Hello Readers and welcome to the Fourth Week of Theoretical Thursday!
As I mentioned on Tuesday’s blog, there has been an integration of Mindfulness and Meditation practices into the Educational System, so today I want to talk to you more about the beneficial effects that Researchers have found. However first off I want to try to provide you a better understanding of Mindfulness.
The Buddhist tradition has a long history of dealing with problems of the mind and body. In fact, it already predated Western Psychology as a science by more than eighteen and a half centuries. To be particular, the Abhidhamma, a collection of writings that outline the doctrines of Buddhism, revealed an explicitly psychological content, providing details on such sensation, perception, emotion and cognition. That being the case, there were already ways of dealing with many of the problems that society still faces today.
As I previously mentioned Mindfulness Meditation combines both an open mind as well as a focused attention. One focuses on one’s breath and is open to their environment. With time and practice this practice is integrated into how one see’s their every day life. So in this way, the mechanisms of mindfulness meditation, with their emphasis on developing openness and awareness to one’s inner thoughts, represent a powerful coping strategy and more adaptive way of processing in everyday life (Shapiro et al., 2006).
There has been several studies of Mindfulness and Meditation in schools that have yielded results that coincide with Shapiro’s sentiment, such as:
- Improved self-control and self-awareness among children ages 7-9 who initially lack such skills (Flook et al. 2010)
- Improved attention skills among elementary school children (Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor 2010; Napoli, Krech, and Holley 2005; Zylowska et al. 2008)
- Decreased anxiety among students in grades 7-8 (Semple, Reid, and Miller 2005)
- Decreased test anxiety in students grades 1-3 (Napoli, Krech, and Holley 2005)
- Decreased blood pressure in youths ages 6-18 (Black, Milam, and Sussman 2009; Barnes, Beiser, and Treiber 2004)
- Reduced misbehavior/aggression among children and adolescents (Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor 2010; Black, Milam, and Sussman 2009; Barnes, Treiber, and Johnson 2003)
If you are interested in finding out more about the many benefits, I suggest you read the meta-analysis Sedlmeier and colleagues from the Chemnitz University of Technology: http://www.ashanamind.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/physiological-effects_Sedlmeier_12.pdf
I believe that part of the reason for these results is that Mindfulness and Meditation teach students how to engage in cognitive restructuring. What I mean is that by bringing one’s attention to oneself and their surroundings, as well as incorporating an open mind to situations, an individual can adjust their normal and potentially negative reactions. Research in neuro-imaging studies has indeed shown this, where through inhibition that an automatic reactive attitude shift towards a more open minded attitude (Brown and Ryan, 2003; Ryan et al., 1997).
This type of reconstrual is done through breaking up the relevance of objects constructed in their mind.One is metaphorically stepping back, looking through the thought and in doing so they can break apart chunks of sequential thought patterns.The cognitive restructuring of what the individuals finds salient opens up the opportunity for a more open-minded mindset that can positively affect the appraisal process of many situations anxiety, blood pressure, and social interaction.
There has been programs popping up in Toronto that teach students Mindfulness and Meditation, however it is not fully introduced into the Educational system as of yet. However, I believe with time and the persistence of certain programs like Mindfulness in Schools (http://mindfulnessinschools.org/), it will be, and at that point Education will no longer simply consider what it puts into the minds of the children, but also how it can change the mind within it too!
Thank you and I hope you drop by next week!