Release; by Julie Bayer Salzmann

Published on Aug 23, 2016

“Release” is the 2nd in our series of Mindful Shorts, and it focuses on stress and anxiety as experienced by middle school kids. 70% of middle school students today report feeling “stressed out” — an alarming figure, and a sign that something must be done to help kids manage the sense of overwhelm and frustration they experience so that they can blossom into young adults who are equipped to navigate their way through life’s challenges in a positive, productive way. We hope this film in some small way helps not just kids, but everyone who suffers from the toxic effects of stress and anxiety.

A very different approach than its predecessor “Just Breathe” (which focused on Anger in elementary school kids), “Release” was designed to be more visceral/experiential. We wanted to visually communicate the differences between calm and anxious states of mind/body, so that viewers could truly relate to those experiences while simultaneously benefiting from a basic lesson in Mindful Meditation.

Our intention is to continue this series of short films, climbing up through the ages and the corresponding mental/habitual states of mind that commonly arise in each stage of life (i.e. Depression in High School, Trauma in College, Addiction in Mid-Life, Grief in Later Years), with each film probing deeper and deeper into Mindfulness. 

If you share our passion, please share this film. And please also consider donating to the film series, as we cannot continue to make these films without financial support. Please visit our website for more information – – or email Julie directly at

Many thanks for reading and watching, and above all, for your support!


Social media and body issues in youth: Why mentors are well-suited to intervene

Girl on the Roof.

Written by Allison Hydzik


Young adults who log onto social media sites frequently throughout the week or spend hours trawling various social feeds during the day may be at greater risk of eating and body image concerns, according to a new study.

Gender, specific age, race, and income did not influence the association—all demographic groups were equally affected—indicating that preventative messages should target a broad population.

“We’ve long known that exposure to traditional forms of media, such as fashion magazines and television, is associated with the development of disordered eating and body image concerns, likely due to the positive portrayal of ‘thin’ models and celebrities,” says Jaime E. Sidani, assistant director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Social media combines many of the visual aspects of traditional media with the opportunity for social media users to interact and propagate stereotypes that can lead to eating and body image concerns.”

Over twice the risk

For the study, researchers sampled 1,765 US adults ages 19 through 32 in 2014, using questionnaires to determine social media use. The questionnaires asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and LinkedIn.

They cross-referenced those results with the results of another questionnaire that used established screening tools to assess eating disorder risk.

Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other clinical and mental health issues where people have a distorted body image and disordered eating. These issues disproportionately affect adolescents and young adults.

However, more general disordered eating, body dissatisfaction, and negative or altered body image likely affect a broader group of individuals.

The participants who spent the most time on social media throughout the day had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, compared to their peers who spent less time on social media.

And participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had 2.6 times the risk, compared with those who checked least frequently.

The analysis could not determine whether social media use was contributing to eating and body image concerns or vice versa—or both, says senior author Brian A. Primack, assistant vice chancellor for health and society.

“It could be that young adults who use more social media are exposed to more images and messages that encourage development of disordered eating,” he says.

Online communities, for better or worse

Previous research has shown that people tend to post images online that present themselves positively. For example, users are likely to select the scant few that may make them appear thinner from hundreds of more “accurate” photographs of themselves, resulting in others being exposed to unrealistic expectations for their appearance.

“Conversely, people who have eating and body image concerns might then be turning to social media to connect with groups of people who also have these concerns,” Primack says.

“However, connecting with these groups for social support could inhibit recovery because of the desire to continue being a part of the shared identity such social media groups foster.”

In an effort to battle social media-fueled eating disorders, Instagram banned the hashtags ‘thinspiration’ and ‘thinspo,’ but users easily circumvented those barriers by spelling the words slightly differently. YouTube videos about anorexia nervosa that could be classified as “pro-anorexia” received higher viewer ratings than informative videos highlighting the health consequences of the eating disorder.

“More research is needed in order to develop effective interventions to counter social media content that either intentionally or unintentionally increases the risk of eating disorders in users,” Sidani says.

“We suggest studies that follow users over time and seek to answer the cause-and-effect questions surrounding social media use and risk for eating and body image concerns.”

The National Cancer Institute funded the research.


Implications for Mentors

Given their position of trust, mentors are well-positioned in a youth’s life to discuss the realities of unrealistic media representations. Social media, while it has a lot of positives to offer, can also blur the lines between realistic and unrealistic messaging.

Children and teens can be particularly susceptible to this messaging, so guidance provided by a trusted adult in learning how to interpret ads, images, and stories found online in a healthy, positive manner can help to serve as a buffer against the negative effects described in this research.


