Improve Students Transition to College with Mindfulness

Improve Students Transition to College with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The first semester of college is a time of great transition for many students — they often are living away from home for the first time, have a much more fluid schedule than in high school and are potentially surrounded by a new peer group. For all of these reasons and more, this can be an incredibly stressful time in a student’s life.”Victoria M. Indivero

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, colleges, parents, and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school.

 

The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede performance. These stressors are at their peak when new students transition to college. Mindfulness training for incoming students may be an answer as mindfulness have been shown to be helpful in reducing the physiological and psychological responses to stress and to improve coping with the school environment and enhance performance. So, perhaps, mindfulness training may help ease students’ transition to college.

 

In today’s Research News article “Promoting healthy transition to college through mindfulness training with first-year college students: Pilot randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810370/ ), Dvořáková and colleagues recruited first year college students who resided on campus and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to a 6-week mindfulness training condition with 2 80-minute sessions for the first two weeks and 1 session per week for the remaining 4 weeks. The training occurred in a group format during their first semester on campus and included instruction on emotion regulation, mindfulness techniques, and daily home practice. The students were measured before and after training for mindfulness, anxiety, depression, satisfaction with life, compassion, self-compassion, social connectedness, sleep, alcohol use and consequences, and program acceptability.

 

They found that the students who attended the mindfulness trainings had significantly lower levels of anxiety depression, alcohol-related consequences, and sleep issues and higher levels of life satisfaction in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control students. Hence, the mindfulness program improved the psychological health of the new college students, thereby easing their transition to the university environment. This is a pilot study, so results need to be interpreted with caution. But, the results are sufficiently interesting and potentially important that a large scale controlled clinical trial with an active control group is warranted.

 

The Freshman year in college is critical. Most of the students who fail to complete a college degree drop out in the first year. So, it is particularly important to find ways to help Freshman transition to university life and be successful. The present study suggests that mindfulness training may be an effective component in a university’s programs for Freshman to help promote their psychological health and academic performance in their critical first year.

 

So, improve students transition to college with mindfulness.

 

“Rather than telling the students what to do, we had them explore and talk about how to be mindful in their daily lives and discover the benefits for themselves. We found that underneath the stress that students are experiencing is a deep desire to appreciate life and feel meaningful connections with other people.” – Kamila Dvorakova

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Dvořáková, K., Kishida, M., Li, J., Elavsky, S., Broderick, P. C., Agrusti, M. R., & Greenberg, M. T. (2017). Promoting healthy transition to college through mindfulness training with first-year college students: Pilot randomized controlled trial. Journal of American College Health : J of ACH, 65(4), 259–267. http://doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2017.1278605

 

Abstract

Objective

Given the importance of developmental transitions on young adults’ lives and the high rates of mental health issues among U.S. college students, first-year college students can be particularly vulnerable to stress and adversity. This pilot study evaluated the effectiveness and feasibility of mindfulness training aiming to promote first-year college students’ health and wellbeing.

Participants

109 freshmen were recruited from residential halls (50% Caucasian, 66% female). Data collection was completed in November 2014.

Methods

A randomized control trial was conducted utilizing the Learning to BREATHE (L2B) program, a universal mindfulness program adapted to match the developmental tasks of college transition.

Results

Participation in the pilot intervention was associated with significant increase in students’ life satisfaction, and significant decrease in depression and anxiety. Marginally significant decrease was found for sleep issues and alcohol consequences.

Conclusions

Mindfulness-based programs may be an effective strategy to enhance a healthy transition into college.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810370/

 

Improve College Students Responses to Stress with Yoga

Improve College Students Responses to Stress with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga is a practice of uniting the mind and physical body as one. It combines breathing exercise, meditation, and physical positions. This combination is believed to reduce many physical and mental ailments that are caused by stress.” – Rebecca Chasar

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school. The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s mental health, well-being, and school performance.

 

It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including meditation, mindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. In, addition, exercise if also know to reduce responses to stress. But, nearly half of college students are physically inactive. So, yoga, which is both a mindfulness practice and a physical activity should be particularly effective.

 

In today’s Research News article “Psychophysiological effects of yoga on stress in college students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5868218/  ), Tripathi and colleagues review the published research literature on the effectiveness of yoga practice to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress in college students.

 

They report yoga training has been found to reduce autonomic arousal, reducing sympathetic nervous system activity and increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity. Since, physiological arousal is characteristic of stress responding, yoga practice reduces this physiological marker of stress. Yoga practice reduces perceived stress, tension, sleepiness, worry, and negative emotions and increases relaxation, mental quiet, peace, rest, strength, awareness and joy, thereby improving psychological well-being. Hence, the existing research suggests that yoga practice may be valuable in helping college students cope with the physical and mental consequences of stress and thereby improve their performance in school.

 

So, improve college students responses to stress with yoga.

