The power of mindfulness in Muskegon

Psychological research has demonstrated the power of mindfulness exercises in sustaining recovery and establishing sound mental health. These exercises involve one focusing his her or attention deliberately on specific stimuli and tuning out others to alleviate symptoms associated with various psychological dilemmas, including post-traumatic stress and addiction. 

Residents of KPEP have recently had the opportunity to venture into mindfulness through the practice of yoga and meditation with registered yoga teacher Laurie Roberson. Laurie, a certified trauma-informed yoga teacher who has been practicing yoga and meditation for 20 years, has been working with residents in Muskegon for six months. She volunteers to conduct weekly hour-long sessions featuring about 40 minutes of movement followed by 20 minutes of still meditation and an opportunity for follow up conversation.

Staff at the facility began noticing the effects of the yoga and meditation groups on clients almost immediately after the sessions began. Residents were not only visibly calmer and tangibly more relaxed, they also talked about the power of the sessions and discussed incorporating many of the skills into their plans to avoid relapse into addictive, abusive, or illegal behaviors.

In an effort to elicit feedback from the residents, Laurie asked participants to rate their current moods on a scale of 1-10, both before and after each session. Over the course of six weeks, residents anonymously reported an average starting mood of 5.4. By the close of the sessions, average mood ratings rose to 9.3, with 10 indicating perfect happiness and serenity. 

Laurie also asked residents to anonymously list three words that described what they were carrying emotionally at the start of sessions and at the end. She tracked this information over the same six weeks. Some of the most common words used to describe starting emotions were “stressed,” “anxious” and “depressed.” At the close of sessions, the most common responses included “calm,” “relieved/relaxed” and “happy/content.”

KPEP’s target population includes clients that have been traumatized, suffer from psychological problems, have a history of substance abuse, and/or struggle to identify and use healthy coping skills. As an agency committed to evidence-based practices that values community partners and volunteers, KPEP and its staff have been thrilled to partner with Laurie to deliver new interventions that help our clients and our communities.