Posted on the Chronicle for Evidence Based Mentoring; By Justin Preston, September 6, 2016

“Just Breathe” by Julie Bayer Salzman & Josh Salzman (Wavecrest Films)



The inspiration for “Just Breathe” first came about a little over a year ago when I overheard my then 5-year-old son talking with his friend about how emotions affect different regions of the brain, and how to calm down by taking deep breaths — all things they were beginning to learn in Kindergarten at their new school, Citizens of the World Charter School, in Mar Vista, CA.

I was surprised and overjoyed to witness first-hand just how significant social-emotional learning in an elementary school curriculum was on these young minds.

The following year, I decided to take a 6-week online course on Mindfulness through Mindful Schools (, figuring that if my son was learning about this, it only made sense that I should learn too. Within the first week, I felt the positive effects of this practice take root not only on my own being but in my relationships with others.

As a filmmaker, I am always interested in finding a subject worthy of filming, and I felt strongly that Mindfulness was a necessary concept to communicate visually.

Thankfully my husband, who happens to be my filmmaking partner, agreed. We made “Just Breathe” with our son, his classmates and their family members one Saturday afternoon.

The film is entirely unscripted – what the kids say is based purely on their own neuro-scientific understanding of difficult emotions, and how they cope through breathing and meditation. They, in turn, are teaching us all …

Other people’s children: The new reality show


by Jean E. Rhodes

Imagine a reality television show in which privileged empty nesters competed to help less fortunate high school students gain entry into the nation’s highest ranked colleges and universities.

The many parents who had successfully shepherded their children through the admissions process from the comfort of their homes from Greenwich to Palo Alto would be randomly to assigned rising seniors from nearby low-income, resource-bereft communities.

They wouldn’t have to travel far, as isolated pockets of privilege and poverty often sit in close proximity to one another. Once paired, the empty nesters would marshal the considerable wisdom and expertise that they gained as they worked the admissions system in favor of their own children over the years.

Parents would build on their students’ strengths and talents, and then visit colleges and help their students complete applications while deploying every imaginable resource (private SAT tutors, writing consultants) and angle (service stints, meetings with athletic coaches, charitable donations) to secure acceptance.

If the show was renewed, we could track the students as they navigate their way through the elite colleges, perhaps even incorporating a second competition in which the parents opened their rolodexes to help secure internships and entry level jobs.

Unfortunately, the treasure trove of expertise and connections is rarely shared. And, compounding family inequality is the fact that low-income students have fewer outside mentors to help them navigate. In a recent study of over 15,000 nationally representative students, we found that those in the lowest income strata were significantly less likely to have natural mentors.

What’s more, the nature of mentoring differed across social class. Poor students were less likely to nominate teachers and other non-family adults who could connect them to opportunities, and the advice that they received was more concrete and practical.

By contrast, the highest income youth had a wider array of mentors and were significantly more likely to view these adults as role models. In essence, mentoring seemed to reproduce inequality .

The implications of these disparities are profound.  Caring adults are vitally important, helping youth navigate their identities, and opening doors to educational and career paths.

Indeed, a recent Gallup survey of over 60,000 college graduates revealed that students who could identify one teacher who cared about them, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams were more likely to graduate, and nearly twice as likely to be thriving emotionally and meaningfully engaged in work post-college.

Yet, as budgets for teachers and extracurricular activities shrink, it is the youth in the bottom income sectors that suffer the most.  No one institution—whether families, schools, or positive youth development programs—can completely compensate for the social isolation that disenfranchised students are increasingly experiencing, and each institution is stretched by the limitations of the others.

Wealthier communities can supplement their diminishing availability with private sources of support, but not so for those who need them most. Few adults feel the imperative to serve as helpful guides to children outside their families or communities and poor students rarely develop the skills and sense of entitlement to approach them.

Short of a reality show or, better yet, less income inequality, we need a campaign to mobilize adults to seek out opportunities to champion other people’s children.

Although networks are unlikely to provide high stakes for this pursuit, the true prize is the sense of pride and the joy that comes from basking in the glow of a young person’s success. In the face of seemingly intractable moral, social, and economic issues, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.

But through the simple act of forging a kind, helpful connection outside our limited spheres, all of us have the capacity to fundamentally improve the prospects of the next generation.


