Recent studies show how compassion meditation can improve young people’s mental health, people with autism can benefit from a tailored mindfulness program, and more.
Mindfulness interventions using kindness- and compassion-based meditation may be linked to improved well-being and behavior. Researchers at King’s College London reviewed 10 studies with 807 youth where encouraging kindness or compassion for others improved stress, anxiety, depression, negative mood, behavior and attention problems, and mindfulness. Analyses of studies using self-compassion meditation found significant positive changes in stress, anxiety, depression, negative mood, mindfulness, self-compassion, life satisfaction, resilience, gratitude, and curiosity. Gains in prosocial behavior and cognitive function were also identified in two studies.
Results indicate that kindness and compassion can benefit mental health and well-being in youth.
Overall, results indicate that kindness and compassion can benefit mental health and well-being in youth. These effects were generally stronger in research with younger, healthy children and those that used experienced meditation teachers.
Mindful With Autism
The feasibility and impact of a virtual, group-based mindfulness intervention designed for adults with autism was explored by researchers in Toronto. Based on feedback from adults with autism, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program was modified to include six weeks of 60-minute sessions, shorter meditation practices, and no full-day retreat.
50 adults who identified as having autism were invited to attend the program. Participants chose between activities that suited them—for example, during mindful eating practice, they could use either a raisin or a familiar food. Autism advisors attended each session, and group members were allowed to choose their preferred mode of communication—text, audio, or video conferencing. In addition to attending online group sessions, they were given workbooks with session summaries, homework, and links to video and audio practices. They were assessed before and after the program and three months later.
The study suggests that online, group mindfulness courses, designed inclusively with autism communities, may be beneficial for adults with autism.
37 participants completed the program and found the modified course feasible and acceptable. They reported improvements in levels of distress, self-compassion, and mindfulness that were generally maintained three months later. One of the greatest benefits they noted was the opportunity to connect with peers with autism. In all, the study suggests that online, group mindfulness courses, designed inclusively with autism communities, may be beneficial for adults with autism.
Mindfulness meditation might help law students better cope with anxiety, depression, and stress, and reduce alcohol use. In a pilot study at the University of Utah, 31 second- and third-year law students were assigned to a 13-week mindful lawyering course for two hours per week. Another 33 students attended another law class of the same duration. Participants in the mindfulness group received training in focused attention, body scan, open monitoring, and compassion meditation, and were offered tools to create a regular mindfulness practice. They were also asked to meditate for at least five minutes per day, to be increased gradually until they reached 20 minutes of daily practice. Students recorded their practice in a journal, completed weekly reading assignments on mindfulness and law practice, and wrote short reflection papers during the course.
After 13 weeks, the mindfulness group showed significant improvements on measures of stress, anxiety, depression, negative mood, mindfulness, and unhealthy alcohol use compared to students who attended a typical law class.
After 13 weeks, the mindfulness group showed significant improvements on measures of stress, anxiety, depression, negative mood, mindfulness, and unhealthy alcohol use compared to students who attended a typical law class. This suggests that a mindfulness course tailored to law students might help them better cope with the effects of stress.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps motivate us to fulfill our basic needs, but in our modern age of plenty, it can also lead to overindulgence and addiction. So how can we find balance and contentment in an age of instant gratification?
We don’t all meditate the same way—nor do we need to. Sue Hutton offers helpful tips and practices, informed by the autism community, to make mindfulness practice truly accessible.