 

“As science continues to understand the negative effects of stress on our mental and physical bodies, techniques like meditation and yoga that were once considered fringe are becoming prolifically mainstream.  If we can begin to understand and utilize these techniques before stress becomes an issue, then these tools can be even more valuable.” – Kelly Golden

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Tripathi, M. N., Kumari, S., & Ganpat, T. S. (2018). Psychophysiological effects of yoga on stress in college students. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 7, 43. http://doi.org/10.4103/jehp.jehp_74_17

 

Abstract

College students are vulnerable to a critical period in developmental maturation, facing rigorous academic work, and learning how to function independently. Physical activities such as running and bicycling have been shown to improve mood and relieve stress. However, college students often have low levels of physical activity. Yoga is an ancient physical and mental activity that affects mood and stress. However, studies examining the psychophysiological effects of yoga are rare in peer-reviewed journals. The aim of this study is to establish preliminary evidence for the psychophysiological effects of yoga on stress in young-adult college students. The present study suggests that yoga has positive effects on a psychophysiological level that leads to decreased levels of stress in college student. Further research is needed to examine the extent to which different types of yogic practices address the needs of different college subpopulations (e.g., overweight, sedentary, and smokers).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5868218/

Mindfulness Plus Reflection Training Improves Thinking in Pre-School Children

Mindfulness Plus Reflection Training Improves Thinking in Pre-School Children

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When we teach mindfulness to children, we are sharing with them skillful ways of relating to life’s uncomfortable and challenging moments. The earlier we do so in their young lives, the greater the opportunity to help them cultivate resilience and develop and refine their mindfulness practice as they mature.” – Scott Rogers

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. This occurs almost without any intervention from the adults as the child appears to be programmed to learn. It is here that behaviors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are developed that shape the individual. But, what is absorbed depends on the environment. If it is replete with speech, the child will learn speech, if it is replete with trauma, the child will learn fear, if it is replete with academic skills the child will learn these, and if it is replete with interactions with others, the child will learn social skills.

 

Pre-School and elementary school are environments that have a huge effect on development. They are also excellent times to teach children the skills to adaptively negotiate its environment. Mindfulness training in school, at all levels has been shown to have very positive effects. These include academic, cognitive, psychological, and social domains. Importantly, mindfulness training in school appears to improve the student’s self-concept. It also improves attentional ability and reduces stress, which are keys to successful learning in school. Since, what occurs in these early years and in school can have such a profound, long-term effect on the child it is important to further study the impact of mindfulness training on the development of thinking skills in pre-school children.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Plus Reflection Training: Effects on Executive Function in Early Childhood.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00208/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_556427_69_Psycho_20180301_arts_A ), Zelazo and colleagues recruited preschool children (4-5 years old) from two schools with predominantly children from low-income families and randomly assigned them to either Mindfulness + Reflection, Literacy, or Business as Usual conditions. Mindfulness + Reflection and Literacy training occurred daily for 6 weeks for 24 minutes per day. Mindfulness + Reflection training was adapted for young children and involved mindfulness and relaxation exercises, attention to thoughts and emotions, and cognitive enrichment programs; particularly attention training. The literacy program was adapted from the OWL (Opening the World of Learning) program.

 

The children were measured before the 6-week training period for vocabulary, math skills, IQ, and reading readiness. The children were measured before and after the 6-week training period and 4-6 weeks later for executive function, theory of mind, and literacy with measures adapted for young children. Teachers also rated the children for behaviors indicating surgency, negative affect, and effortful control and for attachment/relationships, behavioral concerns, initiative, and self-control.

 

They found that after training most of the children in all groups showed significant improvements on many of the measures. But, the children participating in the Mindfulness + Reflection program had significantly greater increases in overall executive function scores including working memory measures. The literacy training group had significantly greater improvements in effortful control reflecting improvements in inhibitory control, attentional control, low intensity pleasure, and perceptual sensitivity. Hence, they found evidence that mindfulness training can improve thinking while literacy training can improve behavioral control in very young disadvantaged children.

 

Early childhood is a time of rapid brain development and cognitive abilities. Since, it’s been shown that mindfulness training can produces changes in the brains of adolescents and adults, it is likely that the training in early childhood also changes brain development, This is a very important period of development and improvements here may well affect the children for the rest of their lives. This may be particularly important for disadvantaged children potentially altering the trajectory of their lives,

 

This study is laudable as working with and measuring very young children is challenging and requires insight and creativity. But, research conducted during this dynamic phase of development is particularly important. Of course, much more work is needed. But these results are promising and lend support to conducting further work.

