Researchers of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have found a way to reduce the stress of students living in an urban environment. They focused their pilot program on three hundred middle school aged children in the Baltimore City School district. The results were extremely promising.
Life within a poor, urban, city comes with a multitude of stressors and children that grow up within that environment. The most common stressors include ongoing violence (or fear of violence), physical and/or emotional trauma, substance abuse, and pollution, but there a multitude of other stressors that can affect these children at any given time. These stressors will have adverse effects on the children’s emotional, mental, and physical development.
The research team, co-lead by Erica Sibinga set out to determine a way to alleviate some of the stress that these youths endure on a day to day basis. The key in the program was that it needed to be both cost effective and easy to replicate on a larger scale. The researchers determined that a mindfulness program showed the most promise.
A twelve week “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)” program was developed for the three hundred middle school aged children (between fifth and eighth grade). The program was group-based and focused on discussions about mindfulness as well as the actual physical practice of mindfulness which included meditation, yoga, and body awareness to increase relaxation and reduce stress.
The students were then randomly put into two groups. One group received the MBSR program and the other group was given a normal health class that covered the standard exercise, nutrition, and puberty talks that were appropriate for their age bracket. At the end of the 12 weeks, the students who participated in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program showed significant signs of improvement across the board. The MBSR students saw positive increases in psychological functions, enhanced coping mechanisms, and decreased symptoms of post traumatic stress and self hostility.
The next step is to determine how to replicate this program for other areas. The success that they saw was due entirely to the program being backed by the Johns Hopkins funding and a program called Elev8 Baltimore. Effective teaching of mindfulness is an extremely sensitive and complicated process. So, in order to see true success, schools would need to work out a budget to afford experienced teachers
To see the original article, see this article on Psychiatric News