Mindfulness is Associated with Reduced Psychological Distress in Kindergarten Teachers
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“mindfulness—the ability to stay focused on one’s present experience with nonjudgmental awareness—can help us to promote the calm, relaxed, but enlivened classroom environment that children need to learn. Mindfulness can also help us to be more effective at reducing conflict and developing more positive ways of relating in the classroom, which can help us feel more job satisfaction.” – Patricia Jennings
Stress is epidemic in the workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This often produces burnout; fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and professional inefficacy. In a school setting, this burnout and exhaustion not only affects teachers and administrators personally, but also the students and schools, as it produces a loss of enthusiasm, empathy, and compassion.
Hence, there is a need to identify methods of reducing stress and improving teachers’ psychological health. Mindfulness has been demonstrated to be helpful in reducing the psychological and physiological responses to stress and for treating and preventing burnout in a number of work environments. But the effects of mindfulness on kindergarten teachers has not been explored.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Psychological Distress in Kindergarten Teachers: The Mediating Role of Emotional Intelligence.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7664406/ ) Cheng and colleagues recruited kindergarten teachers in China and had them complete measures of mindfulness in teaching, emotional intelligence, perceived stress, anxiety, and depression. These data were then subjected to regression and mediation analyses.
They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness in the teachers the higher the levels of emotional intelligence including self-emotional appraisal, others-emotional appraisal, use of emotion, and regulation of emotion. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, psychological distress, and perceived stress. In addition, the higher the levels of emotional intelligence, the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, psychological distress, and perceived stress.
They performed a mediation analysis on the data and found that the association of mindfulness with psychological distress was both direct and indirect via emotional intelligence. That is mindfulness was not only associated directly with lower levels of psychological distress but also indirectly by being associated with higher levels of emotional intelligence which, in turn, was associated with lower levels of psychological distress. Further mediation analyses revealed that regulation of emotion was the aspect of emotional intelligence that was responsible for the mediation.
It should be kept in mind that these results are correlational and causation cannot be definitively concluded. But, it has been established in previous research the mindfulness training produces increased emotional intelligence and decreased levels of anxiety, depression, psychological distress, and perceived stress. So, the present results likely represent causal effects. Hence, it appears that mindfulness in teaching improves the psychological and emotional well-being of kindergartner teachers. This should not only make the teachers more effective in the classroom but also reduce the likelihood of teacher burnout.
So, mindfulness is associated with reduced psychological distress in kindergarten teachers.
“Practicing mindfulness in your own life can organically lead to integrating it into your classes in a variety of ways, whether by inviting students to take two feet one breath or by beginning class with a moment of mindful breathing.” – Alison Cohen
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Cheng, X., Ma, Y., Li, J., Cai, Y., Li, L., & Zhang, J. (2020). Mindfulness and Psychological Distress in Kindergarten Teachers: The Mediating Role of Emotional Intelligence. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(21), 8212. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17218212
Kindergarten teachers are often exposed to great stress. Considering that, mindfulness has been demonstrated to act as a critical role in the psychological well-being of kindergarten teachers. The present study assessed mindfulness in teaching (MT), psychological distress and emotional intelligence (EI) among 511 kindergarten teachers in mainland China and investigated the mediating role of EI to explore the association mechanism between kindergarten teachers’ MT and psychological distress. The major results suggested that kindergarten teachers’ MT was negatively related to their psychological distress (depression, anxiety, and stress). Results of path analyses indicated that the total score of EI and dimension of regulation of emotion (ROE) could serve as significant mediators. The findings suggest that mindfulness might be beneficial to relieve kindergarten teachers’ psychological distress through the mediating role of EI.