Outreach Event: Mindfulness Meditation!

Jenna introduced the idea of stress management to the youth - and they were ready to hear more!
Jenna introduced the idea of stress management to the youth - and they were ready to hear more!

If you were asked to do nothing for a minute, could you do it? What about being asked to smell a Hershey’s chocolate kiss but wait to eat it? Well, after this quarter’s Psychology in Action’s Outreach Program event children and teenagers from the LA community may just outshine you at mindfulness practices like these!

Outreach coordinators Jenna Cummings and Nicco Reggente arranged for UCLA psychology graduate students to present to youth at an after-school program hosted by the Latino Resource Organization; this presentation centered on the consequences of stress and learning about both ineffective and effective coping techniques. The Latino Resource Organization specifically aims to provide an array of human services and programs that support less fortunate families of diverse cultures to improve their quality of life.

Tawny took on the challenge of "breaking the chain" of thought suppression to cope with stress.
Tawny took on the challenge of "breaking the chain" of thought suppression to cope with stress.

Jenna opened the presentation, inquiring the youth about stress they may have experienced daily in their lives. The youth were surprised to learn that this stress can “get under the skin” and affect physical health. So, they were ready to learn techniques to help them the next time school or friends stressed them out:

First up – Tawny Tsang reminded the youth that one way we try to deal with stress is by not thinking about it. However, she challenged this method: she asked the youth to think about a yellow jeep, then try not to think about it, then think about whatever … and sure enough yellow jeeps popped back into their minds! The kids then realized that thought suppression is an ineffective method for coping with stress in the long term.

The youth were able to follow Nicco's lead and concentrate on how their body felt in the moment!
The youth were able to follow Nicco's lead and concentrate on how their body felt in the moment!

Since the youth were then confused about how they should deal with stress, next Barbara Caplan offered the kids a different technique – mindfulness! Using a nifty experiment, she illustrated that like baking soda in water, if you give it some time, your thoughts will naturally settle and allow you to think more clearly.

To introduce mindfulness meditation principles, Nicco led the kids through a body scan. Surprisingly, these youth sat quietly for a whole minute focusing on their breathing and tension in their body that could release. They learned that doing nothing can do a lot for your body and mind.

Barbara had the youth engage all five senses in eating the chocolate kisses!
Barbara had the youth engage all five senses in eating the chocolate kisses!

Last, we decided to give these youth a treat – but not before we tested their newly acquired mindfulness skills! Barbara challenged these youth to be present in the moment and use their other four senses (before taste) to appreciate Hershey’s chocolate kisses – even shaking them to listen to sounds. They passed the test – and considering it was hard for us to resist eating the treats – we were sincerely impressed.

*PIA would like to shout out a special thank you to Lianne Barnes and Natalie Bencuya for sharing procedural materials for the thought suppression and mindfulness activities!

We all got our meditation on for a group photo!
We all got our meditation on for a group photo!