Promoting Well-Being in Adolescents

All youth experience challenges at times.
• Common stressors during adolescence include:
• Increasing demands in school
• Social relationships
• Forming an identity and a sense of self
• Emerging independence

• Teens respond to stress with different emotions such as sadness, anxiety, frustration, and irritability

• The Youth Mindful Awareness Program (YMAP) teaches skills that:
• Help teens manage moods
Build resilience
Promote well-being

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness includes:
• Relaxed breathing
• Awareness
• Kindness
• Gratitude

Mindfulness helps people:
Notice their thoughts and feelings
Manage their moods

Mindfulness can:
Improve social relationships
Increase kindness to others and oneself

Expressive Writing and Coach Support

Have you ever found yourself thinking about a tough situation or bad experience and you can’t stop thinking about it? Such thinking can distract you from your friends and relationships, interfere with schoolwork, prevent you from resting at night, or cause you distress.

When we just try to push thoughts and feelings out of our mind, the thoughts don’t go away or may even get worse. Instead, writing about our negative experiences can help us deal with and process our difficult emotions in healthy ways. Some people also say that it is helpful for them to write about their positive feelings.

There are many ways to write about our thoughts and feelings. Expressive writing is a technique that can help people understand and deal with their emotions. Research has shown that practicing expressive writing can benefit our health and well-being. Expressive writing can improve mood, reduce anxiety and physical distress, increase resilience, and improve our ability to pay attention and concentrate.

In addition to these benefits, expressive writing can help people find meaning in their experiences and lean new things about themselves. For example, writing about a stressful experience allows us to identify it as a problem and uncover meaning in it. First, we recognize that something is bothering us. Then we translate that negative experience into words, and it forces us to organize our thoughts and create a story of what has happened.

It can be helpful to write about a wide range of topics, including:
• Stressful experiences from the past
• Current or recent minor problems such as failing an exam or disagreement with a family member or peer
• Positive experiences that require rethinking who we are and where we are headed in the future, such as starting a new job, going to a new school, starting a romantic relationship.

How does expressive writing work?

Why is expressive writing healthy?

• Expressive writing has a positive effect on mental health because it offers a safe way to disclose unpleasant emotions that were previously bottled up.

• Avoiding or inhibiting emotions can lead to psychological distress, making our body tense and our cognitions impaired.

• When we acknowledge, express, and process blocked emotions, it reduces the physiological work of inhibition, gradually lowering the overall stress on the body, which helps us feel better.

The benefits of expressive writing can be explained by brain-related changes.
• Common stressors during adolescence include:
• Our emotional states are controlled by the right prefrontal cortex.
• When this part of the brain “turns on,” other parts of the brain that are related to strong negative emotions, such as the amygdala, turn off.
• So, when we put our deep emotional experiences into language and words, it facilitates our brain’s capacity to help us manage our emotional states.

Meet Our Team

Other team members include Jen Fuller, Madeline Wilson, Jessie Allenbach, Kristen Chu, Bisley Kleijnen, Maurice Metoyer, and Madison Schmidt.

Principal Investigators


Denise A. Chavira

Professor of Psychology


Emma K. Adam

Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Human Development and Social Policy


Judy Garber

Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Psychology and Human Development


Michelle G. Craske

Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences


Richard Zinbarg

Professor of Psychology; Department Chair

Contact Us

Please use the contact information below to reach out to us directly

Although the YMAP study takes place remotely, participation is limited to teens aged 12-17 years living in the states of California, Illinois, and Tennessee.

Nashville, TN
Vanderbilt University

Phone: 615-669-2125

Los Angeles, CA

Phone: 760-679-3506

Chicago, IL
Northwestern University

Phone: 773-245-3176

If you or a loved one needs immediate help, please use this link to access national crisis hotlines and resources.