Note to teens: Just breathe
Researchers have found that a workshop for adolescents that teaches skills to keep impulsive acts under control, is effective. Such impulsive behavior often leads to negative acts including substance abuse and violence.
July 9, 2013 — In May, the Los Angeles school board voted to ban suspensions of students for “willful defiance” and directed school officials to use alternative disciplinary practices. The decision was controversial, and the question remains: How do you discipline rowdy students and keep them in the classroom while still being fair to other kids who want to learn?A team led by Dara Ghahremani, an assistant researcher in the department of psychiatry at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior conducted a study on the Youth Empowerment Seminar, or YES!, a workshop for adolescents that teaches them to manage stress, regulate their emotions, resolve conflicts and control impulsive behavior. Impulsive behavior, in particular — including acting out in class, engaging in drug or alcohol abuse, and risky sexual behaviors — is something that gets adolescents in trouble.The YES! program, run by the nonprofit International Association for Human Values, includes yoga-based breathing practices, among other techniques, and the research findings show that a little bit of breathing can go a long way. The scientists report that students who went through the four-week YES! for Schools program felt less impulsive, while students in a control group that didn’t participate in the program showed no change.The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.”The program helps teens to gain greater control over their actions by giving them tools to respond to challenging situations in constructive and mindful ways, rather than impulsively,” said Ghahremani, who conducted the study at the UCLA Center for Addictive Behaviors and UCLA’s Laboratory for Molecular Neuroimaging. “The program uses a variety of techniques, ranging from a powerful yoga-based breathing program called Sudarshan Kriya to decision-making and leadership skills that are taught via interactive group games. We found it to be a simple yet powerful approach that could potentially reduce impulsive behavior.”Ghahremani noted that teens are often just as stressed as adults.”There are home and family issues, academic pressures and, of course, social pressures,” he said. “With the immediacy and wide reach of communication technology, like Facebook, peer pressure and bullying has risen to a whole new level. Without the tools to handle such pressures, teens can often resort to impulsive acts that include violence towards others or themselves.”Impulsive behavior, or a lack of self-control, in adolescence is a key predictor of risky behavior, Ghahremani said.”Substance abuse and various mental health problems that begin in adolescence are often very difficult to shake in adulthood — there is a need for interventions that bring impulsive behavior under control in this group,” he said. …
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