In the last few weeks, we’ve already spoken about the relationship between physical and mental health, and how parents and students can reduce anxiety around the stressful exam period. Virtually every school or research project that has trialled meditation/mindfulness as either a learning aid or an alternative to punishment has reported success.
What is mindfulness?
To borrow Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindful meditation, which is based on the ancient Buddhist practice:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
in the present moment, and
Which, meditation aside, already sounds like solid advice for anyone spending time in a classroom – teachers included.
How beneficial can this seemingly simple solution really be?
In fact, when you dig a little deeper on the benefits of meditation, the results go from impressive to startling. The Transcendental Meditation website has plenty of information on the practice itself, but several studies and extensive research support their claim that meditation can have the following benefits for students:
Higher IQ: It sounds absurd, but meditation can improve brain function across the board, including creative thinking, practical reasoning and ‘fluid intelligence’ (which is the main basis for IQ)
Mental health: Students who meditate report lower stress levels, especially around exam time, as well as greater alertness and concentration. The same is true for anxiety and depression, where depressive symptoms have been reduced by up to 48% in students practicing mindfulness, compared to a control group.
Academic achievement: A study of low-performing students in a California school who tried meditation revealed significantly improved maths and English performance, against a control group. More amazingly, the benefits of meditation have been proven effective at every school level, all the way from reception to university. In younger children, it tends to benefit analytical ability, cognitive performance, focus and general intellectual ability. In older students, it manifested improved behaviour, better reasoning, analytical skills and processing of information, improved relationships, and better mental health.
Focus: Meditation has proven particularly effective with pupils who suffer from ADHD, curbing symptoms by a massive 50%. This improved focus in turn triggers improved brain-processing and language skills.
Behaviour and discipline: Several schools that introduced mindfulness as a replacement for punishments in disruptive students have seen remarkable behavioural improvements, with massive drops in suspension and absenteeism. All the evidence suggests that a calming few minutes of deep breathing or meditation is far more effective than a traditional punishment, such as a detention, that only tends to produce more anger and resentment from the student. This even goes as far as addictive behaviour in both children and adults. Transcendental meditation practice reduces substance abuse and antisocial behaviour, and in many cases has proven significantly more effective than traditional drug prevention and educational programs (not that schools have ever been very good at this).
Happiness and confidence: research shows that students who meditate daily benefit from greater happiness, confidence and emotional competence!
The Mindfulness Foundation has already launched the Wise Up campaign promoting mindfulness in schools, while calling on the government to deliver on its promise of improving mental health and wellbeing in Britain’s schools.
For more information on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, as well as links to the studies supporting this blog, check out this article from Transcendental Meditation. You can also see some of excellent work being done the Mindfulness Foundation, and learn how to Be Mindful here.
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about everything that’s trending in education.