Background and Purpose: By middle childhood, peer relationships are of key importance to youth development. However, many school-aged children are ill-equipped to properly identify and communicate their emotions, which can lead to strained or limited peer interactions and subsequent increased stress. There is an upward trend in reported stress by Americans and growing research to indicate that stress impacts both physical and mental health. Further, stress impacts individuals disproportionately, as women, people of color and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds consistently report higher levels of stress.
The evidence supporting mindfulness interventions for the general population is expanding and has been linked with improved outcomes for depression, anxiety, substance abuse and a wide array of physical health problems. However, the effectiveness of mindfulness interventions to promote positive coping and peer relations with youth, and to reduce emotional and mental health issues is relatively unknown. This exploratory study seeks to fill this gap by using a cognitive-behavioral therapy with yoga.
Methods: The Mindful Living curriculum was offered to youth attending a mid-sized, midwestern town afterschool program during the summer of 2018. Five youth voluntarily participated (80% black, and 80% female). Recruitment occurred on- site by agency staff and informed consent for all agency programming was obtained through summer program applications. Group members participated in six group sessions, completed pre and post-tests (Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire and Perceived Stress Scale), and a post- intervention satisfaction survey and focus group. Qualitative analysis was conducted using Nvivo 12 software by utilizing measure subscale definitions as a coding guide and an Excel spreadsheet allowed for pre and post test comparisons of each group participant.
Our findings of content analysis provide descriptive information about the youths’ experience with the Mindful Living program. Themes of stress, coping, emotional problems, conduct problems, peer problems, hyperactivity, prosocial behaviors were identified. Program satisfaction was calculated. The theme analyses show high inter-observer reliability (Kappa co-efficient ranging from .83-.99). Further, our mixed method exploration of pre and posttest results show 75-100% program satisfaction, decreases in emotional problems, peer problems, perceived stress, conduct problems and hyperactivity, and increases in positive coping and prosocial behaviors.
Conclusion and Implications: Our study shows that participating youth reported the Mindful Living intervention as enjoyable and helpful. The youth reported that the program was useful to develop their ability to cope with stress, reduce emotional and mental health problems, and relate well with others. The findings of content analysis with high inter-rater agreement support the notion that ongoing programs of Mindful Living and other CBT-based group yoga interventions. Implications for social work practice and future research will be discussed.