Easing Teen Angst with Mindfulness

Research gathered from Harvard Medical School, University of Regina, Shanghai Mental Health Center, and others.

Adobe Stock/Jacob Lund

Easing Teen Angst

Can mindfulness help teens to ruminate less? Led by researchers at Harvard Medical School, a new study tested whether 80 adolescents would use and benefit from a smartphone-based mindfulness app. Teens were asked to complete surveys on their mental health, including tendency to ruminate. Those who noted a moderate tendency were provided a mindfulness phone app and taught how to use it. For three weeks, they received random reminders to engage with the app based on their availability, and had a greater likelihood of being asked to complete an exercise if they reported a worse mood on the initial survey.

Mindfulness instruction lasted 1—12 minutes, and included focused attention on the breath, sounds, or bodily sensations. After each session, teens rated their level of rumination and emotional state. In the end, 90% of the teens used the app, with the typical user completing 29 minutes of training, or an average of 1.5 sessions per day, with 91% of these sessions lasting 1 minute. Girls and older teens showed the most immediate improvements in mood and rumination after each session.  Those who were more likely to get stuck in repetitive unpleasant thoughts and suppress their emotions at the beginning of the study had better overall results.

Researchers concluded that teens who tend to get lost in negative thoughts might be best served by mindfulness approaches that accentuate present-moment awareness and attentional control.    

MBSR for Perimenopause

In a study led by researchers from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, 104 perimenopausal women with no prior meditation experience were randomly assigned to either a standard eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, or a waitlist control group. Baseline estrogen levels and daily mood were assessed for all participants for 30-50 days prior to training. Depression, anxiety, mindfulness, and other factors were evaluated immediately before and after the intervention, and every two weeks for the following six months. Results showed women who attended MBSR classes noted significantly less depression, anxiety, and perceived stress, and higher levels of mindfulness and resilience than they meditated on their own during training, the less depressed they were at program’s end.

Treating Schizophrenia

To see if mindfulness training might serve as a helpful add-on to routine treatment for schizophrenia, researchers in China randomly assigned 100 patients to either six weeks of general rehabilitation (GR) treatment or GR plus a mindfulness-based intervention.

GR control group members attended 1.5 hours of instruction per day, five days per week, on topics such as health education, life skills training, reading, and art. Mindfulness group members received 45 minutes of mindfulness instruction, including breathing exercises, identifying emotions, sensations and thoughts, and self-acceptance, plus 45 minutes of GR training per day, five days per week. Both groups continued to follow their medication regimens. At program’s end, those who received mindfulness training reported significantly fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and modest improvements in cognitive functioning, compared to the GR group.

Findings suggest mindfulness may have an added benefit in treating schizophrenia above and beyond medication and standard rehabilitation strategies.

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Trends in Mindfulness Research Over the Past 55 Years
Mindfulness Research

Trends in Mindfulness Research Over the Past 55 Years 

Mindfulness literature has grown from a single article cited in 1966 to 2,808 in 2020. A recent publication from the journal Mindfulness traces the roots of research in the field and explores its developments over time. Read More 

  • Misty Pratt
  • October 14, 2021