Mindfulness training may decrease risk of developing depression and anxiety and improve overall well-being in adolescents, new research suggests.
A feasibility study of more than 500 students in the United Kingdom showed that those who participated in the universal Mindfulness in Schools Program (MiSP) had significantly fewer depressive symptoms after 9 weeks of treatment and 3 months later than their peers who did not participate.
Those who received the intervention also had significantly better well-being and stress scores at the 3-month follow-up.
“Our findings provide promising evidence of the effectiveness of MiSP’s curriculum,” said lead author Willem Kuyken, DClinPsy, PhD, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Exeter, UK, in a release.
He noted that the decrease in depressive symptom scores was an especially important finding “given that low-grade depressive symptoms can impair a child’s performance at school, and are also a risk factor for developing adolescent and adult depression.”
“These findings are likely to be of great interest to our overstretched schools who are trying to find simple, cost effective, and engaging ways to promote the resilience of their students,” added coinvestigator Katherine Weare, visiting professor in the Mood Disorders Center at the University of Exeter, in the same release.
The program is currently being offered in schools in the UK, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.
The study was published online June 20 in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Mindfulness training develops sustained attention aimed at changing the ways in which individuals think, act, and feel.
The investigators note that although past studies have found that mindfulness-based approaches are effective for adults, the evidence for youth is just at the beginning stages — and very few controlled trials of this intervention in young people have been undertaken.
For this study, 522 students between the ages of 12 and 16 years (mean age, 14.8 years) from 12 secondary schools were recruited. Of these, participants at 6 schools (n = 256) were taught the 9-week introductory MiSP curriculum by trained teachers, whereas participants at the other 6 schools (n = 266) underwent their usual school curriculum (control group).
“By teaching mindfulness as a way of working with everyday stressors and experiences, participants across the full range of the normal distribution of well-being can potentially benefit,” write the researchers.
They note that making this a universal intervention minimizes inequalities in accessing it while also reducing stigma and social comparisons.
“Our mindfulness curriculum aims to engage even the most cynical of adolescent audience with the basics of mindfulness. We use striking visuals, film clips, and activities to bring it to life without losing the expertise and integrity of classic mindfulness teaching,” explained coinvestigator Richard Burnett, who is also cofounder and director of the nonprofit Mindfulness in Schools Project.
Fewer Depressive Symptoms
All students were evaluated at baseline (January 2012), at the end of the 9-week programs, and at a 3-month follow-up. The researchers report that the follow-up point coincided with the students’ summer exam period, a time known for potentially high stress.
The 14-item Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale, the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and the 8-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale were all administered.
Results showed that, compared with the control group, the MiSP group had significantly fewer depressive symptoms on the CES-D at the end of treatment (P = .004) and at the 3-month follow-up (P = .005).
This group also reported lower stress and greater well-being during the follow-up evaluation (P = .05 for both).
The degree to which these students practiced the mindfulness skills was also important.
Those who reported more frequent use of MiSP practices showed significantly lower depressive symptom scores on the CES-D post-treatment (P = .04) than those in the group who reported less frequent use. They also reported lower stress scores on the PSS at follow-up (P = .03), and higher scores of well-being at both post-treatment and follow-up (P = .003 and P < .001, respectively).
The teachers rated their confidence in teaching the program as 8.7 on the Likert scale and rated their enjoyment of teaching it as 8.6.
“This study demonstrates that mindfulness shows great promise in promoting well-being and reducing problems — which is in line with our knowledge of how helpful well-designed and implemented social and emotional learning can be,” said Professor Weare.
She added that the next step “is to carry out a randomized controlled trial into the MiSP curriculum” involving more schools, more pupils, and longer follow-up periods.
“The findings also support the argument that mindfulness training can enhance the psychological well-being of all pupils, not just those who have symptoms associated with common mental health problems,” said coinvestigator Felicia Huppert, professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, UK.
“Psychological well-being has been linked to better learning, social relationships, and academic performance. So the enhancement of well-being is likely to improve a range of outcomes in the school context,” she added.
More information about the MiSP is available on the Mindfulness in Schools Project’s Web site.
The study was funded by the University of Exeter and the National Institutes of Health Research Peninsula Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care. In addition to Burnett being the director and cofounder of the Mindful in Schools Project, one other study author reports also being a cofounder. The other study authors have reported no relevant financial relationships.
Br J Psychiatry. Published online June 20, 2013. Abstract
Virtual reality is a new and exciting area of treatment in mental health. Clients are able to confront phobias in the comfort andconvenience of the office setting. Treatment protocols are individuallytailored to each client’s level of discomfort surrounding their fear.The virtual reality experience acts as a bridge to the actual experience allowing the client a greater feeling of control in the therapeutic process. BTNY has helped clients using virtual reality with phobias,some of which include flying, public speaking, insects, mice, heights.
