The Effect of Mindfulness Practice on Adolescents: A Pilot Study

An excerpt from a research paper that concludes

Pragati Goyal, Mina Chandra, Rushi, and Mona Choudhary | November 7, 2023


#psyochlogy   #adolescents   #society   #meditation   #Mindfulness  
(Image courtesy: https://www.children.dhamma.org/en/teens/courses.shtml)
(Image courtesy: https://www.children.dhamma.org/en/teens/courses.shtml)

[On the occasion of the International Stress Awareness Week, Oct 30-Nov 3, Governance Now had carried an excerpt from a study on Occupation Stress Among Middle-Aged in India. Here is an excerpt from another research paper on a similar and important topic.]

For the full paper, readers are invited to go to: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/09731342231184628

Citation:
Goyal P, Chandra M, Rushi, Choudhary M. The Effect of Mindfulness Practice on Adolescents: A Pilot Study. Journal of Indian Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health. 2023;19(2):207-214. doi:10.1177/09731342231184628

Abstract

Background:
Adolescents experience various emotional, cognitive, and behavioral issues for which there is emerging evidence for mindfulness-based interventions, but these have not been investigated with Indian adolescents.

Objectives:
To study the impact of mindfulness practices on attention, perceived stress, emotional competence, and mental health among high school adolescents.

Method:
A single group theme-based 4-week (12 sessions) mindfulness intervention program was conducted on school-going adolescents with a pre-post scale-based assessment design.

Results:
Thirty-nine out of 45 recruited participants (mean age 15.9 ± 0.56 years; M:F = 2:1) completed the study with high session attendance rates (82.05%–100%). On a paired t-test, there was a significant improvement on the Digit Letter Substitution Test (p < .001), the Perceived Stress Scale (p < .001), and three subscales of the Emotional Competencies Scale-Revised (p < .001–.004). Analysis of non-normal data on the Wilcoxon sign-ranked test revealed significant improvement in the Adequate Depth of Feeling subscale of Emotional Competence (p < .001) and all subscales of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire-Teacher Version (p < .001–.048)

Conclusion:
The results indicate that formal mindfulness-based practices for adolescents have significant psychological benefits. Further randomized controlled effectiveness trials are required to establish effectiveness in the non-clinical adolescent population.

* * *

Discussion
Mindfulness, as an emerging intervention globally, has been found to be beneficial for all populations, including the adolescent population. The present study was designed to understand the impact of formal mindfulness practices on attention, perceived stress, mental health, and emotional competence in adolescents.

The study findings yielded encouraging evidence in support of the beneficial effect of mindfulness training in adolescents. The findings are consistent with previous studies showing that mindfulness helps in the reduction of stress among adolescents.
 
Mindfulness reduces stress by changing the quality of awareness, making it more clear, non-discriminatory, and flexible, which results in greater insight, a positive reappraisal of the event, and decentering. It is possible that mindfulness allowed the participants to look at things more objectively and appraise situations more realistically and less stressfully.

The study also shows promising results in enhancing emotional competency by improving adequate depth/experience of feeling, expression, and control of emotions (EC-AFE and EC-ACPE). These results are also consistent with previous studies showing improvements in emotion regulation, greater awareness of feelings, and a reduction in negative affect. As conceptualized by Brown et al., the disentanglement of consciousness from the cognitive content allows the viewing of emotions merely as reactions to this cognitive content and helps in noticing their transitory nature, thereby improving affective regulatory self-control. However, the intervention did not show any significant effect on enhancing positive emotions, which is similar to previous studies that reported no increase in positive affect after mindfulness intervention in the adolescent population.
 
It is postulated that mindfulness practices emphasize relating to pleasant experiences without the desire to have them persist and understanding the passing nature of all kinds of emotions. Further, Mindfulness practitioners emphasized that the desire for the continuation of pleasant feelings is the cause of unhappiness, and thus the aim of mindfulness is not to increase positive affect but to overcome the desire for the persistence of pleasant feelings and reduce aversion to unpleasant feelings. This is in line with Buddhist teachings on mindfulness, which stress the experience of equanimity rather than pleasure.

The study also demonstrated improvement in attentional domains with mindfulness intervention, similar to the available literature. It is theorized that the encouragement of systematically bringing the focus back to the present moment using sensory anchors with open awareness during mindfulness training improves sustained attention capacity.

The teachers reported significant improvement in internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors as well as an increase in pro-social behavior post-intervention. The finding is consistent with the previous literature demonstrating a decrease in hyperactivity, disruptiveness, and emotional and behavioral problems after MBI. Brown et al. explained that mindfulness promotes behavioral regulation that enhances well-being. Mindfulness optimizes the regulation of behavior through the provision of choice with consideration of abiding values, needs, and feelings and their fit with situational demands and options. Thus, by facilitating mindfulness awareness, more adaptive and flexible responses to situations are fostered, which helps in reducing impulsive, habitual, and automatic responses. As Siegel suggested, mindfulness may change the adolescent’s baseline state from withdrawal to approach and may influence responding to events rather than merely reacting to them. The current findings have significant implications considering that learning takes place optimally in a non-disruptive environment, where even teachers feel more in control and not distressed.

Most of the students attended more than 80% of the session, indicating that overall participation was high in the program. Further analysis suggested that there was no significant correlation between the number of sessions missed and the resultant outcomes on all the variables. The finding is consistent with the previous review conducted by Carmody and Baer, who reported no significant correlation between mean, effect size, and the number of class hours with both clinical and non-clinical samples. They emphasized that even adaptations that comprise less time are significant for the population for whom improvement in psychological distress is the primary goal and for whom a longer time commitment may not be possible. A significant improvement after the 4-week intensive intervention is an encouraging finding, highlighting the effect of even a short mindfulness-based intervention. The factors that could have resulted in such findings may include less spacing between classes, the 40–45 min of a session; the repetition of the same practices thrice a week, the inclusion of loving-kindness practice every week, and the quality of the delivery of the session.

[The excerpt reproduced with the permission of Sage Publishers.]
The article was published under the CC-BY-NC licence and all copyright remains with author(s).

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