Research Supporting Mindfulness in Schools:
A numbers of studies have been conducted to learn about mindfulness and its effect on K-12 education environment and found numerous benefits. Here are just a few key findings:
- Children ages 11-13 experiencing high anxiety, who participated in a mindfulness and relaxation program, showed significant decreases in both test anxiety and ADHD behavior as well as an increase in the ability to pay attention (Napoli et al., 2005).
- Teens 17-19 years old at an American independent girls’ schools benefited from a mindfulness-based program by experiencing decreases in negative affect, and increases in calm, realization, self-acceptance, emotional regulation, awareness and clarity (Broderick & Metz, 2009).
- Significant improvements in attention were found among 9 to 13 year olds participating in a mindfulness-based intervention compared with children who did not. They also foundreductions in anxiety and behavior problems (Semple et al., 2010).
- A program implemented in a low-income, ethnic minority elementary school found that student behavior improved significantly in four key areas: paying attention, self-control, classroom participation, and respect for others (Black & Fernando, 2014).
Not only does mindfulness positively impact students, but studies with teachers have also highlighted several benefits:
- When teacher at a secondary school participated in a mindfulness program, there were significant reductions in levels of teacher stress and the number sick leave days. There was also a reduction in feelings of pressure, demotivation, and poor coping (Manas et al., 2011).
- A group of Spanish secondary school teachers participating in a mindfulness-training program showed reduction in psychological distress, which was maintained four months later (Franco, et al, 2011).
- Educators of children with special needs who participated in a 5-week mindfulness training program experienced positive increases in their mindfulness, awareness, patience, and empathy. They also reported an increase in forgiveness of the self and others, and sense of personal growth, and reductions in stress and anxiety (Benn et al, 2012).
- Student teachers, mentors, and experienced teachers participating in a mindfulness-based program all experienced a positive outcome. Student teachers reported improvements in their ability to give more appropriate support for students and in personal well-being. Experienced teachers had an improved sense of ability to manage their classrooms and have more supportive relationships with students (Jennings et al., 2011; Jennings et al., 2013).
- Student teachers who participated in an 8-week elective University course experienced increases in self rated mindfulness, satisfaction in life, health, and teaching self-efficacy. They described being more able to monitor their own stress levels and the impacts of this on their class. As a result, several integrated mindfulness practice into their classes (Poulin et al., 2008).
- In a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course adapted for teachers, teachers experienced a reduction in psychological symptoms and burnout, improvements in observer-rated classroom organization and an increase in self-compassion (Flook et al., 2013).
Research Supporting Mindfulness for Parents:
Mindfulness has also been shown to make a difference in the lives of parents and how they parent their children:
- Parents of children with special needs who participated in a 5-week mindfulness-training program experienced positive increases in their mindfulness, awareness, patience, and empathy. They also reported an increase in forgiveness of the self and others, and sense of personal growth, and reductions in stress and anxiety. Overall they were more conscious of the way they processed their emotions and were less judgmental and more tolerant of themselves and others. (Benn et al, 2012).
- Mindfulness applied to parenting encourages parents to intentionally bring moment-to-moment awareness to the parent–child relationship. Exercises in mindfulness promote several important parenting skills including the development of attentive listening, emotional awareness, self-regulation, along with compassion and nonjudgmental acceptance to parenting interactions. (Duncan et al., 2009).
- Mindfulness practiced by parents has the potential to reduce parental stress and reactivity, improve parental executive functioning that reduces impulsivity, and improve martial relationships and co-parenting (Bogels et al., 2010).
- In an 8-week program for parents and their children ages 8-12 years old with ADHD , there was a significant increase of mindful awareness reduction of parental stress and over reactivity (Van der Oord et al., 2012).
To keep up to date with Mindfulness Research, visit the American Mindfulness Research Association, which offers a monthly newsletter offering current information on the latest findings.
Jennings, P., Snowberg, K., Coccia, M., and Greenberg, M. (2011). "Improving classroom learning environments by cultivating awareness and resilience in education (CARE): Results of two pilot studies". Journal of Classroom Interaction, 46 (1), 37-48.