Improving sleep is an important focus in our work with many clients. Many presenting problems and diagnoses are accompanied by disturbed sleep. Often clients are unaware that there sleep habits are exacerbating or even the cause of the presenting problem. In other instances clients are aware of their poor sleep hygiene but are without techniques to improve. BTNY uses a multimodal approach in helping clients improve their sleep habits allowing them to rest easier. Biofeedback is often used to help clients understand the physiology of relaxation and teach them valuable techniques to help fall asleep and stay asleep easier.
As part of BTNY’s commitment to the importance of sleep hygiene and mental health we are currently involved in a sleep research study with Weill Cornell Medical College. To learn more please visit: http://www.cornellphysicians.com/sleepctr/
Check out the discussion on how to mentally prepare for the marathon to achieve your potential.
“Dr. Udewitz was extraordinarily helpful in reducing my fear of flying. Over the years, I’d grown increasingly anxious on planes, but after just half a dozen sessions with Dr. Udewitz, I was 90 percent less anxious on the next flight I took. It was incredibly liberating to be able to plan a trip and get on board a plane without all the anxiety I’d grown accustomed to. Nowadays, I feel almost no anxiety whatsoever in the air, and I have Dr. Udewitz to thank. It’s been a big life-changer.”
“I’ve been a client of Behavior Therapy of NY since February. I’m very grateful that an internet search for biofeedback near Grand Central resulted in my being led to their site. I decided to pursue the biofeedback approach after several years of experiencing severe anxiety when on the subway and during public speaking. It had reached a point where it was dominating much of my life and I knew I had to do something about it, but I needed help.
Six months later, I’ve been given the tools, through my therapy with Jessica Masty, to be comfortable with my anxious moments, rather than running away from them or avoiding trigger moments altogether. After years of not taking the subway, I’ve taken it more in the last few months than I had in 5 years. I’ve also given several presentations with the ability to make it through comfortably in spite of my anxiety. I feel more capable of facing my fear and not letting it control me.
I highly recommend Behavior Therapy of NY. What makes them stand apart in my mind, along with their intelligence and knowledge, is the true concern and care they have for their clients. The progress I’ve made in these past few months is due tremendously to the compassionate and skillful therapy I’ve received.”
We work with clients who are dealing with compulsive or addiction-like Internet. For most of us, the Internet has become an important and helpful part of everyday life. Some find themselves spending excessive amounts of time on the allowing its use to get in the way of other goals and endeavors. Some of the compulsive behaviors clients have engaged in have included online shopping, pornography, gambling, chatting and communication and gaming.
Although Internet addiction is not currently an official diagnosis or disorder, many people find themselves wasting many hours of focus that they believe could be better directed.
We help clients create awareness of their behavior and use practical tools to redirect focus towards other goals. We teach clients to use the Internet in moderation and balance to enhance the enjoyment and usefulness.
Please contact us if you’d like more information about reducing time spent on the Internet.
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The fear of vomiting is called emetophobia. This phobia can be particularly distressing because it can make everyday activities frightening and stressful. The clients we work with have a persistent fear of getting nauseous, particularly in public places where it would be embarrassing to get sick. They get panic symptoms (such as hot flashes, dizziness, changes in breathing and heart rate) in triggering situations that can elicit nausea and make all the sensations worse. Some of the behaviors clients will exhibit include but are not limited to:
- Avoiding certain foods and alcohol, restaurants and bars, movie theaters, public transportation, and amusement parks.
- Reliance on excessive cleaning behaviors, such as washing hands, using hand sanitizer and avoiding public bathrooms or medical offices, to avoid coming in contact with germs that could make one sick.
- Female clients often worry about being pregnant and managing morning sickness and having to take care of ill children one day.
An important part of our work involves taking steps to confront the fear of vomiting, which could include watching videos and slowly getting used to uncomfortable body sensations. We often go out of the office with clients to help them re-engage in activities that they have been avoiding. These steps help clients learn to manage their fears and symptoms, making everyday life more manageable and enjoyable.
Contact us if you’d like to know more about how to get past your fear of vomiting.
Fear of traveling in New York City Subways and trains can be particularly troublesome. The clients we work with have a persistent fear of panic symptoms while traveling, often leading them to avoid it altogether. Panic symptoms like dizziness and feeling faint are particularly harrowing when experienced in the subway. The expense and inconvenience of getting around town adds a further stress to an already high-stress city. Sometimes people with a fear of subways and trains pass up great social and career opportunities because it is difficult to get around.
An important part of our work involves actually riding the trains with clients. There we teach them to manage and often eliminate panic symptoms, allowing them to move smoothly throughout the five boroughs and make New York City a more accessible and enjoyable place to live.
Contact us if you’d like to know more about how to get past your fear of riding the subways and trains.