Le (top) has implemented promising mindfulness-based programs with diverse
groups of young adults.
Teenagers today face a multitude of challenges in an increasingly
complex world, but Thao Le has a powerful tool for them: awareness and insight
into their own minds. Dr. Le, a Family and Consumer Sciences investigator, is researching
how mindfulness, a traditional technique with roots in Buddhist meditation and
other contemplative practices, can assist vulnerable adolescents through their
development into adulthood.
Mindfulness is the ability to bring focus, attention, and awareness
to the present moment. Many young adults struggle with impulse control,
relationships, and self-worth, and mindfulness encourages non-judgmental
acceptance and kindness to oneself regardless of mental and emotional
challenges. It fosters an objective perspective that helps in understanding and
transforming negative ideas and beliefs into positive behavior.
Dr. Le has brought mindfulness training to atrisk youth in Vietnam
and Cambodia and on Native American reservations on the Mainland. In Hawai‘i, she
has implemented promising mindfulness-based programs with two groups of young
adults: military youth and teens in prison. Research suggests that the unique
stressors of military life can cause higher rates of anxiety and other
difficulties for young adults in military families. In 2012 and 2013, through a
partnership with 4-H’s Operation: Military Kids, Dr. Le led a mindfulness-based
adventure camp for military youth in Hawai‘i focusing on physical fitness,
mental fitness, and personal leadership. The camp provided a comfortable space
and structure where the teens could share their experiences, insecurities, and
fears for the future. The response to the camp experience was very positive,
and the kids felt they had developed better coping and relational skills.
For incarcerated youth, the problems and the stakes are even
higher. Dr. Le has provided mindfulness training to teens at the Hawai‘i Youth
Correctional Facility and found significant improvements on their stress level
and immune function. Teens also reported improvements in their ability to be
aware of their emotions and thoughts, and data on recidivism rates are being
compiled. The Office of Youth Services recently contracted with Dr. Le to provide
training in mindfulness and her mindfulness-based program to several agencies serving
youth and families in Hawai‘i.
Adolescence is a tumultuous time of great risk and even greater
potential. Through Dr. Le’s mindfulness-based programs, Hawai‘i’s teens can
develop their minds into incredible resources that will support them throughout