Project Annual Conference in London, Professor Kuyken will describe the results of the study which assessed how effective the intervention was at enhancing the mental health and well-being of young people aged 12-16 years.

Students from 12 secondary schools either participated in the mindfulness in schools program or took part in the usual school curriculum. Mindfulness has been described as the practice of becoming aware of what is happening in the present moment and of learning to relate more skilfully to thoughts, emotions, body sensations and impulses as they arise. The young people who participated in the mindfulness program reported fewer depressive symptoms, lower stress and greater well-being than those in the control group. The findings provide promising evidence of the effectiveness of the mindfulness in schools program.

Previous studies have shown that mindfulness can have a positive impact on physical health conditions, on social and emotional skills, and on learning and cognition. Changes in the brain are the basis for these positive effects. Neuroscience and brain imaging shows that mindfulness meditation alters the structure and function of the brain to improve the quality of both thought and feeling.

Although there is more work to do to fully determine the effects of mindfulness in young people, these results suggest that students participating in the scheme are likely to benefit from improved emotional wellbeing and mental health. Such interventions can fit within the school curriculum, are inexpensive to introduce, can have rapid impact and above all are enjoyable for both pupils and staff.

The philosophy behind mindfulness is rooted in more than 2000 years of history. In the 1970s the disparate approaches were brought together and incorporated into a programme by Jon Kabat-Zinn called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Since then mindfulness-based programmes have helped thousands of people with chronic health problems and have been used to relieve distress and enhance well-being. Ongoing research in Exeter is examining mindfulness approaches for people with recurrent depression and vascular disorders.

via Meditation technique enhances children’s mental health.


Mindfulness Meditation Empowers Homeless Youth

Mental health problems among homeless youth are nearly ten times the rates found in youth living in stable homes. Homeless youth, classified as children up to their early twenties, live in shelters, foster homes, juvenile detention centers, friends’ homes, couches, or even on the streets. Many of these young people have left their homes because of sexual abuse, physical abuse, violence, or other traumas. Because of their volatile pasts, they are more likely than other youths to have post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, or substance use problems. They are also at increased risk for suicide. Treating these young people is challenging because of the transient nature of their existence. Also, a large number of young people who have experienced betrayal and abuse have difficulty trusting authority figures of any kind, including therapists.

Addressing this problem of mental health and suicide among homeless youth was the focus of a recent study led by Linda Grabbe of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University in Georgia. Grabbe wanted to see if mindfulness meditation (MM), a method of therapy that has been proven effective in treating many of the problems that these youths face, could be adapted and delivered in homeless shelters. Grabbe modified the Spiritual Self-Schema MM program and administered it to 39 young people living in a shelter. She evaluated the participants for resiliency, spirituality, mental health, and symptoms of psychological problems before and after the intervention.

Grabbe discovered that her unique approach was very effective at decreasing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress in the participants. She also noticed that levels of resiliency, which were high to begin with, were strengthened after the intervention. And although the participants did experience increases in spirituality, they did not report decreases in impulsivity. Some of the key elements of Grabbe’s modified MM included assigning a peer leader and providing three days of practice between sessions. Enlisting a team leader created a hierarchy within the loose social construct of a homeless shelter and empowered the leader. This led to more cohesion within the group, more motivation to teach by the leader and more compliance by the students. Also, having the time to practice new techniques increased self-esteem in all the participants. Overall, the results of this study have positive implications for modified MM. “Therefore, for homeless youth who are at such risk, MM may enhance resilience and translate into improved self-regulation, better control of psychological distress symptoms, and potentially a decreased likelihood of drug abuse,” said Grabbe.


Grabbe, Linda, Scott Nguy, and Melinda Higgins. Spirituality development for homeless youth: A mindfulness meditation feasibility pilot. Journal of Child and Family Studies 21.6 (2012): 925-37. Print.

via Mindfulness Meditation Empowers Homeless Youth.