Feds Spend $228,000 Teaching Teens to Make ‘Friends With Yourself’

Buddhist-inspired mindfulness teaching tested on adolescent girls

depressed girl

The National Institutes of Health is telling depressed teenage girls to make "friends with yourself," in a pilot study of a new Buddhist-inspired mindfulness program.

A project that began last month at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will use mindfulness training for teens that teaches "self-kindness" and "self-compassion."

"Depression among adolescents is a major public health concern due to its prevalence, associated behavioral risks, treatment side-effects and limitations, and negative impact on individuals’ functioning over the lifespan," according to the grant for the study. "Mindfulness and self-compassion programs have been shown to ameliorate depressive symptoms among adults. The goal of this study is to refine, manualize, and test the feasibility of a novel mindfulness self-compassion program as a depression-prevention program for adolescents with subsyndromal depression."

People experiencing subsyndromal depression feel sad or depressed, but not enough to be diagnosed with a major depressive disorder.

The intervention is called "Making Friends With Yourself," a common teaching among Buddhists, and those who practice mindfulness. Mindfulness, a New Age meditation technique that focuses on the present moment "non-judgmentally," is a popular research topic for the National Institutes of Health. The agency has spent at least $100 million studying ways to use mindfulness.

The latest project has received $228,000, and focuses on depressed teenage girls aged 14 to 18. Research will continue through August 2019.

"The ‘Making Friends with Yourself’ program will target specific constructs associated with depression in adolescents, such as rumination (brooding), negative cognitive style, and shame, and would include training in mindfulness, self-kindness, and recognition and appreciation of our common humanity," the grant states.

"Unconditional friendship with yourself has the same flavor as the deep friendships you have with others," according to Shambhala Sun, a Buddhist meditation magazine that has since changed its name to Lion’s Roar. "You know yourself but you’re kind to yourself. You even love yourself when you think you’ve blown it once again."

"In fact, Ani Pema teaches, it is only through unconditional friendship with yourself that your issues will budge," the magazine wrote, referencing the teachings of a Tibetan Buddhist. "Repressing your tendencies, shaming yourself, calling yourself bad–these will never help you realize transformation."

"Ani Perna’s advice is this: don’t reject what you see in yourself; embrace it instead," the article, entitled "Making Friends With Yourself," concludes. "Feeling Hurried Buddha, Feeling Cut Off from Nature Buddha, Feeling No Compassion Buddha–recognize the buddha in each feeling."