A unique retreat program combats increasing rates of stress, anxiety, and depression in young people.
With the rise of technology, we live in an increasingly disconnected world, which is especially the case for young people. We also face complex, interdependent, and growing global issues that will define the next generation. Within this landscape, teens from all backgrounds experience heightened levels of stress and anxiety, whether from intense pressures to succeed or to just survive in their communities.
Stress among teenagers has risen in recent years, and adolescents who experience frequent stress are more prone to depression. Evidence suggests strong correlations between teens’ increased use of smartphones and social media with significantly increasing rates of depression and anxiety.
Numerous recent studies warn that stress and isolation among teens are increasing, and that rising stress levels contribute to higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicide, and physical illness. This generation of teenagers is also faced with increasingly complex social and environmental global crises.
Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme) is a nonprofit dedicated to teaching mindfulness to young people, working to address these challenges.
In 2016, Dr. Brian Galla from the University of Pittsburgh partnered with the iBme to take a quantitative look at the outcomes teens experienced on our retreats. Dr. Galla published a study in the Journal of Adolescence, which noted that, “Cultivating mindfulness and self-compassion may be especially relevant for adolescents as they cope with the inevitable stresses and emotional challenges of forming integrated self-concepts and identities.”
Through his research studying iBme participants, Dr. Galla observed that iBme retreats resulted in “repeated measures ... showing adolescents improved in mindfulness, self-compassion, and all indices of emotional well-being immediately following the retreat.” Emotional well-being was evaluated via five factors: depressive symptoms, rumination, perceived stress, positive (alert, excited, enthusiastic, inspired, determined) and negative (distressed, upset, scared, nervous, afraid) affect, and life satisfaction.
And just as exciting, his results showed that, “many of these improvements were maintained three months later.”
By learning how to mindfully observe and compassionately respond to unpleasant self-evaluations and experiences, adolescents can potentially disengage the habitual ruminative thoughts and judgments that perpetuate psychological distress. Likewise, promoting kindhearted attitudes and a sense of common humanity may help mitigate the stress associated with harsh self-criticism and feelings of isolation.