 

“There is an emerging body of research that indicates mindfulness can help children improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset and to make better decisions. In short, it helps with emotional regulation and cognitive focus.” – Sarah Rudell Beach

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Zelazo PD, Forston JL, Masten AS and Carlson SM (2018) Mindfulness Plus Reflection Training: Effects on Executive Function in Early Childhood. Front. Psychol. 9:208. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00208

 

Executive function (EF) skills are essential for academic achievement, and poverty-related stress interferes with their development. This pre-test, post-test, follow-up randomized-control trial assessed the impact of an intervention targeting reflection and stress reduction on children’s EF skills. Preschool children (N = 218) from schools serving low-income families in two U.S. cities were randomly assigned to one of three options delivered in 30 small-group sessions over 6 weeks: Mindfulness + Reflection training; Literacy training; or Business as Usual (BAU). Sessions were conducted by local teachers trained in a literacy curriculum or Mindfulness + Reflection intervention, which involved calming activities and games that provided opportunities to practice reflection in the context of goal-directed problem solving. EF improved in all groups, but planned contrasts indicated that the Mindfulness + Reflection group significantly outperformed the BAU group at Follow-up (4 weeks post-test). No differences in EF were observed between the BAU and Literacy training groups. Results suggest that a brief, small-group, school-based intervention teaching mindfulness and reflection did not improve EF skills more than literacy training but is promising compared to BAU for improving EF in low-income preschool children several weeks following the intervention.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00208/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_556427_69_Psycho_20180301_arts_A

 

Improve Student Resilience to Stress with Mindfulness

Improve Student Resilience to Stress with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“This is, to the best of our knowledge, the most robust study to date to assess mindfulness training for students, and backs up previous studies that suggest it can improve mental health and wellbeing during stressful periods.” – Julieta Galante

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school. The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s mental health, well-being, and school performance.

 

It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the individuals’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including meditation, mindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in increasing resilience and coping with the school environment and for both students and teachers. So, perhaps, mindfulness training may be helpful for college students to better cope with stress and improve their well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “A mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress in university students (the Mindful Student Study): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813792/ ), Galante and colleagues recruited healthy college students and randomly assigned them to receive either 8 weeks of mindfulness training or to support as usual from the university counseling center. The mindfulness course consisted of 8 weekly sessions of 75-90 minutes teaching mindfulness skills adapted for college students. The mindfulness students were encouraged to practice for 15 minutes daily at home. They were measured before and after training and during the examination period for psychological distress, mental health problems, well-being, sleep and activity levels, examination scores, and altruism.

 

They found that after training and during the examination period the students who had received the mindfulness training had significantly less psychological distress and greater well-being than the support as usual students. Hence mindfulness training appeared to improve the students psychological state in general and particularly during the stressful examination period. This suggests that the training improved the students’ resilience in the face of stress and this in turn improved their psychological state. Training in mindfulness may be an important component in education to improve the students’ abilities to cope with the pressure and stresses of higher education.

 

So, improve student resilience to stress with mindfulness.

 

“Students who had been practising mindfulness had distress scores lower than their baseline levels even during exam time, which suggests that mindfulness helps build resilience against stress.” – Julieta Galante

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Julieta Galante, Géraldine Dufour, Maris Vainre, Adam P Wagner, Jan Stochl, Alice Benton, Neal Lathia, Emma Howarth, Prof Peter B Jones. A mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress in university students (the Mindful Student Study): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. Lancet Public Health. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2018 Feb 15. Published in final edited form as: Lancet Public Health. 2018 Feb; 3(2): e72–e81. Published online 2017 Dec 19. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30231-1

 

Summary

Background

The rising number of young people going to university has led to concerns about an increasing demand for student mental health services. We aimed to assess whether provision of mindfulness courses to university students would improve their resilience to stress.

Methods

We did this pragmatic randomised controlled trial at the University of Cambridge, UK. Students aged 18 years or older with no severe mental illness or crisis (self-assessed) were randomly assigned (1:1), via remote survey software using computer-generated random numbers, to receive either an 8 week mindfulness course adapted for university students (Mindfulness Skills for Students [MSS]) plus mental health support as usual, or mental health support as usual alone. Participants and the study management team were aware of group allocation, but allocation was concealed from the researchers, outcome assessors, and study statistician. The primary outcome was self-reported psychological distress during the examination period, as measured with the Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation Outcome Measure (CORE–OM), with higher scores indicating more distress. The primary analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with the Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, number ACTRN12615001160527.

Findings

Between Sept 28, 2015, and Jan 15, 2016, we randomly assigned 616 students to the MSS group (n=309) or the support as usual group (n=307). 453 (74%) participants completed the CORE–OM during the examination period and 182 (59%) MSS participants completed at least half of the course. MSS reduced distress scores during the examination period compared with support as usual, with mean CORE–OM scores of 0·87 (SD 0·50) in 237 MSS participants versus 1·11 (0·57) in 216 support as usual participants (adjusted mean difference –0·14, 95% CI –0·22 to –0·06; p=0·001), showing a moderate effect size (β –0·44, 95% CI –0·60 to –0·29; p<0·0001). 123 (57%) of 214 participants in the support as usual group had distress scores above an accepted clinical threshold compared with 88 (37%) of 235 participants in the MSS group. On average, six students (95% CI four to ten) needed to be offered the MSS course to prevent one from experiencing clinical levels of distress. No participants had adverse reactions related to self-harm, suicidality, or harm to others.

