School's Out! Science and Mindfulness
School bells rang around the UK last week, signifying the end of another school term and the beginning of half-term when students and teachers take a break from the classroom and those frosty early morning starts. Brrrrr.
These breaks are well-deserved ones. Research suggests that school children are increasingly experiencing stress related problems; with one study observing a large number of school children finding that over half of them experienced worry and feeling sad, and high proportions of children also experienced headaches (1).
In response, there's a growing amount of exciting research looking at the effects of meditation and mindfulness in school settings. Research suggests that a short classroom-based mindfulness intervention led to improvements in children's wellbeing and reported stress, both directly after the intervention and at a later follow-up (2).
Research has also observed improvements from the use of a brief mindfulness-meditation course on school children's memory and attention. What's interesting is that both teachers and parents reported these changes, suggesting that these children took more home with them than just their grubby sports kits (3).
Headspace will be developing programmes for young ones in the future, so watch this space.
We mustn't however forget those up at the front of the class. Recent surveys have identified teaching as being a 'top-three' occupation for high stress, alongside health and caring professionals. More generally too, stress at work cost the UK to lose over 10 million working days in 2011/12 (4). That's a lot of kids without teachers.
Research is also exciting in this area. One study that looked at the effects of a simple meditation technique on a group of teachers found significant reductions in stress symptoms (5). There's also a wealth of research illustrating the positive effects of meditation on relieving stress and depressive symptoms.
Away from the classroom too, research comparing mindfulness techniques and pharmaceutical interventions in treating sleep disorders found that mindfulness techniques decreased the time it took individuals to fall asleep, as well as improvements in total sleep time and sleep efficiency (6). School is well and truly out!
It's important in these times of 'break', to remember how important 'switching-off' is, but also how to make things easier when the times do get tough.
Whether it’s teaching a boisterous class of kids or tackling that long to-do list at your desk, learn a new skill today and get some Headspace.
Thanks for stopping by and going back to science class!
(1) Valizadeh, L., Farnam, A. & Farshi, M. (2011). Investigation of Stress Symptoms among Primary School Children. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences.
(2) Weijer-Bergsma, E., Langenberg, G., Brandsma, R., Oort, F. & Bögels, S. (2012). The Effectiveness of a School-Based Mindfulness Training as a Program to Prevent Stress in Elementary School Children. Mindfulness.
(3) Flook, L., Smalley, S., Kitil, K., Galla, B., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., Ishijima, E. & Kasari, C. (2010). Effects of Mindful Awareness Practices on Executive Functions in Elementary School Children. Journal of Applied School Psychology.
(4) Health and Safety Executive. Stress and Psychological Disorders: Report for 2011/12.
(5) Winzelberg, A. & Luskin, F. (1999). The effect of a meditation training in stress levels in secondary school teachers. Stress and Health.
(6) Gross, C. et al. (2011). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Versus Pharmacotherapy for Chronic Primary Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing.