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Purpose Although quantitative benefits of mindfulness training have been demonstrated in youth, little is known about the processes involved. The aim of this study was to gain a detailed understanding of how young people engage with the ideas and practices known as mindfulness using qualitative enquiry. Methods Following completion of a six-week mindfulness training program with a nonclinical group of 11 young people (age 16–24), a focus group (N = 7) and open-ended interviews (n = 5) were held and audio-recorded. Qualitative data, collected at eight time points over three months from the commencement of training, were coded with the aid of computer software. Grounded theory methodology informed the data collection process and generation of themes and an explanatory model that captured participants' experiences. Results Participants described their daily lives as beset by frequent experiences of distress sometimes worsened by their unhelpful or destructive reactions. With mindfulness practice, they initially reported greater calm, balance, and control. Subsequently they commented on a clearer understanding of themselves and others. Mindfulness was then described as a “mindset” associated with greater confidence and competence and a lessened risk of future distress. Conclusions Participants demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of and engagement with mindfulness principles and practice. Their reported experience aligned well with qualitative research findings in adults and theoretical literature on mindfulness. An encouraging finding was that, with ongoing mindfulness practice and within a relatively short time, participants were able to move beyond improved emotion regulation and gain greater confidence in their ability to manage life challenges.
Mindfulness training (MT) has been shown to lead to significant improvements in psychological distress and emotion regulation skills. The Internet has many advantages as a medium for building emotional skills in young people. The aim of this study was to involve young people in designing an online MT programme. A draft programme was initially designed based on a review of the literature and an established face-to-face programme for medical students. Twenty young people were then recruited through online advertising and 13 (age 16–26) interviewed. They were asked to comment on how useful, easy to use and enjoyable they found the proposed programme and how the draft version and its planned evaluation strategy could be improved. Interviewee responses were independently processed by two of the authors within a qualitative thematic analysis paradigm. The results showed that young people were eager to engage with the design of this health promotion programme and provided valuable input. All interviewees believed that young people would find the programme desirable. They provided a variety of suggestions about how training structure and content could be improved, how best it could be evaluated and how young people could be encouraged to engage with and complete the programme. It thus appears that online MT is a feasible mental health promotion strategy for young people and that it can be evaluated in a controlled trial. The result of this consultation process was the Mindful Awareness Training and Education (MATE) programme, which has been detailed.