Interpretation

Our findings show that provision of mindfulness training could be an effective component of a wider student mental health strategy. Further comparative effectiveness research with inclusion of controls for non-specific effects is needed to define a range of additional, effective interventions to increase resilience to stress in university students.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813792/

 

Improve Behavior in the Classroom with Mindfulness

Improve Behavior in the Classroom with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness practices help children improve their ability to pay attention, by learning to focus on one thing (e.g., breath, sound) while filtering out other stimuli. Mindfulness also provides kids with skills for understanding their emotions and how to work with them. I’m not sure if there any other skills besides these — paying attention and regulating one’s emotions — that are more important for successful human functioning, let alone education!” – Sarah Beach

 

Elementary school is an environment that has a huge effect on development. It is also an excellent time to teach children the skills to adaptively negotiate its environment. Mindfulness training in school, at all levels has been shown to have very positive effects. These include academic, cognitive, psychological, and social domains. Importantly, mindfulness training in school appears to improve the student’s self-concept. It also improves attentional ability and reduces stress, which are keys to successful learning in school. Another key is the ability of children to manage their behavior in school and remain on-task as much as possible.

 

Behavior management based upon behavior modification techniques has been shown to be very effective in promoting positive classroom behavior. It is not known, however, if mindfulness training can supplement and improve the effectiveness of the application of behavior management techniques. In today’s Research News article “Preliminary Evidence on the Efficacy of Mindfulness Combined with Traditional Classroom Management Strategies.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622000/, Kasson and Wilson employ a multiple baseline research design to investigate the effectiveness of the combination of mindfulness and behavior management in promoting positive classroom behaviors in 3rd grade students.

 

They observed the behaviors of 6 3rd grade students in their classroom. They rated the students every 5 minutes for on-task behaviors, defined as “remaining within 1 ft. of one’s desk and interacting with materials as to participate in current classroom activity.” Students were observed initially (baseline) and under three conditions; behavior management, behavior management plus mindfulness, and self-monitoring. Behavior management consisted of “(a) use of a signal to obtain student attention (e.g., clapping sequence to be repeated by students), (b) use of a transition timer (e.g., visual countdown timer on Smart Board during activity transitions), (c) ignoring inappropriate student behavior, and (d) implementing a reinforcer incentive system.” Mindfulness exercises occurred for 15 minutes three times per week. The exercises included quiet time, deep breathing, structured breathing, present moment awareness, mindful eating, and mindful movement. Self-monitoring consisted of each student giving “himself a plus or minus during each activity throughout the day based on how well he thought he followed classroom rules.”

 

They found that during baseline the students were on task an average of 79% of the time. The behavior management phase the students increased their on-task behaviors with an average of 87% on task with an effect size of .58, while during the combined behavior management plus mindfulness phase the students further increased their on-task behaviors to 91% with an average effect size of .78. Self-monitoring produced mixed effects with most students regressing to baseline levels of on-task behaviors.

 

The study suggests that behavior management is effective in improving elementary students’ positive classroom behaviors and that mindfulness training can further improve on-task behavior. This was a short-term study and there is a need for further research to investigate if the effectiveness of behavior management and mindfulness training is sustained over longer periods up to school semesters. It is assumed but not measured that the improved attention to task translates to improved learning. This also remains for future research to investigate.

 

Nevertheless, these results suggest that mindfulness training is a positive asset in promoting attention to classroom learning tasks. It has been previously established that mindfulness training has positive benefits for children. The present study demonstrates that, mindfulness training, in school, even in young children, can be effectively implemented and can improve the students’ attention to the task at hand in the classroom.

 

So, improve behavior in the classroom with mindfulness.

 

“Students “are just craving for ways to handle and cope with their stress” in healthy and nondestructive ways. It becomes sort of like instinctive and intuitive for them to just search for alternative ways to cope with their stress that have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol or whatever destructive behavior.” – Violaine Gueritault

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kasson, E. M., & Wilson, A. N. (2017). Preliminary Evidence on the Efficacy of Mindfulness Combined with Traditional Classroom Management Strategies. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 10(3), 242–251. http://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-016-0160-x

 

Abstract

The current case study combined mindfulness-based strategies with a classroom behavior management treatment package, to assist teachers with managing 3rd grade student behaviors. Two teachers (Classroom teacher and Specials teacher) and six students within the same classroom were observed using a 5-min momentary time sampling procedure. A delayed multiple baseline across settings (e.g., Classroom teacher, Specials teacher) design was used to assess student behaviors across baseline (A), classroom behavior management treatment package (CBM) (B), CBM plus mindfulness (C), and CBM plus mindfulness and self-monitoring (D). Behavioral treatment alone increased on-task behaviors for four of six (66%) students compared to baseline; however, five of six (83%) students increased and sustained high rates of on-task behaviors when mindfulness exercises were added to the behavior analytic techniques. These preliminary results support the combination of mindfulness-based strategies with traditional behavior analytic interventions for increasing student on-task behaviors in classroom settings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622000/

Improve Emotions of Ethnically Diverse At-Risk Students with Mindfulness

Improve Emotions of Ethnically Diverse At-Risk Students with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“There is plenty of evidence available now that demonstrates the value of teaching mindfulness to young people, and many of the benefits of mindfulness are skills and dispositions that are especially helpful in the context of education. Mindfulness practices help children improve their ability to pay attention, by learning to focus on one thing (e.g., breath, sound) while filtering out other stimuli. Mindfulness also provides kids with skills for understanding their emotions and how to work with them.” – Sarah Beach

 

Adolescence should be a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. These executive functions are an important foundation for success in the complex modern world. But, adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. These difficulties can be markedly amplified by negative life events during childhood.

