A recent study suggests that mindfulness programs in school-aged children can have a positive impact on their mental health.
In the basic sense, mindfulness is the state in which one’s sole attention is focused on their surroundings, thoughts, and feelings. It’s the nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. Although this may sound like an easy feat, our fast-paced lives leave no room for such practices. Our racing minds are often too busy producing obsessive thoughts about the past or future; thus, resulting in a state of anxiety. Therefore, mindfulness practices can help people have greater control over such thoughts, and help manage stress, depression, pain, and even treat concussions. Moreover, recent studies support its role in treating mental health illnesses among school-aged children. However, there is not enough research on the effects of school-based mindfulness programs and their effect on children.
Now, researchers at the University of Derby and Derbyshire Educational Psychology Service have conducted a study investigating the effects of such programs. The team recruited a total of 1138 students from across 25 schools in Derbyshire. All were aged between 9-12 years.
In the year-long project, students took part in a single 45-minute mindfulness session every week for nine weeks. These weekly sessions involved multiple different techniques. Children practised mindfulness breathing and paying attention to the body’s sensations. Additionally, they also performed exercises aimed at developing their attention skills and awareness of emotions. Teachers conducted all the sessions in a traditional classroom setting.
Improvement in Wellbeing and Resilience
The researchers employed two psychological assessments for the study: Resiliency Scale for Children and the Stirling Children’s Wellbeing Scale. Students completed the assessment both before and after the mindfulness program.
The study’s results showed a significant improvement in the children’s mental health. Not only did the children felt more optimistic, by 10%, but also saw improvements in their resiliency. Another dimension of resilience that showed an improvement was self-efficacy. This is an individual’s belief in their ability to successfully cope with a situation. It showed an improvement of 11% among the children.
Even at the six-month follow-up, the improvements in resiliency were still present. The results of the study further add to the importance of preventative interventions in children for reducing mental health problems.
Lisa Nelson et al. Effects of a regional school-based mindfulness program on students’ levels of Wellbeing and resiliency, International Journal of Spa and Wellness (2021). DOI: 10.1080/24721735.2021.1909865