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Should Schools Teach Mindfulness?

An excerpt from What Students Are Saying About: The American Dream, Mindfulness in Schools and How to Define ‘Family’ by The New York Times​​

On Feb. 4, the British government announced that, alongside mathematics, science and history, students in England would now be learning mindfulness in school. We asked students if they would want to take a such a class and if they thought all schools should do more to improve students’ well-being.

They overwhelmingly said yes — taking a break during the day, having a moment for self-reflection, gaining skills to manage stress and learning how to talk about mental health would all be immensely beneficial for their overall well-being. But a few cautioned against viewing mindfulness classes as the be-all-end-all solution to mental illness.

“Yes! As a high school student, I know that so many teenagers suffer from some form of mental illness and are not getting the help they need. My neighbor recently was hospitalized for depression and was taken out of school for a least three weeks. She, like too many others, reach this breaking point because we aren’t taught how to take care of ourselves mentally …

The question isn’t “should” schools have a mindfulness class; it’s “why” we don’t have one already. To be honest, if schools really cared about their student’s overall wellbeing, then a mindfulness class is a no-brainer. We are not just learning sponges that suck up information all day. We are humans too. Just as schools teach us about the world around us, they must also teach us about ourselves. It’s time to actually take action and find solutions to this ongoing mental concern.”

- Lili, IL -

“Time in the day to put my mind at ease, especially during the most chaotic seven hours of the day would make a huge impact on my mood, grades, energy, and desire to function in general. I feel that schools setting a time for mindfulness and meditation classes is a great idea, one that many students would appreciate and find helpful. The mental pause in between studying for tests and analyzing writing would help in countless ways some for me personally being; more energetic, happier, less stressed, and better management over my schoolwork and grades, all making this practice time an even better idea.”

- Lilli Peluso, Massachusetts -

“Mental health is crucial to every living person. For our entire lives in school, we have taken Physical Education to equip ourselves with methods of staying physically healthy in the future. This class trains students to get up and be active for long-term continuation, but there is not significant attention being put toward mental health. Especially in high school, students (often) feel pressured to do their best, receive the best grades, be the most social, win the most competitions and maintain a happy persona. In reality, these pressures are incredibly detrimental to our mental health as we begin to focus our efforts on perfection over improvement. I believe that we should learn, early on in life, how to balance stress. A mental health class in high school can 1) help improve our mentalities in the present moment and 2) teach us how to cope with difficulties later on in life.”

- Sami L., Northbrook -

“Teaching mindfulness is an essential addition to every school’s curriculum. Learning to reflect and understand one’s self is arguable more important than perhaps a physics lesson … Why learn chemistry equations when I could be spending my time pursuing and developing what I am actually passionate about. But a class in mindfulness has life-long benefits for all. Girls, guys, doctors, teachers, performers, lawyers, accountants, you, and me would benefit immensely, taking a pause during our crazy lives to live in the present and reflect upon the moment.”

- Alexis, Northbrook -

“Instead of putting academic studies as first priority, schools should create a balance between mindfulness and academic studies. By creating a balance, school could be made into a happy environment where there is a change of behavior, concentration levels, and self-esteem. Not only will this benefit students but it will also benefit the entire school as well. Statistics have shown that schools that have included mindfulness sessions in a school day have a result of 50% fewer rule infractions, 38% fewer suspension days, 25% fewer absentee days, and better performance on attention tests like the ADD-H Teacher-Ratings scale.”

- Alissa, PA -

“A five-minute mental check-in at the beginning of the day may not seem like much, but it could force a student to examine their own state. Are they hungry? Have they been neglecting breakfast? Did they sleep? With the amount of work, responsibilities, and social obligations most teens face, we often don’t get a moment of rest and self-reflection until our head hits the pillow at the end of the day. Mindfulness and the ability to take a second to be aware of our physical presence and mental state are important.”

- Faye, Chicago -

Full Article:


What Students Are Saying About: The American Dream, Mindfulness in Schools and How to Define ‘Family’


 BY Lindsay Morris


Morris, Lindsay. “What Students Are Saying About: The American Dream, Mindfulness in Schools and How to Define 'Family'.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Feb. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/learning/what-students-are-saying-about-the-american-dream-mindfulness-in-schools-and-how-to-define-family.html.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I always love to hear the perspective of students in the American education system. I think as adults, it is so easy to forget your own mindset as a child, and with America being one big melting pot, it is interesting to hear the opinions of children and teens with different backgrounds and outlooks giving their perspective on their current situation. 