 

At-risk youth confront unique pressures that have been linked to poor psychosocial outcomes, impaired academic performance, and maladaptive behaviors such as substance use and delinquency. These risk factors may include language barriers, low SES, parents’ own involvement in high risk or illegal behavior, restrictive or neglectful parenting, and home environments that expose children to alcohol and substance abuse. Mindfulness training has been found to be helpful for adolescents and also to improve performance in school. So, it is possible that mindfulness training would be helpful for at-risk adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “A School-Based Mindfulness Pilot Study for Ethnically Diverse At-Risk Adolescents.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4809539/pdf/nihms652885.pdf, Bluth and colleagues recruited adolescents who were attending an alternative high school for troublesome and at-risk students. They were randomly assigned to receive either and 11-week class of mindfulness training or substance abuse training. The mindfulness training included body scan, sitting meditation, lovingkindness practice, walking meditation and mindful movement. The substance abuse training consisted of lectures designed to help adolescents address drug use and co-occurring life problems. The students were measured before and after the trainings for class attendance, retention, program acceptability, mindfulness, self-compassion, social connectedness, anxiety, depression, and perceived stress.

 

At the beginning of the mindfulness training there was considerable resistance and acting out. But, by the end of training the students responded that the class was helpful and wanted it to continue. They also found that the mindfulness training produced significant improvements in the students’ depression and anxiety levels. Mindfulness training has in the past been repeatedly shown to help relieve depression and anxiety. But, it is an important finding that it can do so in these difficult to treat at-risk adolescents. So, the study showed that mindfulness training was feasible and acceptable to these at-risk adolescents and produced improvements in their negative emotions.

 

The results are encouraging. These troubled youths are extremely difficult to work with and treat and that was reflected in the negative behaviors at the beginning of the class. But, by the end of the class the students found the mindfulness training useful and there were fairly large improvements in anxiety and depression. There were trends for other improvements and a larger future trial may be able to demonstrate other benefits of the mindfulness training. Although it was clear that mindfulness training is not a panacea for troubled youths, it can be helpful and provide space for them to destress and explore their inner lives.

 

So, improve emotions of ethnically diverse at-risk students with mindfulness.

 

“But a growing body of evidence suggests that mindfulness practice could be beneficial to teens, helping them cultivate empathy, as well as skills for concentration and impulse control. In short, mindfulness can help adolescents navigate the challenges of adolescence.” Sarah Beach

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Bluth, K., Campo, R. A., Pruteanu-Malinici, S., Reams, A., Mullarkey, M., & Broderick, P. C. (2016). A School-Based Mindfulness Pilot Study for Ethnically Diverse At-Risk Adolescents. Mindfulness, 7(1), 90–104. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-014-0376-1

 

Adolescence is a transitional period marked by rapid physical, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive developmental changes. In addition to these normative development changes, adolescents also face a multitude of contextual stressors such as academic pressures at school, changing relationships with peers, and all too often, unstable family life characterized by divorce, frequent moves, income and occupational changes, and disruptions in family routines. Up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms. Anxiety and depression during this stage can lead to impaired academic, social, and family functioning, and have long-term adverse outcomes.

Given the need to better understand both the implementation and potential benefit of mindfulness programs for at-risk youth, we conducted a randomized pilot study to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of such an intervention with ethnically diverse, primarily Hispanic youth enrolled in an alternative high school. We specifically examine intervention effects on psychosocial wellbeing and school performance relative to the control group, a class which focused on substance abuse prevention.

this study contributes to the literature by confirming the feasibility and acceptability of a mindfulness intervention with this population, and expands our knowledge on what works.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4809539/pdf/nihms652885.pdf

Improve Teachers’ Coping with Stress and Emotion Regulation with Mindfulness

Improve Teachers’ Coping with Stress and Emotion Regulation with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“For me, it’s important to be very familiar with the subject matter before I teach it. . . It’s the same with meditation. Before I began consciously bringing mindfulness into the classroom, I needed to feel like I knew what I was doing and had benefited from it.” – Elizabeth McAvoy

 

Teaching is a stressful profession causing many to burn out and leave the profession. A recent survey found that roughly half a million U.S. teachers move or leave the profession each year. That’s a turnover rate of about 20 percent compared to 9 percent in 2009. Indeed, anywhere from 40 and 50 percent of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years, with over nine percent leaving before the end of their first year.

 

The high stress of the occupation shows up in higher rates of anxiety disorders, but particularly in physical ailments, with higher rates of laryngitis, conjunctivitis, lower urinary tract infections, bronchitis, eczema/dermatitis and varicose veins in female teachers. There is a pressing need to retain good teachers. So, it has become very important to identify means to help relieve the stress and lower burnout rates.

