Mindfulness for youngsters, between 14 and 24 years, during and after cancer treatment

This project is sponsored by the Alexine Clarysse Foundation and the Anticancer Fund in cooperation with the Catholic University of Leuven.


 The project

A radical change takes place when a young person is diagnosed with cancer. Tension, stress, and uncertainty will influence every aspect of life, even after treatment. In this context, mindfulness is a targeted and evidence-based intervention that helps in coping with this stressful event.  This project aims to achieving the highest possible quality of life for young adults between 14 and 24 years old who are being treated for cancer or have completed an intensive cancer treatment.

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The origin of mindfulness lies with Buddhism. During the late 70s Jon Kabat-Zinn has given a scientific status to mindfulness in the U.S. when he applied it to people with mainly physical and stress-related complaints. The program, in which he incorporated mindfulness, was called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). John Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as follows: “Pay attention, be very focused in the here and now, and not judgmental.” You’re with your full attention in the here and now, you’re completely open to your experiences without judging whether that is a good or bad thing to do. During the 90s the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was developed by Teasdale, Segal, and Williams. They combined elements of Western cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness. This program was designed to avoid relapse of depression in people who had already suffered from several depressions in the past.

The philosophy of mindfulness comes down to the fact that worrying about the past and the future, is making us much more unhappy than we should be. Through a mindfulness training you learn to adopt a different attitude towards your thoughts and feelings. You will learn skills to notice initial negative feelings and thoughts in time, and to observe without engaging fully, as those are mere thoughts that come and go. The result is that negative thoughts disappear much faster and that you will worry less.

Mindfulness for youngsters

The positive effects of mindfulness training in adults have been demonstrated repeatedly, both in healthy subjects and in clinical groups , for example in adult cancer patients . Following a mindfulness training helps to improve quality of life, reduce stress, anxiety and depressing feelings. Yet, are these effects equally observed in young adults?

In recent years, more research  has been carried out on the effects of such training for young adults and the results are promising. Recently, a study completed at the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL) on the effects of mindfulness training in more than 400 adolescents in Flemish schools. The study reveals that young adults who had followed the mindfulness training scored better on a psychological level, and that these improvements were visible to even 6 months after the end of the training sessions. Furthermore, mindfulness was not only helping to prevent mental health problems but also had a curative effect in reducing psychological problems.