Improve Adolescent Psychological Health with Mindfulness

Improve Adolescent Psychological Health with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


It may be that mindfulness leads to an increase in self-compassion and a decrease in experiential avoidance. It may be selective attention — if you focus on your breath, you have less bandwidth to ruminate. There are a lot of factors that are operative and we’re just beginning to tease out and deconstruct them. It’s like tasting a soup with 10 spices. Is there one main ingredient or is the flavor a combination of things?” – Stuart Eisendrath


Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required.


Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms. Mindfulness training in adults has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression levels and improve emotional regulation. In addition, in adolescents it has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health.


In today’s Research News article “Effects Of Modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) On The Psychological Health Of Adolescents With Subthreshold Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Zhang and colleagues recruited university students (aged 18-22 years) who scored high in depression but were not at clinically diagnosable levels. They were randomly assigned to receive either an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program or to a no-treatment control condition. They were measured before and after training for depression, mindfulness, and rumination.


The MBSR program consists of 8 weekly 1-hour group sessions involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The participants are also encouraged to perform daily practice. The program was modified to be better targeted at adolescents. It instructed the adolescents on the application of mindfulness practices to everyday life, including experiencing the pleasant/sad moments in life, walking, sleeping, eating, breathing and exercising to keep the attitude of “mindfulness”.


They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control condition the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program produced large and significant decreases in depression and rumination and increases in mindfulness. Hence, the study demonstrated that a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) modified for adolescents is a safe and effective treatment to improve the psychological health of adolescents who had subclinical levels of depression.


It should be mentioned that the control condition did not include any activities and thus leaves open the possibilities of confounding by experimenter or participant bias or placebo effects. Also, the lack of a standard MBSR program for comparison to the modified program does not allow for a conclusion that the modifications produced an improved program. Nevertheless the results are encouraging that the modified MBSR program may be useful in relieving the suffering of the large numbers of adolescents with sub-clinical depression.


So, improve adolescent psychological health with mindfulness.


“It is well-documented that mindfulness helps to relieve depression and anxiety in adults.1-4 A small but growing body of research shows that it may also improve adolescent resilience to stress through improved cognitive performance and emotional regulation.” – Malka Main


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Zhang, J. Y., Ji, X. Z., Meng, L. N., & Cai, Y. J. (2019). Effects Of Modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) On The Psychological Health Of Adolescents With Subthreshold Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 15, 2695–2704. doi:10.2147/NDT.S216401




Sub-threshold depression (SD) has been associated with impairments in adolescent health which increase the rate of major depression. Researchers have shown the effectiveness of mindfulness on mental health, however whether the traditional mindful skills were suitable for youngsters, it was not clear. This study investigated the effects of a tailed Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on their psychological state.


A double-blind, randomized controlled trial was carried out. 56 participants who met the inclusion criteria agreed to be arranged randomly to either the MBSR group (n=28) or the control group (n=28). Participants in MBSR group received a tailored 8-week, one time per week, one hour each time group intervention. The effectiveness of intervention was measured using validated scales, which including BDI-II, MAAS, RRS at three times (T1-before intervention; T2-after intervention; T3-three months after intervention). A repeated-measures analysis of variance model was used to analyze the data.


The results showed significant improvements in MBSR group comparing with control group that depression level decreased after the 8-week intervention and the follow up (F =17.721, p < 0.00). At the same time, RRS score was significantly decreased at T2 and T3(F= 28.277, p < 0.00). The results also showed that MBSR promoted the level of mindfulness and the effect persisted for three months after intervention (F=13.489, p < 0.00).


A tailored MBSR intervention has positive effects on psychology health among SD youngsters, including decrease depression and rumination level, cultivate mindfulness.


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