 

Mindfulness has been shown repeatedly to decrease physiological and psychological responses to stress. Mindfulness has also been shown to help improve performance and relieve stress in students. In addition, mindfulness has been shown to decrease burnout in a variety of professions. So, it would seem reasonable to suspect that mindfulness training would help teachers to reduce stress, the consequent physical symptoms, and burnout.

 

In today’s Research News article “Teaching Mindfulness to Teachers: a Systematic Review and Narrative Synthesis.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605579/, Emerson and colleagues review the published research literature on the effects of mindfulness training on teachers of students from 5 to 18 years of age. They identified 12 published research studies employing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and variations on these programs.

 

They found that the research strongly suggests that mindfulness training significantly improves the ability of the teachers to cope with and regulate their emotions and suggests that it also significantly reduces the teachers’ physical and psychological responses to stress. Less clear cut was mindfulness effectiveness for reducing anxiety and depression and increasing self-efficacy, compassion, and self-compassion.

 

These are interesting and important findings that suggest that mindfulness training equips teachers to withstand the stresses of their profession and help them to keep control of their emotions. These may go a long way to preventing professional burnout. In addition, by reducing stress and improving emotion regulation mindfulness training should allow them to be better teachers. It is clear, however, that further research is needed to clarify any other benefits of mindfulness training.

 

So, improve teachers’ coping with stress and emotion regulation with mindfulness.

 

“Teachers who received mindfulness training “showed reduced psychological distress and time urgency . . . And then improvements in mindfulness and emotion regulation. Translation: These teachers were better able to cope with classroom challenges and manage their feelings, which made it easier for them to manage their students’ big feelings. And that helps students learn.” – Patricia Jennings,

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Emerson, L.-M., Leyland, A., Hudson, K., Rowse, G., Hanley, P., & Hugh-Jones, S. (2017). Teaching Mindfulness to Teachers: a Systematic Review and Narrative Synthesis. Mindfulness, 8(5), 1136–1149. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0691-4

 

Abstract

School teachers report high levels of stress which impact on their engagement with pupils and effectiveness as a teacher. Early intervention or prevention approaches may support teachers to develop positive coping and reduce the experience and impact of stress. This article reviews research on one such approach: mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for school teachers. A systematic review and narrative synthesis were conducted for quantitative and qualitative studies that report the effects of MBIs for teachers of children aged 5–18 years on symptoms of stress and emotion regulation and self-efficacy. Twelve independent publications were identified meeting the inclusion criteria and these gave a total of 13 samples. Quality appraisal of the identified articles was carried out. The effect sizes and proportion of significant findings are reported for relevant outcomes. The quality of the literature varied, with main strengths in reporting study details, and weaknesses including sample size considerations. A range of MBIs were employed across the literature, ranging in contact hours and aims. MBIs showed strongest promise for intermediary effects on teacher emotion regulation. The results of the review are discussed in the context of a model of teacher stress. Teacher social and emotional competence has implications for pupil wellbeing through teacher–pupil relationships and effective management of the classroom. The implications for practice and research are considered.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605579/

Decrease Stress and Improve Academic Performance with Mindfulness

Decrease Stress and Improve Academic Performance with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Those higher in mindfulness experienced less anxiety associated with high-pressure math tests, and this in turn was linked with improved performance.” – Matthew Brensilver

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school.

 

The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede performance. A better tactic may be the development of mindfulness skills with contemplative practices. These practices and high levels of mindfulness have been shown to be helpful in coping with the school environment and for the performance of both students and teachers. So, perhaps, mindfulness training may provide the needed edge in college academic performance.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Randomized Controlled Pilot Intervention Study of a Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) on Stress and Performance.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605596/, Sampl and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to either receive a 10-week Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) program or a wait-list control condition.  MBSLT was administered once a week for 2 hours. In addition to mindfulness training MBSLT trained students in self-goal setting, self-reward, self-observation, self-cueing and reminding, visualizing successful performances, self-talk, and evaluating beliefs and assumption. The participants were also given exercises to be practiced at home. All participants were measured before and after training for mindfulness, self-leadership, perceived stress, test anxiety, self-efficacy, semester grades, and Grade Point Average (GPA).

 

They found that at the conclusion of training the Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) group had significantly greater mindfulness, self-efficacy, and self-leadership and significantly lower levels of perceived stress and test anxiety. Importantly, the MBSLT group had significantly 24% higher grades at the end of the semester than the control group. Hence, mindfulness training improved the student’s mental health and academic performance.

These results are interesting and important and replicate prior research findings that mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety, including test anxiety and improves self-efficacy and academic performance. The present study supplemented mindfulness training with self-leadership training. Since there was not a mindfulness only or a self-leadership training only condition, it cannot be determined whether each component alone or in combination produced the benefits. In addition, they did not perform a mediation analysis to determine if the improvements in the students’ psychological condition was responsible for the improved academic performance.