Students Meditate to Cleveland Orchestra Music in Schools

An excerpt from IdeaStream.org

Living in a fast-paced, on-demand world can be stressful. Although many of us try to cope with the distractions, that can be particularly tough for children.   An Ohio-grown educational program, Mindful Music Moments, combines the music of the Cleveland Orchestra with meditative techniques to promote a sense of calm.

At Canterbury Elementary in Cleveland Heights, each morning at 9:00, students stop for a moment and listen to a few minutes of Cleveland Orchestra music. 

Although he prefers dance tunes, one of the third-graders, Chase, said there's something special about the classical music.

Full Article:

Five Science-Backed Reasons Mindfulness Meditation Is Good for Your Health

 BY David C. Barnett and Mary Fecteau

Barnette, David C., and Mary Fecteau. “Students Meditate to Cleveland Orchestra Music in Schools.” Ideastream, 5 Mar. 2019, www.ideastream.org/news/students-meditate-to-cleveland-orchestra-music-in-schools. 

Former President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

“The testimonies of these kids say it all. I am moved every time I see children stop on purpose, breath in some sort of short practice, and then acknowledge the benefits of it... so good!!”

Five Science-Backed Reasons Mindfulness Meditation Is Good for Your Health

An excerpt from Five Science-Backed Reasons Mindfulness Meditation Is Good for Your Health

Ask a group of people why they meditate and you’ll get a list of replies as varied as the people you’re asking—generally, the reason will have something to do with each individuals’ idea of the best, most-fulfilled (dare we say happier) version of themselves.

In recent decades, researchers have been gaining insight into the benefits of practicing this ancient tradition. By studying more secular versions of mindfulness meditation, they’ve found that learning to pay attention to our current experiences and accept them without judgment might indeed help us to be happier. Studies to date suggest that mindfulness affects many aspects of our psychological well-being—improving our mood, increasing positive emotions, and decreasing our anxiety, emotional reactivity, and job burnout.

But does mindfulness affect our bodies as well as our minds?

Recently, researchers have been exploring this question—with some surprising results. While much of the early research on mindfulness relied on pilot studies with biased measures or limited groups of participants, more recent studies have been using less-biased physiological markers and randomly controlled experiments to get at the answer. Taken together, the studies suggest that mindfulness may impact our hearts, brains, immune systems, and more.

Though nothing suggests mindfulness is a standalone treatment for disease nor the most important ingredient for a healthy life, here are some of the ways that it appears to benefit us physically.

Mindfulness is good for our hearts

Those who learned mindfulness had significantly greater reductions in their systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those who learned progressive muscle relaxation, suggesting that mindfulness could help people at risk for heart disease by bringing blood pressure down.

Mindfulness may decrease cognitive decline from aging or Alzheimer’s

In a 2016 study, people with Alzheimer’s disease engaged in either mindfulness meditation, cognitive stimulation therapy, relaxation training, or no treatment, and were given cognitive tests over two years. While cognitive stimulation and relaxation training seemed to be somewhat beneficial in comparison to no treatment, the mindfulness training group had much more robust improvements on cognitive scores than any other group.

Mindfulness may improve your immune response

When we encounter viruses and other disease-causing organisms, our bodies send out troops of immune cells that circulate in the blood. These cells, including pro- and anti-inflammatory proteins, neutrophils, T-cells, immunoglobulins, and natural killer cells, help us to fight disease and infection in various ways. Mindfulness, it turns out, may affect these disease-fighting cells.

In several studies, mindfulness meditation appeared to increase levels of T-cells or T-cell activity in patients with HIV or breast cancer. This suggests that mindfulness could play a role in fighting cancer and other diseases that call upon immune cells. Indeed, in people suffering from cancer, mindfulness appears to improve a variety of biomarkers that might indicate progression of the disease.

Mindfulness may reduce cell aging

Cell aging occurs naturally as cells repeatedly divide over the lifespan and can also be increased by disease or stress. Proteins called telomeres, which are found at the end of chromosomes and serve to protect them from aging, seem to be impacted by mindfulness meditation.

Studies suggest that long-time meditators may have greater telomere lengths. In one experimental study, researchers found that breast cancer survivors who went through MBSR preserved the length of their telomeres better than those who were on a waitlist. However, this study also found that general supportive therapies impacted telomere length; so, there may not be something special about MBSR that impacts cell aging.

