Even schools have begun to get in on the action with mindfulness programs for students.
School mindfulness programs have been largely experimental up until now, but the experiments have proven a few major benefits.
The research shows that children benefit from mindfulness on many fronts, including cognitive outcomes, stress reduction, and overall wellbeing. We know that kindergarten social skills can predict whether children are at risk for deficits later in life that may lead to crime, substance abuse, and mental health issues. Our hope is that the improvements made through mindfulness training will also follow children into early adulthood.
Benefits of Mindfulness in Schools
Depression in adolescents and young adults is on the rise, and children’s stress levels seem to be at an all-time high. With major issues like school shootings, drug abuse, and student suicide, kids today have more to deal with than ever before.
Fortunately, some research shows that mindfulness programs may offer some help on this front. Here are some of the common benefits of practicing mindfulness in school:
Research published in a 2013 British Journal of Psychiatry indicates that mindfulness programs may have a positive impact on depression and stress.
This study had 522 participants aged between 12 and 16. Part of the group participated in the Mindfulness in Schools Programme, and the rest took on the school’s usual curriculum. The study found that children who participated in the mindfulness program reported fewer side effects, lower stress, and greater well-being than those in the control group. Students who practiced mindfulness more often reported a better sense of well-being and less stress at their one-month follow-up.
The goal of this type of school program is to increase mindfulness, so we can only hope that it works. And while we’ve seen some evidence that mindfulness programs work, the research here isn’t as enthusiastic as we’d like to see.
The University of Cambridge conducted a controlled trial of mindfulness training in schools and didn’t find clinically significant results in the mindful trained versus the control group. The promising news, however, is that researchers found improvements in psychological well-being and mindfulness in students who also practiced outside of school.
We need to see more research on the effects of mindfulness programs in schools, but these results may indicate that students must dedicate more than the allotted mindfulness time at school to achieve measurable results.
Increased cognitive performance
One of the goals of mindfulness training in schools is to help children focus on schoolwork. And a review of the research indicates that mindfulness training may lead to an increase in overall cognitive performance. Good news!
The Frontiers in Psychology review studied 24 studies, of which 13 were published. Across all studies, 1,348 students in grades 1-12 received mindfulness training and 876 served as controls. The review found promising results indicating that mindfulness-based interventions may improve cognitive performance and resilience to stress. The authors also noted there were a wide range of instruments and a variety of exercises used across all studies.
The bottom line is that mindfulness-based programs in schools show some promise, but we need more research to determine their ultimate effect.
Teaching mindfulness to your children
If your child’s school doesn’t have a mindfulness program, you can still teach them the skills they need to become more mindful. Even if they are learning mindfulness in school, you can reinforce the lessons at home.
Here are some tips for teaching mindfulness to your own children:
Begin your own practice – When it comes to parenting, nothing is as powerful as “practicing what you preach.” Kids learn best by example, so show them what it really means to be mindful in all areas of your life. No one is perfect, so when you act emotionally, talk to your kids about how you could have handled things differently.
Keep it simple – Talk to your kids about awareness. They should be aware of their thoughts and their feelings. Ask them to actively notice things around them. You may find this comes more naturally for your child than it does for you. That’s okay.
Don’t force mindfulness – This is something that should happen organically, so don’t force your child to practice. Try to make it fun and explain all the benefits. Just remain consistent, and he or she should come around.
Create a bedtime routine – Bedtime is a great time for practice. Depending on your child’s age and interest, you can do a guided breathing meditation or a simple awareness practice.
If you’ve seen benefits from practicing mindfulness, you may want to share the experience with your child. As the studies have shown, there are some benefits. Start now to set the tone for a mindful life.