Posted in The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring; by Jean Rhodes, August 24, 2016

Coping with stress? Start with a smile: How smiling promotes stress recovery


From the Association for Psychological Science


Just grin and bear it! At some point, we have all probably heard or thought something like this when facing a tough situation. But is there any truth to this piece of advice? Feeling good usually makes us smile, but does it work the other way around? Can smiling actually make us feel better?

In a study forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas investigate the potential benefits of smiling by looking at how different types of smiling, and the awareness of smiling, affects individuals’ ability to recover from episodes of stress.

“Age old adages, such as ‘grin and bear it’ have suggested smiling to be not only an important nonverbal indicator of happiness but also wishfully promotes smiling as a panacea for life’s stressful events,” says Kraft. “We wanted to examine whether these adages had scientific merit; whether smiling could have real health-relevant benefits.”

Smiles are generally divided into two categories: standard smiles, which use the muscles surrounding the mouth, and genuine or Duchenne smiles, which engage the muscles surrounding both the mouth and eyes.

Previous research shows that positive emotions can help during times of stress and that smiling can affect emotion; however, the work of Kraft and Pressman is the first of its kind to experimentally manipulate the types of smiles people make in order to examine the effects of smiling on stress.

The researchers recruited 169 participants from a Midwestern university. The study involved two phases: training and testing. During the training phase, participants were divided into three groups, and each group was trained to hold a different facial expression.

Participants were instructed to hold chopsticks in their mouths in such a way that they engaged facial muscles used to create a neutral facial expression, a standard smile, or a Duchenne smile. Chopsticks were essential to the task because they forced people to smile without them being aware that they were doing so: only half of the group members were actually instructed to smile.

For the testing phase, participants were asked to work on multitasking activities. What the participants didn’t know was that the multitasking activities were designed to be stressful.

The first stress-inducing activity required the participants to trace a star with their non-dominant hand by looking at a reflection of the star in a mirror. The second stress-inducing activity required participants to submerge a hand in ice water.

During both of the stressful tasks, participants held the chopsticks in their mouth just as they were taught in training. The researchers measured participants’ heart rates and self-reported stress levels throughout the testing phase.

The results of the study suggest that smiling may actually influence our physical state: compared to participants who held neutral facial expressions, participants who were instructed to smile, and in particular those with Duchenne smiles, had lower heart rate levels after recovery from the stressful activities.

The participants who held chopsticks in a manner that forced them to smile, but were not explicitly told to smile as part of the training, also reported a smaller decrease in positive affect compared to those who held neutral facial expressions.

These findings show that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.

“The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress,” says Pressman, “you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment. Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!”


Implications for Mentors

Your mentee will inevitably encounter stress as part of their daily lives, whether in the home, in the neighborhood, or in the classroom. As a mentor, you are in a unique position to help them to learn positive methods for coping with that stress. Smiling during adversity is more than a superficial gesture, it can help promote real changes in your mentee that reduces the impacts of stress.

This benefit extends beyond your mentee, however. Smiling can pay dividends for mentors navigating potentially stressful aspects of their mentor-mentee relationship, as well.

Posted in The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring: By Justin Preston August 8, 2016

Not buying what they’re selling: Making friends reduces influence of negative media

By Lesley Henton, Futurity

People whose only knowledge of Muslims comes from the media are very likely to have negative emotions and stereotypical beliefs about them, new research shows.

In the Journal of Communication, Srividya Ramasubramanian, associate dean of liberal arts and professor of communication at Texas A&M University, used multiple studies, surveying non-Muslims on how much they relied on direct contact with Muslims versus media-based contact.

“We observed that almost on a daily basis, media depictions of Muslims are extremely negative.”

Then they measured participants’ negative emotions toward Muslims, perceptions of Muslims as aggressive, support for civil restrictions against Muslims, and support for military action against Muslim countries.

“We observed that almost on a daily basis, media depictions of Muslims are extremely negative,” Ramasubramanian says. “Almost without exception, they are portrayed in stereotypical ways as violent, criminal, and extreme. Islamophobia is on the rise and even some American political leaders have expressed hateful sentiments towards Muslims.”

Policy opinions

The researchers found a correlation between people who rely on media depictions of Muslims and having negative attitudes, versus those with direct interactions who were less likely to view Muslims negatively.

“Our findings show that individuals who rely on the media for information on Muslims have greater negative emotions toward Muslims and increased perceptions of Muslims as aggressive, which in turn leads to support for civil restrictions against Muslims and military actions against Muslim countries,” says Ramasubramanian.

“Direct contact with Muslims had an opposite effect,” she continues. “In other words, reliance on media portrayals of Muslims as compared to direct contact through friends and acquaintances leads to several negative outcomes.”

