Mindfulness, Stress, and Poverty

Mindfulness is a way to provide support to at-risk and marginalized populations to help them handle stress and build resilience. In a few weeks, I will be doing two presentations on mindfulness to formerly homeless families in Downtown Durham. I started Minded because I wanted to help bring mindfulness practice to at-risk populations. I believe that mindfulness can be a powerful tool for social justice. 

A growing body of research shows that children growing up in poverty are exposed to what researchers call "toxic stress." This is when stress is so chronic and constant in early childhood and adolescence that it causes changes to the brain and body physiology. You can look at this article for more information. One of the more important victims of the brain is the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the CEO of the brain, and among other things, is in charge of delayed gratification, focus, attention, impulse-control, and emotion regulation. As it turns out, recent studies show that emotional regulation, or the ability to be resilient in the face of adversity, is one of the best predictors of positive outcomes in adulthood. That means that over and above income, schools, drug use (all the old stand bys), it is emotion regulation that determines a kids success in life. But, the good news is: Stress-induced changes to the adolescent brain ARE reversible (Eiland and Romeo, 2013). WHY ARE WE NOT DOING MORE TO BUILD CHILDREN'S RESILIENCE AND EMOTIONAL REGULATION? Mindfulness can helps reverse the changes to the adolescent brain. Schools are starting to take notice in the form of social emotional learning. But, the communities of Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh need to be doing more. Let's make sure that mindfulness is accessible to all people who want and need it. Regardless of income or status in life.