Hardiness and Mindfulness

Yesterday we explored the concept of “hardiness” in the sense of possessing defenses against the stresses of life. This is not the same as defensiveness, the hostile and aggressive quality that usually makes thing worse. In “Mindfulness for Adolescents,” defensiveness is identified as a maladaptive behavior, or one that doesn’t work. Patricia C. Broderick and Patricia A. Jennings write:

Maladaptive behaviors provide transient relief (positive reinforcement) and serve to permit escape from emotional pain (negative reinforcement).

But they are devoid of long-term utility. Because adolescents have so much stress to deal with, they tend to pick up a lot of coping methods that don’t work. Hardiness is a genuine quality that provides true defense in ways that improve the overall situation. The most important thing to know about hardiness is that it can be taught and, more to the point, learned.

Even so, the teaching is not blatantly direct. Hardiness is a byproduct of mindfulness. These authors define mindfulness as…

[…] a particular kind of attention that is characterized by intentionality, present moment focus, and non-evaluative observation of experience… All of these attributes can be developed by the practice of intentionally directing and maintaining attention on targets such as the breath or sensory input, as in meditation or mindful awareness practice. During practice, attention is purposefully directed to phenomena as they occur in the present moment.

The pressures exerted on teenagers by society can be intense, and two prerequisites for dealing with the intensity are emotional competence and social competence. Mindfulness can train and strengthen attention and regulate emotion. It can break the circuit that allows such behavior as robot-like, automatic-pilot “chain-eating.” It can disrupt the pattern of response to “triggers” and help people who struggle with their own poor impulse control.

It even boosts the immune system. The authors say:

Over time, the practice of tolerating experience as it arises without engaging in automatic reactions can strengthen resilience and support affective regulatory self-efficacy and control.

Mindfulness is pretty much the same as meditation, and it reduces stress. Also, in many practitioners, substance abuse falls away. Since food is a frequent substance of choice among the addicted or those who are heading that way, the tendency of mindfulness to alleviate substance abuse is of great interest.

People in the field have developed a program called BREATHE, in which each letter represents an essential tenet: Body, Reflections, Emotions, Attention, “Take it as it is,” Healthy habits of mind, Emotional balance.

HealthFreedoms.org throws an interesting declaration on the table:

There is no food that is neutral. It’s either nurturing your body or robbing your body of nutrients. Make a choice to consume or not, but understand the circumstances.

The site also offers a list of affirmations. Please visit their page for the full list, but here are some hints. The affirmations have to do with nutrition, authenticity, novelty, health, excuses, limitations, and goals. Many people whose lives have changed will affirm that they started the process by changing their thinking.


Source: “Mindfulness for Adolescents,” Learning2Breathe.org, Winter 2012
Source: “Is Your Brain Strategically Working Against Your Waistline?,” HealthFreedoms.org, 06/18/16
Photo credit: joeflintham via VisualHunt.com/CC BY-SA

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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