Mindfulness and Adolescents, Part 2 in a 4-Part Series By Heather M. Butts, JD, MPH, MA

November 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Posted in Adolescents, Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Self-Regulation, Sleep Health, Underserved Youth | Leave a comment
Heather Butts, J.D., MPH, MA

Heather Butts, J.D., MPH, MA

As I stated in Part 1 of this 4-part series, I spend a great deal of time working with at-risk youth in New York City.  Much of my time is spent trying to think of inventive ways to keep these young people engaged given all of the external and internal distractions that they face. Most of the young people that I work with come from very difficult home lives, do not have an intact family, or have environmental influences that make their ability to lead healthy, productive lives quite challenging. In an age where bullying, depression, anxiety, and suicide are major health issues for all young adults, but particularly at-risk, underserved youth, there is an increasing focus by the medical and healthcare community on finding solutions to what ails this population.  One of the culprits, especially for young adults, may be a lack of mindfulness coupled with dwelling on the “negative.”  This blog post will address that through looking at the work of clinical psychologist and mindfulness educator Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.  According to author Stephen S. Ilardi, Ph.D., in his book The Depression Cure, “rumination appears to be an instinctive human response when something goes wrong.  It is as if we’re hard wired to replay our recent trials and tribulations over and over again in the mind’s eye.  But some people stay at it long past the point when enough is enough” (pp. 92-93). According to Ilardi, this can make individuals less active, depressed, and ultimately withdrawn. This is key as we think about mindfulness as a potential solution to some of the mental health issues plaguing young adults.

In a recent panel discussion on the L.E.A.R.N for Life Consulting, LLC radio show entitled Stable, Focused, and Open: Mindfulness for Teens (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/learnforlife/2013/09/19/stable-focused-and-open-mindfulness-for-teens), Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. spoke to the role mindfulness can play with youth ages 15-24 who are at risk for mental health issues, stating, “mindfulness can be a skill that can reduce depression, isolation, and self-denigration.”  Referencing psychologist Daniel Goleman, Cammarata spoke about how mindfulness can support emotional intelligence, “…meaning empathy and motivation, self-awareness and self-regulation.” Cammarata quoted Jon Kabat-Zinn’s (1994) definition of mindfulness as, “…paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (p. 4), and stated that for adolescents, the, “ABCs of mindfulness” – attitude (patience, openness, intellectual curiosity), body awareness, and concentration, are particularly important.

Cammarata expanded on his thoughts with me in a one-on-one discussion talking about why he finds mindfulness such an effective tool for young people. Those working with adolescents were reminded to take note of the wide range of focusing ability in this population. Cammarata encouraged practitioners to “start really slowly” utilizing “small chunks of times” in the beginning but to watch for adolescents with “excellent concentration skills.”

With respect to at-risk youth who come from challenging home environments, Cammarata suggests such young people connect their breath with something calming like music or a pet. He specifically suggests that mindful movement practices such as qigong, tai chi, or yoga may be of particular use with these adolescents. Ultimately, according to Cammarata, all of us deserve to be, “kinder to ourselves… mindfulness can be an important way to integrate positive attitudes that are healthy for the body and mind.”

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(with contributing editors, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.,  Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT, and Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC)


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