Mindfulness is purposely paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. A new study says that adding a mindfulness based stress reduction program to middle schools may help reduce kid’s stress and trauma.
"High-quality structured mindfulness programs have the potential to really improve students' lives in ways that I think can be really meaningful over the life course," said lead author Dr. Erica Sibinga of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Children in many U.S. cities are at an increased risk of stresses and traumas due to the effects of community drug use, violence, multigenerational poverty, limited education and economic opportunities, Sibinga and her colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.
The study involved 300 students, in grades five through eight, at two Baltimore public schools. Children were randomly selected for either a twelve - week mindfulness based stress reduction program or health classes to take during the school day.
Nearly all the students were from low-income families and African-American.
The mindfulness program contained material about meditation, yoga and the mind, body connection; practice of those techniques; and group discussion.
The program helped the children be aware of their response to what was happening to them at the time.
"It allows them to not only know what is happening, but to stop and take three breaths and figure out how they want to respond to what is happening the present moment," Sibinga told Reuters Health.
By the end of the program, children in the mindfulness program had lower levels of general health problems, depression, recurrent thoughts about negative experiences and other symptoms of stress and trauma compared to the children enrolled in the health classes only.
Sibinga said the differences would be enough for the students to notice in their day-to-day lives.
The researchers acknowledge some limitations to the research, like children missing some classes and possibly being exposed to mindfulness practices outside the sessions.
While Sibinga acknowledged that she couldn’t say if the program would have the same results in other student populations, she suspected there would be benefits.
The next step is to look at how to spread the program to other schools, and look at how the program may work, she said.
"It doesn’t get us off the hook of trying to reduce the sources of trauma in our urban life," she said. But the study suggests adding structured mindfulness programs in urban settings would be beneficial, she added.
Some private schools in the U.S. have already implemented mindfulness classes in their school programs and have reported positive effects such as fewer behavioral problems and an increased ability to focus during class on school work.
Sources: Andrew M. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-mindfulness-stress-school-idUSKBN0U12MY20151218