Becoming Mindful

Mindful meditation has been discovered to foster the ability to inhibit those very quick emotional impulses.
Alan Pardee

Dr. Karen Bluth and Dr. Rebecca Campo, with the help of graduate students and volunteers, have spent the past semester working with students at a public alternative high school. The goal of their study was to implement mindfulness and to increase students’ self-compassion and social wellbeing. Mindfulness is the awareness that comes through purposefully paying attention, within the present moment, allowing oneself to fully experience each moment. “The practice of mindfulness meditation typically consists of initially directing attention to a specific focus, such as the breath, a sensation, a feeling, or other attentional anchor” (Meiklejohn, Phillips et al. 2012). With training, students create a pattern in which they are able to direct their attention back to this anchor when they are in need of clarity and/or stability of attention. With time and practice this can lead to reduced reactivity in the body’s physiological stress response.

Bluth and Campo’s are analyzing data at this time, however preliminary look like there will be an increase in social connectedness and a decreased the level of stress of students. While they were initially skeptical, students have become receptive to the mindfulness training over time. The high school students within this study deal with many difficult life circumstances and the hope is that by learning to implement mindfulness in their day to day lives, they will have self-compassion, take care of themselves, and make choices that will help them to live happy and healthy lives.

The Study:

Half of the students within the school participated in mindfulness training and the other students were enrolled in a substance abuse course.  By chance, Dr. Bluth found that students viewed the classroom as a stressful place when the class decided to utilized a small portion of the school gymnasium for the training instead of classroom in order to gain more space.  Here, the students became more receptive to the training and felt that they could rest. She modeled her lessons after the Learning to BREATHE curriculum that was created to fit within the health curriculum.  Qualitative data and teacher and student surveys will soon be collected to add to the existing data. Bluth and Campo are encouraged by the initial results and the researchers hope to expand their study in the near future.

Resources

C.A.R.E: Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education – This site offers information, professional development, and examples of how teachers are practicing and implementing Mindfulness.

Meiklejohn, J., et al. (2012). “Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students.” Mindfulness 3(4): 291- 307.

Program on Integrative Medicine website– teachers can sign-up to take a course this summer to learn more about mindfulness.

Researchers

eaeb762d-bbaa-44e5-82a8-ecafd145f313Karen Bluth, Ph.D, has been practicing mindfulness for over 35 years and has attended numerous retreats at Insight Meditation Society, Southern Dharma Retreat Center, among others. Dr. Bluth received her mindfulness instructor training at the Center for Mindfulness at University of Massachusetts Medical School, and completed her doctoral training in 2012. Dr. Bluth’s research focuses on improving adolescent and family well-being through mindfulness interventions, and is particularly interested in how mindfulness practice can help adolescents navigate what can be a challenging developmental period.  In addition to her mindfulness training, Dr. Bluth is a former educator with 18 years classroom teaching experience with children and adolescents.

Rebecca Campo, Ph.D, completed her doctoral degree in Social-Health Psychology at the University of Utah and was a Research Associate in the Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program at Huntsman Cancer Institute until 2013. Her overall research interests include examination and understanding of the role that supportive relationships and mind-body interventions have in promoting resilience in cancer survivors and other chronically distressed populations. She is currently implementing (with Dr. Karen Bluth) a school-based mindfulness intervention for students enrolled in an alternative high school.