- Children taught ‘mindfulness’ have lower stress levels
- Mindfulness is a meditative technique used to focus awareness on a particular thought or object
- The practice was also shown to improve pupils’ school results
Children who are taught meditation are less likely to develop depression, a new study has revealed.
Teaching children a form of meditation called ‘mindfulness’ – a psychological technique which focuses awareness and attention – can reduce a pupil’s stress levels meaning their mental health improves.
The technique can also improve their academic performance, the researchers found.
Teaching children ‘mindfulness’ – a technique which focuses the mind – can reduce their stress levels which in turn improves their mental health
Scientists at the University of Exeter, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP), taught 256 pupils aged between 12 and 16 the MiSP curriculum.
The curriculum involved teaching the children nine lessons in how to better control their stress levels by directing what they focused their attention on.
This involved them recognising what it was that caused them to become stressed, and challenging their difficult emotions.
Professor Willem Kuyken of the University of Exeter, who led the study, claims that intervening to reduce stress levels in pupils by using techniques usually given to adults improves their mental health and academic performance.
He said: ‘We found that those young people who took part in the programme had fewer low-grade depressive symptoms, both immediately after completing the programme and at three-month follow-up.
‘This is potentially a very important finding, given that low-grade depressive symptoms can impair a child’s performance at school, and are also a risk factor for developing adolescent and adult depression.’
It is important to find novel ways of boosting performance in schools at a time of budget cuts and other pressures explained Professor Katherine Weare, who was involved in implementing the lessons.
The technique can also improve their academic performance because they are more likely to do well academically if they are not depressed
She said: ‘These findings are likely to be of great interest to our overstretched schools which are trying to find simple, cost effective, and engaging ways to promote the resilience of their students – and of their staff too – at times when adolescence is becoming increasingly challenging, staff are under considerable stress, and schools under a good deal of pressure to deliver on all fronts.
‘This study demonstrates that mindfulness shows great promise in promoting wellbeing and reducing problems – which is in line with our knowledge of how helpful well designed and implemented social and emotional learning can be.
‘The next step is to carry out a randomised controlled trial into the MiSP curriculum, involving more schools, pupils and longer follow-ups.’
However, teaching children to focus on their emotions is tough, according to the curriculum’s co-creator, Richard Burnett.
He said: ‘Our mindfulness curriculum aims to engage even the most cynical of adolescent audiences with the basics of mindfulness.
‘We use striking visuals, film clips and activities to bring it to life without losing the expertise and integrity of classic mindfulness teaching.’
Around 80 per cent of the pupils said that they carried on using the techniques after the curriculum finished.’
Source : Daily Mail