For the flourishing of young minds
Mindfulness is proving to be effective for adults in helping to address a wide range of physical and mental conditions, and improve wellbeing and the ability to think clearly. The evidence for its effectiveness with young people is showing similar results, and although this evidence base is as yet smaller having only been developed recently, it is very promising and growing rapidly.
.b itself has been the subject of two small controlled evaluations with generally positive results and is currently undergoing a third larger-scale evaluation by the Universities of Exeter and Cambridge. For details of all this and more see our paper ‘The evidence for the impact of mindfulness on children and young people’.
Evidence for adults
Research on the impact of mindfulness on adults demonstrates with reasonable certainty that adults who learn and practise mindfulness can experience improvements in a wide range of psychological and physiological health conditions.
As well its impact on specific problems, mindfulness has been shown to have effects on very useful underlying emotional and social skills and qualities in adults. These include the ability to feel in control, to make meaningful relationships, to accept experience without denying the facts, to manage difficult feelings, and to be calm, resilient, compassionate and empathic. Mindfulness has been shown to have positive effects on intellectual skills, improving sustained attention, visual-spatial memory, working memory, and concentration.
Mindfulness training can have sustained benefits – in some follow-ups of mindfulness interventions the immediate effects on stress and well-being were still apparent after three years, and the majority of subjects continued their formal mindfulness practice over this period. The time spent learning mindfulness does not have to be extensive to show benefits. Five days of twenty minute meditations have been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue, improve immune-reactivity and decrease cortisol (a stress hormone), and four days of mindfulness training was sufficient to improve mindfulness, visual-spatial memory, working memory and sustained attention.
What about the evidence from neuroscience?
Neuroscience is demonstrating that these changes are not all in the imagination. Brain-imaging studies show that mindfulness meditation can reliably and profoundly alter the structure and function of the brain and produce, for example, greater blood-flow to and a thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration.
The changes are most dramatic in long-term mediators, but participants on eight week courses have been shown to have increased grey-matter density in the areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, self-awareness, compassion, introspection, and reduced density in areas associated with anxiety and stress. Although studies have not yet been done on children’s brains there is no reason to suppose the changes would not be broadly similar.
Evidence for young people
Research on the effects of mindfulness and young people is not yet as extensive as work with adults but research is now growing rapidly. The results of the work that has taken place are very promising, and suggest that the young people who take part in mindfulness courses not only enjoy and appreciate them but often benefit too – the effects of mindfulness on the young may prove to be very similar to those on adults.
Mindfulness improves mental health and wellbeing. Well conducted mindfulness interventions have been shown to help address the problems of the young people who take part and reduce their worries, anxiety, distress, reactivity and bad behaviour, improve sleep, self-esteem, and bring about greater calmness, relaxation, and self-awareness.
Mindfulness has also been shown to be capable of contributing directly to the development of cognitive and performance skills in the young. It would appear that when children and young people learn to be more ‘present’, they can pay attention better and improve the quality of their performance in the classroom, on the sports field, and in the performing arts, for example. They can become more focused, more able to approach situations from a novel perspective, more able to draw more effectively on previously-learned material, have less anxiety and greater ability to pay attention.
Evidence for .b
Is there any specific evidence for the impact of the .b course?
Yes, and it is growing. An early study by Professor Felicia Huppert and Daniel Johnson based at the University of Cambridge reported the outcomes of the first four lesson version of the .b course with 14 to 15 year-old boys in two English independent schools. There were small and non-significant effects on mindfulness, ego-resilience and well-being overall, perhaps not surprising in such a brief course, but more significant changes among those who carried out quite small amounts of home practice.
Since then the course has been considerably developed and a recent study by Sarah Hennelly, a research student at Oxford Brookes University, had clearly positive results. Sixty eight adolescent students from typical, mixed-gender secondary schools followed the full .b eight week course. There were significant differences between participant and control groups’ mindfulness, resilience and well-being, and longer term effects were even greater than immediate effects. Students, teachers and parents also reported subjective improvements in students’ motivation and confidence, competence and effectiveness.
A larger scale evaluation of the .b curriculum as taught by eleven teachers in a mix of state, independent and international schools, matched with controls from similar schools, is currently being led by three professors from the Universities of Exeter and Cambridge.
Copyright © 2013 · mindfulnessinschools.org
Author: Bud Ross
I have practiced meditation for 21 years. I have two sons, great friends and our meditation group is the best. I almost forgot to mention My dog Rocky. He enjoys meditation also. Bud