Mindfulness may help reduce psychological pain

Of course, while the above physiological benefits of mindfulness are compelling, we needn’t forget that mindfulness also impacts our psychological well-being, which, in turn, affects physical health. In fact, it’s quite likely that these changes have synergistic effects on one another.

First of all, a great deal of research suggests that mindfulness can help healthy people reduce their stress. And thanks to Jon-Kabat Zinn’s pioneering MBSR program, there’s now a large body of research showing that mindfulness can help people cope with the pain, anxiety, depression, and stress that might accompany illness, especially chronic conditions.

Full Article:


Five Science-Backed Reasons Mindfulness Meditation Is Good for Your Health


 BY JILL SUTTIE


Suttie, Jill. “Five Science-Backed Reasons Mindfulness Meditation Is Good for Your Health.” Mindful, 19 Aug. 2020, www.mindful.org/five-ways-mindfulness-meditation-is-good-for-your-health/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because although mindfulness may not be a cure for all medical issues, I think it is a wonderful and free tool to have in your toolbelt, and it is amazing to hear of some of the benefits. 

The Research on Mindfulness in Schools

An excerpt from Best Practices for Bringing Mindfulness into Schools by Caren Osten Gerszberg​​

While the implementation of school-based mindfulness programs for children in grades K through 12—such as Inner Resilience, Mindful Schools, Learning to Breathe, and MindUp to name just a few—is becoming more popular, empirical research proving the benefits of mindfulness is only beginning to emerge and more rigorous research will be needed over the coming decades.


“We know very little about which programs work and what works for whom and under what conditions,” said Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, Ph.D., co-author with Robert Roeser of the recently published Handbook of Mindfulness in Education: Integrating Theory and Research into Practice, and a professor and researcher at the University of British Columbia.


A 2015 study by Schonert-Reichl looked at the effectiveness of a 12-week social and emotional learning (SEL) program that included mindfulness training. Ninety-nine 4th and 5thgraders were divided into two groups: one received MindUp’s weekly SEL curriculum and the other a social responsibility program already used in Canadian public schools. After analyzing measures, which included behavioral assessments, cortisol levels, feedback from their peers regarding sociability, and academic scores of math grades, the results revealed dramatic differences.


Compared to the students who learned the social responsibility program, those trained in mindfulness scored higher in math, had 24% more social behaviors, and were 20% less aggressive. The group trained in mindfulness excelled above the other group in the areas of attention, memory, emotional regulation, optimism, stress levels, mindfulness, and empathy.

Compared to the students who learned the social responsibility program, those trained in mindfulness scored higher in math, had 24% more social behaviors, and were 20% less aggressive.

Although in its early stages, research on the effects of school-based mindfulness programs is being fueled by three decades of studies on adults, which shows promise for its psychological and physiological benefits.

 

Researchers are turning their focus to children and teens to figure out what, when, how much, and from whom the teaching of mindfulness works best. “We don’t have conclusive evidence at this point about the benefits or impacts of mindfulness on youth,” said Lisa Flook, Ph.D., associate scientist at the Center for Healthy Minds, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


“We do see the promise of interventions and trainings on outcomes related to grades, wellbeing, and emotional regulation.” In other words, the research looking at the benefits of mindfulness in education is pointing toward the positive.

“Mindfulness is a powerful tool that supports children in calming themselves, focusing their attention, and interacting effectively with others, all critical skills for functioning well in school and in life,” said Amy Saltzman, M.D., director of the Association for Mindfulness in Education, and director of Still Quiet Place.

 

“Incorporating mindfulness into education has been linked to improving academic and social and emotional learning. Also, mindfulness strengthens some underlying development processes—such as focus, resilience, and self-soothing—that will help kids in the long run.”

Full Article:


Best Practices for Bringing Mindfulness into Schools


 BY Caren Osten Gerszberg


Gerszberg, Caren Osten. “Bringing Mindfulness into Schools.” Mindful, 25 Jan. 2017, www.mindful.org/mindfulness-in-education/.

Former President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

This article covers so much great information on mindfulness in classrooms. In some areas of the country, this has been taught in schools for years. Anything that can bring the science, research and benefits to the forefront – I love! The skills mindfulness builds to support SEL feels particularly meaningful in this work these days.

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