Some participants with negative attitudes toward Muslims expressed what Ramasubramanian describes as domestic and foreign policies harmful to Muslims.

“Domestic policies included statements such as support for secretly monitoring Muslims without their consent or awareness, or restricting the ability of Muslim-Americans to vote. Foreign policy included several statements such as support for the use of military action and drones against Muslim countries.”

The friend effect

How can so many non-Muslims have so little interaction with Muslims?

Ramasubramanian says social interactions often revolve around religious, racial, and gender identities in our societies. “There is often a lack of motivation to step outside one’s comfort zone to learn about other subcultures,” she notes. “Even when there is exposure through direct contact, such interactions are often brief, rather than long-term, meaningful friendships.”

She says she hopes the research findings suggest the importance of more direct contact between Muslims and non-Muslims in communities. “Building friendships in this manner may buffer the negative effects of media portrayals of Muslims,” she notes, adding she also hopes the media work to improve the portrayals of Muslims by having more positive depictions.


Implications for Mentoring

Given their established and trusting relationships with their mentees, mentors are in special position to be able to help their mentee branch out of their initial social comfort zones in a way that is supportive and affirmative.

By helping their mentee meet and get to know people from different backgrounds and cultures, mentors can help enrich their mentees’ understanding of interpersonal relationships and the communities around them. Further, through such closer ties, it can also help the mentee to understand the implications of larger political rhetoric and policy decisions in a more direct and concrete way.


To see the original article at Futurity, click here.

To see the research article, click here.


Post From The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring by  August 8, 2016

Navigating internet risks: Mentors can help show the way

boy stand up

Written by Matt Swayne

The online world is full of risky situations for teens, but allowing them to gradually build their own coping strategies may be a better parental strategy than forbidding internet use, according to a team of researchers.

The researchers, who monitored web-based diaries of a group of 68 teen internet users during the two-month study, said the teens reported they encountered 207 risky events, including sexual solicitations and online harassment, said Pamela Wisniewski, formerly a post-doctoral scholar in information sciences and technology, Penn State, and currently an assistant professor in computer science at the University of Central Florida. However, in many cases, teens were able to resolve the issues on their own.

While the media may continue to focus on cases of online risk that had tragic consequences, the diary entries showed that many teens routinely handle some risky situations on their own.

“Focusing on the more positive interactions dealing with online risk flips this debate on its head and turns the conversation from one of parents trying to keep their teens safe to maybe there’s more we can do to teach teens how to keep themselves safe,” said Wisniewski.

Teens, in fact, did not see much of a difference between online risks and the risks they encounter in real-life social settings, she added.

“As adults we see these online situations as problems, as negative risk experiences, but teens see them as par-for-the-course experiences,” said Wisniewski.

The researchers suggest that teens may be better off gradually acclimating to online risk and building resilience by overcoming lower risk situations, rather than avoiding exposure to risks, which is a more commonly recommended tactic today. Parents and caretakers can act as guides in the process.

“In the past, we tended to focus on the higher risk events, not the medium risk events, but I think there’s a missed opportunity for learning some of the coping strategies that teens use in lower risk situations,” said Wisniewski. “So, if they are exposed to a higher risk event, they may be able to exercise some of the skills they already learned.”

She added that avoiding the internet is not a realistic option for most teens. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 92 percent of teens have access to the internet daily and 89 percent have at least one active social media account.

The researchers, who present their findings at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems today (May 11), recruited 68 teens, ages 13- to 17-years old, to enter first-hand accounts of their online experiences in a web-based diary. The experiences were divided into four risk categories: information breaches, online harassment, sexual solicitations and exposure to explicit content.

Of the 207 events the teens entered into their diaries as risky encounters, there were 119 reports of exposure to explicit content, 31 information breaches, 29 sexual solicitations and 28 incidents of online harassment.


The Bottom Line for Mentors

Mentors are uniquely positioned to help youths foster effective coping strategies when faced with risky online content. By supporting their mentees as they engage with and overcome milder online risks, mentors are helping the youth build the foundations they will lean on in the future when faced with more stressful online situations.

Youth, or almost anyone for that matter, cannot reasonably be expected to avoid using the internet entirely, and so they will inevitably encounter risky situations. Whether serving as an outlet for the youth’s experiences or acting as a sounding board for potential coping strategies, having a mentor there to listen and provide guidance can help the youth more effectively prepare for the more difficult situations they may face in the future.

Published in the Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring By Justin Preston : May 18, 2016