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A Review of Mindfulness Meditation and Its Effects on Adolescents’ Aggression

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Abstract

Meditation is an interactive process among mind, body and behavior, in which emotional, mental, social, spiritual and behavioral factors can directly be affected. Guided mindfulness meditation is a powerful technique for facilitating healing and growth toward autonomy by helping adolescents connect to their inner voice. This technique may be especially useful in the adolescent search for self-awareness, meaning, and life purpose. The main goal of mindfulness meditation is the development of an observant self that learns about one’s actions, thoughts, and feelings from a nonjudgmental perspective. It consist four stages: (1) physical relaxation, (2) independent mindfulness meditation, (3) guided meditation calling on inner voice, and (4) connecting with inner voice. Mindfulness meditation has proven effective in reducing psychological stress, negativity, anger and aggression; it is a tool for awakening and developing one’s conscious and thereby modifying one's thoughts. This review examines the significance of guided mindfulness meditation in mediating aggression, both external and internal aggressive behavior, and youth suicide.
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OJMR 2015 | April - June 2015 | Volume 1 | Issue 1 | Pages 12-17 ISSN (Online): 2395-4892
Published online by Association for Indian Psychology, Rishikesh, India Quarterly, Peer-reviewed, International Journal
Online Journal of Multidisciplinary Research (OJMR)
April 2015, 1(1), 12-17
REVIEW ARTICLE OPEN ACCESS
A Review of Mindfulness Meditation and Its
Effects on Adolescents’ Aggression
Ram Kumar Gupta*1, Shailendra Singh2, Swadesh Bhatt3, and Shubhangi Gupta4
1Ph.D. Scholar, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India
2Associate Professor, Govt. G. D. Girls P.G. College, Alwar, India
3Ph.D. Scholar, Gurukul Kangri University, Haridwar, India
4Ph.D. Scholar, Gurukul Kangri University, Haridwar, India
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Article History:
---------------------------
Received: 15-11-2014
Accepted: 18-01-2015
Published: 20-04-2015
Keywords:
---------------------------
Aggression, Mindfullness
meditation, Adolescent
Article code: OJMR113
Access online at: www.ojmr.in
Source of support: Nil
Conflict of interest: None declared
Summary
Meditation is an interactive process among mind, body
and behavior, in which emotional, mental, social, spiritual
and behavioral factors can directly be affected. Guided
mindfulness meditation is a powerful technique for
facilitating healing and growth toward autonomy by
helping adolescents connect to their inner voice. This
technique may be especially useful in the adolescent
search for self-awareness, meaning, and life purpose. The
main goal of mindfulness meditation is the development
of an observant self that learns about one’s actions,
thoughts, and feelings from a nonjudgmental perspective.
It consist four stages: (1) physical relaxation, (2)
independent mindfulness meditation, (3) guided
meditation calling on inner voice, and (4) connecting
with inner voice. Mindfulness meditation has proven
effective in reducing psychological stress, negativity,
anger and aggression; it is a tool for awakening and
developing one’s conscious and thereby modifying one's
thoughts. This review examines the significance of
guided mindfulness meditation in mediating aggression,
both external and internal aggressive behavior, and
youth suicide.
*Corresponding Author:
Mr. Ram Kumar Gupta
Research Scholar,
University of Rajasthan,
Jaipur-302004, India.
Email: ram.pyp@gmail.com
Contact no.: 919027040650
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OJMR 2015 | April - June 2015 | Volume 1 | Issue 1 | Pages 12-17 ISSN (Online): 2395-4892
Published online by Association for Indian Psychology, Rishikesh, India Quarterly, Peer-reviewed, International Journal
Gupta et al.,/ Mindfulness meditation and adolescents’ aggression
Background
Rapid population growth, unavailability of
housing and support services, poverty,
unemployment, and underemployment among
youth, the decline in the authority of local
communities, overcrowding in poor urban areas,
family disintegration, and ineffective educational
systems besides bombardment of information
both relevant and irrelevant, ethical and
unethical on the young minds makes it difficult
for them to handle it effectively (World Youth
Report, 2003). The global scientific and
technological progress is evidence of increased
human intelligence and creativity, emotional
hypersensitivity and aggression (Nagendra &
Nagarathna, 1997). When one person hurts or
tries to injure another person deliberately, either
verbally or physically such behavior is termed as
aggression. Aggression can manifest itself in
various forms i.e. direct aggression, indirect
aggression, relational aggression, instrumental
aggression, reputational aggression, external
aggression, and internal aggression or it can be
in the form of vengeance, representing a basic
distortion in personality formation. This
distortion in personality produces delinquents
and ultimately adult criminals. Aggressive
responses are controlled by amygdala and limbic
system of the brain (Adams, 1968). Aggressive
behaviour is associated with testosterone
(Archer, 1991), low level of serotonin (Alexander
et al., 1986), alcohol (Bushman, 1997), learning,
social learning (Bandura, 1961), frustration
(Miller et al., 1941) and finally Freud viewed
aggression as resulting from thantos i.e., the
basic instinct, leading to the individual and to
restore things to their pristine stage. In other
studies aggressive adolescents often deal with
the level of influence various social systems such
as family, friends, and school have on their
behavior (Laufer, 2003), low self-concept
(developed in relation to others), low self-
awareness (Vermeiren, 2004) and suicide
(Cairns, 1988).
Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness is the awareness and
nonjudgmental acceptance by a clear, calm mind
of one’s moment-to-moment experience, without
either pursuing the experience or pushing it
away (Brahmavamso, 2003). In mindfulness,
participants are instructed to focus attention on
the target of observation (e.g., breathing or
walking) and to be aware of it in each moment.
Emotions, sensations, or cognitions are observed
carefully but are not evaluated as good or bad,
true or false, healthy or sick, or important or
trivial (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999). Thus,
mindfulness is the nonjudgmental observation of
the ongoing stream of internal and external
stimuli as they arise. Meditation is an interactive
process among mind, body and behaviour, in
which emotional, mental, social, spiritual and
behavioural factors can directly be affected. Most
kinds of meditations are geared towards
achieving inner peace, self-reflection, or self-
relaxation through the quieting of the mind, but
there is more to meditation than just closing
one’s eyes. Since the nature of the mind is to
wander here and there, this practice allows one
to understand correctly the nature of the
psychophysical occurrences taking place in one’s
body. Constant awareness of those
psychophysical processes helps develop the self
into an observer that can access a deeper level of
consciousness (Brahmavamso, 2003).
Mindfulness meditation has proven effective in
reducing psychological stress and preventing
relapse in depressed patients (Marlatt &
Kriseller, 1999), increasing empathetic
capability, decreasing tendencies to take on
others’ negative emotions, improving coping
skills (Bedow & Murphy, 2004), trait anger and
state anger (Del Vecchio & O’Leary, 2004). Four
stages of mindfulness meditation are: (1)
physical relaxation, (2) independent mindfulness
meditation, (3) guided meditation calling on
inner voice, and (4) connecting with inner voice.
In the stage three, the therapist uses guided
imagery in order to facilitate an encounter
between the meditator and his or her perceived
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OJMR 2015 | April - June 2015 | Volume 1 | Issue 1 | Pages 12-17 ISSN (Online): 2395-4892
Published online by Association for Indian Psychology, Rishikesh, India Quarterly, Peer-reviewed, International Journal
image of inner voice/guidance. In the fourth
stage, the meditator remains attuned to any
sensory, verbal, or imaginative insights.
Review on mindfulness meditation and
aggression
Some reviews on aggression and
mindfulness meditation are described below-
Three individuals were taught the procedure for
controlling their anger and aggressive behavior
by a young man with intellectual disabilities (ID)
and mental illness, who had previously been
taught to successfully manage his aggressive
behavior by using Meditation on the Soles of the
Feet (Singh et al., 2011). In this meditation
technique they were asked to shift their
attention and awareness from the precursors of
aggression to the soles of their feet, a neutral
point on their body. After five months of
initiating training three individuals were
reported very low levels of anger and aggressive
behavior according to self report and staff
reports, this situation was continued for the two
years during which informal data were collected.
In another study (Singh et al., 2008), effects of
mindfulness-based meditation were evaluated as
a cognitive-behavioral intervention for physical
aggression in 6 offenders with mild intellectual
disabilities. Results showed that this procedure
may be a clinically effective and cost-effective
method of enabling adult offenders with
intellectual disabilities to control their
aggression.
In a multiple-baseline across-participants
design, verbal and physical aggression for three
participants was recorded (Singh et al., 2007) as
another study. Meditation on the Soles of the
Feet, for mindfulness was introduced as an
intervention for twice a day and to use it
whenever an incident occurred that would evoke
his aggressive behavior. Intervention was
terminated when a participant and his treatment
team agreed that he had achieved control over
his aggressive behavior. Follow-up data was
collected for a month every year for four years.
Verbal and physical aggression decreased as
training in mindfulness proceeded. Further, the
change was faster for physical aggression than
for verbal aggression. Yearly follow-up over a
period of four years showed that physical
aggression was maintained at zero and verbal
aggression was minimal.
