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Mindfulness In Emerging Adults

During the emerging adulthood period, the development of young people may well be
described as a period instability. These young adults venture on different career options, even
non-traditional ones; have the tendency to move to places they think can offer them better
opportunities in life in general; are unsure of what they want in a romantic relationship, hence,
sets to meet people from different backgrounds; and explores the different ways to manage the
responsibilities and life stresses associated with becoming an adult.1

There exist an existential feeling of being in-between during these years; being no
longer children or adolescents, but not yet fully identified with adult roles and responsibilities
regarding a career path, financial independence, the formation of stable romantic partnerships,
marriage, and parenthood. This feeling of being in-between among young people and the
normative life changes associated with it, can engender not only a sense of optimism and
possibility, but also uncertainty, fear, anxiety and depression, and recourse to alcohol and drugs
as a stress management strategy.2

Because of these issues an emerging adult encounters, there arises a need to derive an
understanding of the mind and body system and its potential for transformation in the directions
of health and well-being through engagement in contemplative practices such as, among others,
mindfulness.

Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in


the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. As such, mindfulness can be understood as a
threefold attentional skillset, including: (a) the ability to sustain attention intentionally on
present moment experience; (b) the ability to perceive the present moment in a calm and clear
manner; and (c) the willingness to experience each moment just as it is, without emotional
reactions or conceptual elaborations or judgments. In essence, mindfulness increases awareness
of soma c and mental experience, and uses that heightened awareness in the service of stress
reduction, self-knowledge, and the self-regulation of behavior. The purposes of engaging in

1
Arne , J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twen es. American Psychologist,
55, 469-480.
2
Johnston, L. D., OMalley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schul- enberg, J. E. (2008). Monitoring the Future na onal sur- vey results on
drug use, 19752007: Volume II, College students and adults ages 1945 (NIH Publica on No. 08-6418B). Bethesda, MD: Na onal Ins
tute on Drug Abuse.
mindfulness practice are especially well-suited to the kinds of developmental challenges and
opportunities confronting young people in that mindfulness practices help to (a) alleviate
suffering due to unpleasant physical and emotional experiences; (b) enhance well-being
physically and emotionally in a non-toxic way; (c) facilitate self-knowledge and self-clarification;
(d) regulate behavior in the service of accomplishing desired long-term life goals; and (e) foster a
spirit of compassion and service to others.3

The transitional years from adolescence to adulthood are filled with confusion and
uncertainty. The process of creating a coherent identity en route to becoming adult is inherently
stressful. Young adults are pulled in many different directions by their parents, their peers, the
media, the society, and several other sources. This developmental task is made even more
difficult by the economic, social and technological changes characteristic of our times. Many will
say they dont know what lies ahead of them and it is this uncertainty that terrifies them.

Due to the stress and pressure young adults feel and their not-fully-ripe characteristics
during this period of their lives, the value of developing the skills of mindfulness becomes
inevitable for survival. This skill is especially suited for promoting the growth and change
emerging adults are experiencing. Mindfulness-based stress-management skills allow a young
adult to quiet his or her anxiety, depression, or any untoward sense of feeling that develops when
exposed to stress and pressure brought by the confusion and uncertainty during the emerging
adulthood period. Developing mindfulness skills helps emerging adults proceed through this
important developmental stage with greater confidence. Young adults are become more prepared
and better equipped in facing challenges and making choices when they are armed with self-
knowledge and awareness and peace of mind.

3
Young, S. (2011). Five ways to know yourself: An introduction to Basic Mindfulness. Unpublished manuscript: Burlington, VT.