 

Regardless, it is clear that the Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) training produced significant improvements in the students’ mental condition and academic performance. The magnitude of the increase in grades was striking and suggests that the mindfulness training may be important for college students to allow them to improve their psychological outlook and in turn reach their full academic potential.

 

So, decrease stress and improve academic performance with mindfulness.

 

“cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with widereaching consequences.” – Michael Mrazek

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Sampl, J., Maran, T., & Furtner, M. R. (2017). A Randomized Controlled Pilot Intervention Study of a Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) on Stress and Performance. Mindfulness, 8(5), 1393–1407. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0715-0

 

Abstract

The present randomized pilot intervention study examines the effects of a mindfulness-based self-leadership training (MBSLT) specifically developed for academic achievement situations. Both mindfulness and self-leadership have a strong self-regulatory focus and are helpful in terms of stress resilience and performance enhancements. Based on several theoretical points of contact and a specific interplay between mindfulness and self-leadership, the authors developed an innovative intervention program that improves mood as well as performance in a real academic setting. The intervention was conducted as a randomized controlled study over 10 weeks. The purpose was to analyze the effects on perceived stress, test anxiety, academic self-efficacy, and the performance of students by comparing an intervention and control group (n = 109). Findings demonstrated significant effects on mindfulness, self-leadership, academic self-efficacy, and academic performance improvements in the intervention group. Results showed that the intervention group reached significantly better grade point averages than the control group. Moreover, the MBSLT over time led to a reduction of test anxiety in the intervention group compared to the control group. Furthermore, while participants of the control group showed an increase in stress over time, participants of the intervention group maintained constant stress levels over time. The combination of mindfulness and self-leadership addressed both positive effects on moods and on objective academic performance. The effects demonstrate the great potential of combining mindfulness with self-leadership to develop a healthy self-regulatory way of attaining achievement-related goals and succeeding in high-stress academic environments.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605596/

Improve Adolescent Mental Health and School Performance with Yoga

Improve Adolescent Mental Health and School Performance with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“school-based yoga cultivates competencies in mind-body awareness, self-regulation, and physical fitness. And classroom teachers benefit as well. Taken together, these competencies may lead to improvements in students’ behavior, mental state, health, and performance, as well as teacher resilience, effectiveness and overall classroom climate.“ – Bethany Butzer

 

Yoga practice has been shown to have a large number of beneficial effects on the psychological, emotional, and physical health of the individual and is helpful in the treatment of mental and physical illness. The acceptance of yoga practice has spread from the home and yoga studios to its application with children in schools. Studies of these school programs have found that yoga practice produces a wide variety of positive psychosocial and physical benefits. These include improved mood state, self-control, aggression and social problems, self-regulation, emotion regulation, feelings of happiness and relaxation, self-esteem, social and physical well-being, self-concept, tolerance, nonviolence, truthfulness, overall, general, and social self-esteem, positive health, self-adjustment, and working-memory capacity, ability to focus, control behavior under stress, greater kinesthetic awareness, stress reduction and management, and social cohesion, focus, perseverance, and positive relationships. They have also shown that the yoga practice produces lower levels of anxiety, depression, general distress, physical arousal, and hostility, rumination, and intrusive thoughts, and alcohol use.

 

Teachers also note improvements in their students following yoga practice. These include improved classroom behavior and social–emotional skills, concentration, mood, ability to function under pressure, social skills, and attention and lower levels of. Hyperactivity and performance impairment. In addition, school records, academic tests, and physiological measures have shown that yoga practice produces improvements in student grades and academic performance, cortisol concentrations, micronutrient absorption, flexibility, grip strength, abdominal strength, respiratory muscle strength, heart rate variability, and stress reactivity.

 

Although yoga practice has been demonstrated to have great benefits for school children, the studies, in general, were carried out in schools in middle class areas. It is unknown whether yoga practice could have the same benefits with poor, inner city, children. In today’s Research News article “Effectiveness of a School-Based Yoga Program on Adolescent Mental Health and School Performance: Findings from a Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below). Frank and colleagues recruited 6th and 9th grade students from an inner city middle school and randomly assigned them to receive either yoga practice or no treatment. The yoga practice occurred for 30 minutes per day for 3 to 4 days per week in the Fall semester and included breathing exercises, yoga postures, and meditation. The students were measured before and after the semester for school engagement, attitudes toward violence, positive and negative emotions, responses to stress, and somatization. In addition, the students’ academic and behavioral records from the school were inspected.

 

They found that the yoga group, compared to the no treatment group, had significantly fewer unexcused absences, fewer detentions, and higher levels of school engagement, primary and secondary coping, emotion regulation, positive thinking, and cognitive restructuring with medium to large effect sizes. Hence the students who engaged in yoga practice during the semester had markedly improved school behavior, ability to cope with stress, and control emotions and thoughts.