In a case history, participant participated
voluntarily in an experiential four-session group
mindfulness meditation workshop (Birnbaum,
2005). In a private discussion, she described a
conflictual and complex relationship with her
mother. At the beginning of each meditation
session, participant was encouraged to pay
careful attention to all experiences associated
with her inner voice (guidance) while meditating
and then report to the facilitator whether new
insights surfaced about the self. In addition, she
was asked to write her mother a daily letter in
her journal expressing her real thoughts and
feelings. Five weeks later her feelings were
changed to her mother.
In another case study (Traffert, 2003), 27
years old patient was introduced a meditation
technique called “Soles of the feet”. This involved
recognizing and role playing anger triggers, and
responding to these triggers by (i) assuming a
natural and non-aggressive posture, (ii)
breathing naturally while allowing angry
emotions to flow without trying to stop or
respond to them, (iii) shifting attention to the
soles of the feet (iv) continuing to focus on the
soles of his feet until the anger passed and (v)
smiling and walking away. The researchers
conducted a five month baseline analysis,
followed by 12 months of treatment and a 12
month follow-up period. They report that there
were major decrements during the treatment
phase in the number of incidents, physical and
verbal aggression, PRN medication, physical
restraints.
In a random designed study (Deshpande
et al., 2008), 226 subjects with age range
between 17 and 62 years were divided into two
different groups. The Yoga (Y) group practiced
an integrated yoga module that included asanas,
pranayama, meditation, notional correction, and
devotional sessions. The control group practiced
mild to moderate physical exercises (PE). Both
groups had practices for one hour daily, six days
a week for eight weeks. Verbal Aggressiveness
was assessed before and after eight weeks using
the self-administered Verbal Aggressive Scale.
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OJMR 2015 | April - June 2015 | Volume 1 | Issue 1 | Pages 12-17 ISSN (Online): 2395-4892
Published online by Association for Indian Psychology, Rishikesh, India Quarterly, Peer-reviewed, International Journal
There was a significant decrease in verbal
aggressiveness in the yoga group (P = 0.01
paired samples t-test) with a non significant
increase in the PE group.
Discussion
Aggressive adolescents often deal with
the level of influence various social systems such
as family, friends, and school have on their
behavior (Laufer, 2003), low self-concept
(developed in relation to others), low self-
awareness (Vermeiren, 2004) and suicide
(Cairns, 1988). Meditation and mindfulness
interventions were identified as an effective
second-line approach for emotional, attentional,
and behavioral (e.g., aggression) disturbances
(Cloitre, 2011). Consistent practice of meditation
with sensitive professional guidance may
enhance the sense of a distinct “self” and
awareness of its wishes, goals, needs, sense of
self control and wholeness. This state may
provide the necessary potential for positive
change (Shyam, 1994). Meditation can produce
increases in relative left-sided anterior activation
that are associated with reductions in anxiety
and negative affect and increases in positive
affect (Davidson et al., 2003). Guided
mindfulness meditation is a powerful technique
for facilitating healing and growth toward
autonomy by helping adolescents connect to
their inner voice. This technique may be
especially useful in the adolescent search for self-
awareness, meaning and life purpose. The main
goal of mindfulness meditation is the
development of an observant self that learns
about one’s actions, thoughts, and feelings from a
nonjudgmental perspective (Birnbaum, 2005).
Individuals, who display aggressive behavior,
must acknowledge that anger and aggression are
aspects of their behavioral repertoire that limit
their recovery and they must engage in
treatment. Individuals needs to make a
commitment to practice it in a disciplined
manner until it becomes automatic, so that it can
be utilized consistently in high arousal situations
that may lead to aggression. The individual
acquires control over his or her life by choosing
to learn the mindfulness technique, to
consistently practice it, and to apply it to daily
life (Singh et al., 2007). Since the main
advantages of mindfulness training include
reduction in a variety of problematic conditions,
including chronic pain, stress, anxiety,
depressive relapse, and disordered eating (Baer,
2003), improved focusing skills, self-awareness,
emotion regulation and brain and immune
function (Davidson et al., 2003). Mindfulness
technique can be used to self-regulate one’s
behavior in highly negative arousal situations
(Singh et al., 2007). It is also the kind of
technique that can be taught and practiced in a
group setting and therefore integrated into
various support or therapy groups. Researchers
and clinicians should be encouraged to explore
the possible application of this self-developing
process in challenging life situations. Teaching
young people mindfulness meditation provides
them with an effective life skill, which in time can
turn into a major resource. Most of the research
done in the area of mindfulness has examined its
usefulness among adults. Very little has been
written about the use of this technique with
adolescents. The current limited research in this
domain restricts our ability to understand
comprehensive variety of multidimensional
human experience. Further qualitative and
quantitative research is needed in order to
assess the relationship suggested by the
literature, between level of differentiation, self,
mindfulness meditation and adolescent
aggression.
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How to cite this article:
Gupta, R. K., Singh, S., Bhatt, S., and Gupta, S. (2015). A Review of Mindfulness Meditation and
Its Effects on Adolescents’ Aggression. Online Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 1(1): 12-17.
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To study the effect of yoga on verbal aggressiveness in normal healthy adults. Of the 1228 persons who attended introductory lectures, 226 subjects of both sexes who satisfied the inclusion and exclusion criteria and who consented to participate in the study were randomly allocated into two groups. These 226 subjects were between the ages of 17 and 62 years and 173/226 completed the eight weeks of intervention. The Yoga (Y) group practised an integrated yoga module that included asanas, pranayama, meditation, notional correction, and devotional sessions. The control group practised mild to moderate physical exercises (PE). Both groups had supervised practices (by trained experts) for one hour daily, six days a week for eight weeks. Verbal Aggressiveness was assessed before and after eight weeks using the self-administered Verbal Aggressive Scale. The baseline score of the two groups did not differ significantly (P = 0.66). There was a significant decrease in verbal aggressiveness in the yoga group (P = 0.01 paired samples t-test) with a nonsignificant increase in the PE group. ANCOVA using pre- values as covariates showed a significant difference between the groups (P = 0.013). RMANOVA for interaction between the sexes or age groups in change scores were not significant. This study has demonstrated that an eight week intervention of an integrated yoga module decreased verbal aggressiveness in the yoga group (in males and those below 25 years of age), with a nonsignificant increase in the PE group.
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A young man with intellectual disabilities (ID) and mental illness, who had previously been taught to successfully manage his aggressive behavior by using Meditation on the Soles of the Feet, reported that he shared his mindfulness practice with his peers with ID. When requested by his peers, and without any training as a therapist, he began to teach this procedure to his peers for controlling their anger and aggressive behavior. We tracked the anger and aggressive behavior of three of the individuals he taught and the fidelity of his teaching of the procedure. According to self and staff reports, anger and aggressive behavior of the three individuals decreased to very low levels within five months of initiating training and remained at very low levels for the two years during which informal data were collected. The fidelity of his teaching the procedure was high, if one allows for his idiosyncratic teaching methods. These findings suggest that individuals with mild ID, who have mastered an effective mindfulness-based strategy to control their aggressive behavior, may be able to teach their peers the same strategy to successfully control their anger and aggressive behavior to a level that is acceptable for community living.
Article
Verbal and physical aggression are risk factors for community placement of individuals with serious and persistent mental illness. Depending on the motivations involved, treatment typically consists of psychotropic medications and psychosocial interventions, including contingency management procedures and anger management training. Effects of a mindfulness procedure, Meditation on the Soles of the Feet , were tested as a cognitive behavioral intervention for verbal and physical aggression in 3 individuals who had frequently been readmitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital owing to their anger management problems. In a multiple baseline across subjects design, they were taught a simple meditation technique, requiring them to shift their attention and awareness from the anger-producing situation to the soles of their feet, a neutral point on their body. Their verbal and physical aggression decreased with mindfulness training; no physical aggression and very low rates of verbal aggression occurred during 4 years of follow-up in the community.
Article
The effects of a mindfulness-based procedure, called Meditation on the Soles of the Feet, were evaluated as a cognitive-behavioral intervention for physical aggression in 6 offenders with mild intellectual disabilities. They were taught a simple meditation technique that required them to shift their attention and awareness from the precursors of aggression to the soles of their feet, a neutral point on their body. Results showed that physical and verbal aggression decreased substantially, no Stat medication or physical restraint was required, and there were no staff or peer injuries. Benefit-cost analysis of lost days of work and cost of medical and rehabilitation because of injury caused by these individuals in both the 12 months prior to and following mindfulness-based training showed a 95.7% reduction in costs. This study suggests that this procedure may be a clinically effective and cost-effective method of enabling adult offenders with intellectual disabilities to control their aggression.
The frustration-aggression hypothesis
  • N E Miller
  • R R Sears
  • O H Mowrer
  • L W Doob
  • J Dollard
Miller, N. E., Sears, R. R., Mowrer, O. H., Doob, L. W., & Dollard, J. (1941). The frustration-aggression hypothesis. Psychological Review, 48, 337-342.
Meet Your True Self through Meditation
  • H R Nagendra
  • R Nagarathna
Nagendra, H. R., & Nagarathna, R. (1997). New Perspectives in stress management. 4th ed. Bangalore: SVYP, India 19. Shyam, S. (1994). Meet Your True Self through Meditation. International Meditation Institute and Ellen Sharp, India.