The research benefits of mindfulness are numerous. Of note for educators and parents are the improvements mindfulness shows on attention, emotional regulation, calming capacity (reductions in anxiety and distress), and compassionate, pro-social behavior.
Mindfulness shows a reduction in activity (and ultimately a lowered density of gray matter) in reactive areas of the brain, such as the amygdala. At the same time, the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex (responsible for learning and memory, and emotional regulation and wise decision-making, respectively) show an increase in activity and greater gray matter density, following a mindfulness intervention.
Mindfulness for teachers: A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout, and teaching efficacy.
Despite the crucial role of teachers in fostering children’s academic learning and social-emotional well-being, addressing teacher stress in the classroom remains a significant challenge in education. The present study reports results from a randomized controlled pilot trial of a modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (mMBSR) adapted specifically for teachers. Results suggest the course may be a promising intervention, with participants showing significant reductions in psychological symptoms and burnout, improvements in observer-rated classroom organization and performance on a computer task of affective attentional bias, and increases in self-compassion. In contrast, control group participants showed declines in cortisol functioning over time and marginally significant increases in burnout. Furthermore, changes in mindfulness were correlated in the expected direction with changes across several outcomes (psychological symptoms, burnout, sustained attention) in the intervention group. Implications of these findings for the training and support of teachers are discussed.
Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomized, waitlist-control field trials.
The effects of randomization to mindfulness training (MT) or to a waitlist-control condition on psychological and physiological indicators of teachers’ occupational stress and burnout were examined in 2 field trials. The sample included 113 elementary and secondary school teachers (89% female) from Canada and the United States. Measures were collected at baseline, post-program, and 3-month followup; teachers were randomly assigned to condition after baseline assessment. Results showed that 87% of teachers completed the program and found it beneficial. Teachers randomized to MT showed greater mindfulness, focused attention and working memory capacity, and occupational self-compassion, as well as lower levels of occupational stress and burnout at post-program and follow-up, than did those in the control condition. No statistically significant differences due to MT were found for physiological measures of stress. Meditational analyses showed that group differences in mindfulness and self-compassion at post-program mediated reductions in stress and burnout as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression at follow-up. Implications for teaching and learning are discussed.
Enhancing cognitive and social–emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial.
The authors hypothesized that a social and emotional learning (SEL) program involving mindfulness and caring for others, designed for elementary school students, would enhance cognitive control, reduce stress, promote well-being and prosociality, and produce positive school outcomes. To test this hypothesis, 4 classes of combined 4th and 5th graders (N = 99) were randomly assigned to receive the SEL with mindfulness program versus a regular social responsibility program. Measures assessed executive functions (EFs), stress physiology via salivary cortisol, well-being (self-reports), prosociality and peer acceptance (peer reports), and math grades. Relative to children in the social responsibility program, children who received the SEL program with mindfulness (a) improved more in their cognitive control and stress physiology; (b) reported greater empathy, perspective-taking, emotional control, optimism, school self-concept, and mindfulness, (c) showed greater decreases in self-reported symptoms of depression and peer-rated aggression, (d) were rated by peers as more prosocial, and (e) increased in peer acceptance (or sociometric popularity). The results of this investigation suggest the promise of this SEL intervention and address a lacuna in the scientific literature—identifying strategies not only to ameliorate children’s problems but also to cultivate their well-being and thriving. Directions for future research are discussed.
Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial.
Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE for Teachers) is a mindfulness-based professional development program designed to reduce stress and improve teachers’ performance and classroom learning environments. A randomized controlled trial examined program efficacy and acceptability among a sample of 50 teachers randomly assigned to CARE or waitlist control condition. Participants completed a battery of self-report measures at pre- and post intervention to assess the impact of the CARE program on general well-being, efficacy, burnout/time pressure, and mindfulness. Participants in the CARE group completed an evaluation of the program after completing the intervention. ANCOVAs were computed between the CARE group and control group for each outcome, and the pretest scores served as a covariate. Participation in the CARE program resulted in significant improvements in teacher wellbeing, efficacy, burnout/time-related stress, and mindfulness compared with controls. Evaluation data showed that teachers viewed CARE as a feasible, acceptable, and effective method for reducing stress and improving performance. Results suggest that the CARE program has promise to support teachers working in challenging settings and consequently improve classroom environments.
Mindfulness Training for Elementary School Students.
Mindfulness is the cognitive propensity to be aware of what is happening in the moment without judgment or attachment to any particular outcome. This concept flies in the face of modern, Western philosophical outcomes-based thinking about events and activities. This article presents results of a formative evaluation of whether participation in a mindfulness training program affected first, second, and third grade students’ outcomes on measures of attention. The training was designed and intended to help students learn to focus and pay attention. The 24-week training employed a series of exercises including breathwork, bodyscan, movement, and sensorimotor awareness activities. Results from three attentional measures administered to the students show significant differences between those who did and did not participate in mindfulness practice training. Results are discussed and recommendations are made for future work in this developing field of interest.
School-Based Mindfulness Instruction: An RCT.
Many urban youth experience significant and unremitting negative stressors, including those associated with community violence, multigenerational poverty, failing educational systems, substance use, limited avenues for success, health risks, and trauma. Mindfulness instruction improves psychological functioning in a variety of adult populations; research on mindfulness for youth is promising, but has been conducted in limited populations. Informed by implementation science, we evaluated an adapted mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program to ameliorate the negative effects of stress and trauma among low-income, minority, middle school public school students.
Mindfulness-based interventions in schools—a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Mindfulness programs for schools are popular. We systematically reviewed the evidence regarding the effects of school-based mindfulness interventions on psychological outcomes, using a comprehensive search strategy designed to locate both published and unpublished studies. Systematic searches in 12 databases were performed in August 2012. Further studies were identified via hand search and contact with experts. Two reviewers independently extracted the data, also selecting information about intervention programs (elements, structure etc.), feasibility, and acceptance. Twenty-four studies were identified, of which 13 were published.
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