The happiness and mindfulness workshop is the first of its kind for the UA's Arizona Youth University, which offers summer workshops to youth through the UA's Outreach College.
The workshop is shaped with the help of a curriculum established by California-based Project Happiness.
Grounded in research on mindfulness, the program provides youth and young adults a preliminary understanding of what it means to have a mindfulness practice, and also teaches them about self-respect, community responsibility and acting without judgment.
Sheena Brown, research scientist at the UA's neuroscience department, and one of the people who's conducted the week-long workshop with teenagers, said kids are faced with many challengers, and developing a mindfulness practice -a mental state awareness that emphasizes being in the moment and living an authentic life- at a young age can help navigating pitfalls, such as substance abuse, bullying, depression and even suicide.
"It’s really frightening… depression… suicide… tests… pressure to conform and do what your friends are doing," she said.
The week-long workshop is structured in a way that provides a safe place for the kids to share and become part of a supportive community. The curriculum is based on the book and documentary film by Randy Taran, the founder of Project Happiness. Taran actually attended a part of the workshop.
Taran explained that it all began with a film.
Project Happiness, the film, is a project that began when Taran saw her own daughter grappling with depression. The documentary features three youth from three continents as they explore the nature of lasting happiness.
Taran said this workshop is the first of it’s kind that is based on the work that she’s done with Project Happiness. She said she's happy to see kids actively engaged in discussion.
Cassandra Deely attended the workshop. Deely said she's experienced bouts of depression, and participating in this workshop has allowed her to see that she’s not alone.