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Interest in mindfulness as a tool to improve health and well-being has increased rapidly over the past two decades. Limited qualitative research has been conducted on mindfulness and health. This study utilized in-depth interviews to explore the context, perceptions, and experiences of a sub-set of participants engaged in an acceptability study of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) among urban youth. Content analysis revealed that all in-depth interview participants reported experiencing some form of positive benefit and enhanced self-awareness as a result of MBSR program participation. Significant variation in the types and intensity of changes occurring was identified, ranging from a reframing and reduction of daily stressors to transformational shifts in life orientation and well-being. Variations in perceptions of and experiences with mindfulness should be studied in further depth in the context of prospective intervention research, including their potentially differential influence on mental and physical health outcomes.

ObjectivesMindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been shown to improve mental health and reduce stress in a variety of adult populations. Here, we explore the effects of a school-based MBSR program for young urban males. Participants and methods In fall 2009, 7th and 8th graders at a small school for low-income urban boys were randomly assigned to 12-session programs of MBSR or health education (Healthy Topics—HT). Data were collected at baseline, post-program, and three-month follow-up on psychological functioning; sleep; and salivary cortisol, a physiologic measure of stress. Results Forty-one (22 MBSR and 19 HT) of the 42 eligible boys participated, of whom 95% were African American, with a mean age of 12.5 years. Following the programs, MBSR boys had less anxiety (p = 0.01), less rumination (p = 0.02), and showed a trend for less negative coping (p = 0.06) than HT boys. Comparing baseline with post-program, cortisol levels increased during the academic terms for HT participants at a trend level (p = 0.07) but remained constant for MBSR participants (p = 0.33). Conclusions In this study, MBSR participants showed less anxiety, improved coping, and a possible attenuation of cortisol response to academic stress, when compared with HT participants. These results suggest that MBSR improves psychological functioning among urban male youth.