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University of Pittsburgh Research Assistant, working for the HIV Prevention and Care Project at the University of Pittsburgh.

Is mindfulness meditation good for kids? Here’s what the science actually says.

From Vox online (by )…

The companies and foundations largely responsible for introducing mindfulness programing into schools tout its psychological benefits — such as reduced stress and increased attention. And they say the evidence for mindfulness is based on decades of scientific research.

But research quality is not the same as quantity. And considering that more and more US schools are embracing it, I decided to take a look through the literature: What does the science actually say about mindfulness in kids?

I read more than a dozen studies — including systematic meta-reviews, which account for thousands of other papers — analyzing the best available research on mindfulness (in both students and adults) and talked to researchers and advocates involved in the work. I asked these experts what questions and concerns parents should have when they hear mindfulness is coming to their schools. (Scroll down for those questions.)

The short of it: The relatively few studies we have on mindfulness in schools suggest a generally positive effect on decreasing anxiety and increasing cognitive performance. But the hype around mindfulness also seems to be outpacing the science, especially when it comes to teaching these practices to children.

Read the full article on Vox.com.

More proof that mindfulness helps students combat stress, depression – just ask student Rob Stephens at CMU

From NBCnews.com

When Rob Stephens, a 22-year-old senior, walks into the Mindfulness Room at Carnegie Mellon University, he leaves his homework and stress at the door. He is surrounded by a waterfall wall, plants, lots of natural light and an open space with cushions on the floor — a 24/7 space is set aside for meditation or just peaceful thinking.

CMU student Rob Stephens

“I definitely think it helps to de-stress,” said Stephens, a global studies major from Atlanta, Georgia. “It’s the time I spend making sure I am OK.” Rob Stephens visits the Mindfulness Room at Carnegie Mellon, where he can meditate, bond with dogs or just chill out. Sara Jahanian

Mindfulness is as popular at colleges nationwide as it is now at CMU. “It’s someone giving themselves uninterrupted mental space,” said Stephens. “Some focus on themselves or others. It’s a time to stop and refocus your purpose.” Studies show the practice may be an antidote to the high levels of stress and depression seen on college campuses.

The American College Health Association found in a 2015 study that more than 85 percent said they “felt overwhelmed” by the demands of college. And a third of all student said stress had a negative effect on their overall academic performance.

Recently, Stephens enjoyed playing with therapy dogs in the mindfulness room. Students bond with a dog in Carnegie Mellon’s Mindfulness Room. Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Some use the time to take a nap, “to reset their brain,” he said. For others it might include meditation, or focused time at the gym or in yoga. “People can do a lot of mindful things,” Stephens said. “For me, it was time to be with another creature. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a [yoga] child’s pose.”

Read the full article.

How to be mindful when you are angry

From the New  York Times

“Anger is a natural, life-affirming emotion. It lets us know when a boundary has been crossed, when our needs are not being met, or when someone we care about is in danger. But when misdirected, anger can harm our physical health and our relationships. Being mindful of anger means not suppressing, denying or avoiding it and also not acting out in harmful ways. Instead, connect with the direct experience of the anger, and then decide what action you want to take.” — Jessica Morey, executive director of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education

Read the full article.

Students get their zen on at mindfulness fair

From Pittnews.com

About 400 Pitt students and community members attended the event, which offered talks, family-friendly mindfulness activities including sculpting lotus flower tealight holders, yoga and tai-chi demonstrations as well as free food and various informational tables. The fair also included meditation lessons, a mindful eating workshop and a panel discussion between parents about how to teach children to be mindful.

David Givens, a Ph.D. candidate in Pitt’s department of religious studies and the associate director and co-founder of the Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies, sat behind one of the informational tables distributing information about the CMCS.

Given the increasing proximity of finals week at Pitt, it’s a good time for students to learn to exhale.

According to the American Psychology Association, meditation is the most well-established form of mindfulness. A novice meditator might sit for just five minutes a day, eyes closed and focus their full attention on breathing in and out.

Concentrating on the simple, natural process of inhaling and exhaling diverts attention away from anxious thoughts and depressive rumination. It should come as no surprise that mindfulness and meditation can help those with mental illnesses.
“People find mindfulness personally and practically fulfilling,” Givens said. “A lot of evidence and reports indicate that practicing mindfulness helps reduce stress and helps boost energy levels, focus and concentration.”

Read the full article.

PittEd Magazine March 2017: Mindfulness and Health

This issue of PittEd magazine features conducted by faculty and alumni at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education showing that “mindfulness”—the practice of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present—can be a powerful tool for improving health and wellness outcomes for young children, adolescents, and adults.

How generations meditate on mindfulness

From Forbes Magazine online

According to a recent UC-Davis report, mindfulness training triples students’ ability to focus and participate in class activities. In recent years, this sort of validating research has helped push mindfulness from a niche interest to a full-blown lifestyle. From the boardroom to the classroom, Americans of all ages are putting their own spin on the practice. Boomers were originally attracted to mindfulness for its holistic benefits. Today, Generation X is using mindfulness as an individual practice to rise above the competition, while Millennials are using it as a team-strengthening exercise.

Read the article on Forbes.com.

Save the date: 2nd annual Mindfulness Fair March 25, 2017

The Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies at the University of Pittsburgh will sponsor the Second Annual Mindfulness Fair on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at the University Club on the university campus. All are welcome to this family friendly event which will run from 10am to 4pm. The Mindfulness Fair will showcase the resources and activities available to both the campus community and the Pittsburgh region, and will feature wide-ranging talks, yoga and Tai Chi demonstrations, information tables, and family activities. Refreshments will be provided, and there is no charge for this event.

dsc_51391The Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies was formed at the University of Pittsburgh in 2015 to promote scholarship, creativity and well-being through mindfulness research, education, collective practice, and clinical and community service. To this end, speakers at the Mindfulness Fair will include Pitt professors, meditation teachers and community leaders. Topics will range from applications of mindfulness in education and healthy life choices; introducing children to mindfulness; meditation techniques; therapeutic uses; and mindful art and movement. Family activities are planned with crafts, family yoga practices and more.

Mindfulness practices are deeply rooted in ancient traditions, yet are emerging as practices and concepts that are highly relevant to modern life. We invite the entire community to learn more about mindfulness and find out how it can enrich your life. Please save the date and come join us at the Mindfulness Fair on Saturday March 25. For more information email us at mindfulnesspitt@pitt.edu.