RESEARCH ON MINDFULNESS

Mindful practices have been around for many years, but only in the last few decades has the practice started to be studied scientifically. 

Research has found many positive effects of mindfulness practices on adult health, such as:

  • Increased attention1
  • Reduced emotional reactivity and improved behavior regulation2
  • Increased functional connectivity between brain regions3
  • Augment density of brain regions responsible for learning and memory4 
  • Strengthen physical connections to brain regions involved in self-control5 

Furthermore, a comprehensive meta-analysis conducted by Johns Hopkins University reported lower anxiety, depression, and pain in mindfulness participants, with effects comparable to those of antidepressants6. 

As information builds to support the benefits of mindfulness in adults, scientist now are focusing on understanding the impact of mindfulness in children. 

A literature review of studies done in young children shows that a mindfulness practice improves learning skills and children’s health by: 

Learning:

  • Improving attention and focus7, 8, 9
  • Increased ability to organize and plan9
  • Increased awareness10
  • Improved grades11
  • Improving behavior regulation9,11
  • Reduced test anxiety8

Wellbeing:

  • Improving control of emotions7, 11
  • Increased ability to cope with stress12, 13  
  • Decreased social anxiety and aggression14 
  • Reduced levels of the stress hormone, cortisol14 
  • Reduced ADHD symptoms15
  • Improved decision making in stressful situations8
  • Increased compassion and empathy11
  • Decreased thoughts of self-harm16 
  • Significant reduction in depression11, 17, 18 

 

When children and educators work cooperatively to change the way that they relate to stressors in their environment, the entire school community is able to reap the benefits of this increased quality of life.

Overall, mindfulness practices can improve self-regulation in children 19, 20, 21 and self-regulation is a strong predictor of success in school22, 23.  Beyond the benefits associated to school years, self-regulation in children also predicts adult physical wellbeing, addiction status, income, and criminal activity24. 

In this way, mindfulness in schools not only has the potential to improve children’s immediate school performance and wellbeing, but also offers children a better chance to succeed into a healthy adulthood independently of where they start in life.