 

These are remarkable results. Engagement in yoga practice in school had multiple and significant behavioral and psychological benefits for these middle school students. These results strongly suggest that a larger scale randomized controlled trial with an active control group, e.g. exercise, and longer-term follow-up, should be performed. These results are especially significant as they occurred with inner city, poor, students who are generally highly stressed. This is where the need is great. Yoga practice may be a tremendous asset to these students in coping with the demands of the school environment. This should translate in future years into superior performance and eventual success in school.

 

So, improve adolescent mental health and school performance with yoga.

 

“Aside from the physical benefits of yoga, yoga teaches teens techniques for coping with the unique issues they’re faced with everyday—insecurity about their changing bodies, the enormous pressure to fit in, stressful schedules, and uncertainty about their beliefs and their futures.” – Erica Rodefer

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Frank, J.L., Kohler, K., Peal, A., Bose, B. Effectiveness of a School-Based Yoga Program on Adolescent Mental Health and School Performance: Findings from a Randomized Controlled Trial. Mindfulness (2017) 8: 544. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0628-3

 

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a yoga-based social-emotional wellness promotion program, Transformative Life Skills (TLS), on indicators of adolescent emotional distress, prosocial behavior, and school functioning. Participants included 159 students attending an inner-city school district who were randomly assigned to treatment or business-as-usual comparison conditions. Results suggested that students who participated in the TLS program demonstrated significant reductions on unexcused absences, detentions, and increases in school engagement. Significant concurrent improvements in primary engagement stress-coping strategies and secondary engagement stress-coping strategies were noted as well. Specifically, significant increases in student emotion regulation, positive thinking, and cognitive restructuring in response to stress were found. No effects were found for measures of somatization, suspensions, academic grades, or general affect. Student report of treatment acceptability indicated that the intervention was generally well-received and strategies were perceived as socially valid by most participants. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Improve Perception, Mood, and Motor Performance in Children with Mindfulness

Image result for mindfulness school children

Improve Perception, Mood, and Motor Performance in Children with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is widely considered effective as a treatment for children and adolescents with aggression, ADHD, or anxiety.” – Lauren Cassani Davis

 

Childhood is a miraculous period during which the child is dynamically absorbing information from every aspect of its environment. This occurs almost without any intervention from the adults as the child appears to be programmed to learn. It is here that behaviors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are developed that shape the individual. But, what is absorbed depends on the environment. If it is replete with speech, the child will learn speech, if it is replete with trauma, the child will learn fear, if it is replete with academic skills the child will learn these, and if it is replete with interactions with others, the child will learn social skills.

 

Elementary school is an environment that has a huge effect on development. It is also an excellent time to teach children the skills to adaptively negotiate its environment. Mindfulness training in school, at all levels has been shown to have very positive effects. These include academic, cognitive, psychological, and social domains. Importantly, mindfulness training in school appears to improve the student’s self-concept. It also improves attentional ability and reduces stress, which are keys to successful learning in school. Since, what occurs in these early years and in school can have such a profound, long-term effect on the child it is important to further study the impact of mindfulness training on the emotions, behavior, and learning skills of grammar school children.

 

In today’s Research News article “Enhancing Visual Perception and Motor Accuracy among School Children through a Mindfulness and Compassion Program.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5323376/

Tarrasch and colleagues explore the ability of mindfulness and compassion training to improve learning relevant skills and emotions in 4th and 5th grade school children. They recruited three schools to participate and assigned classes to either receive mindfulness and compassion training or to a wait-list control condition. Training occurred in 24 weekly, 45-minute meetings, over 7 months. “The sessions were divided into three modes: receiving care, developing self-care and extending care.” They included meditation practice and Loving Kindness Meditation. The children were measured before and after the 7-month training period for visual-motor integration, including visual perception and motor accuracy, anxiety, and mindfulness.

 

They found that, in comparison to the wait-list condition, the mindfulness and compassion training produced significant increases in visual perception, motor accuracy, and mindfulness and decreases in anxiety levels. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the better the motor performance and the lower the anxiety levels. Hence, mindfulness and compassion training in elementary school produced tangible benefits for the children.

 

It should be noted that the wait-list control condition is a relatively weak control condition and these results need to be verified with a randomized controlled clinical trial including an active control condition. In addition, the mindfulness and compassion training was a complex program of many components and it cannot be concluded which ones or which combination of these components were responsible for the effects.

 

Nevertheless, these are exciting findings. Visual perception and motor accuracy have been shown to be predictive of better mathematical and reading ability, both essential to successful school performance. In addition, high anxiety levels have been shown to disrupt school performance, while high levels of mindfulness have been shown to improve school performance. Hence, all of the benefits produced by the mindfulness and compassion training are known to be associated with better achievement in school. Unfortunately, the study did not have a long-term follow-up to determine if improved school performance was a consequence of the benefits of mindfulness and compassion training.

 

So, improve perception, mood, and motor performance in children with mindfulness.

 

“I think that’s the reason that the students are latching on to this because when they’ve had a chance to stop, think, breathe and really kind of feel where they’re at, they know how much stress they’re under finally and now that they are aware of it, they can try to do something about it,” – Layne Millington

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Tarrasch, R., Margalit-Shalom, L., & Berger, R. (2017). Enhancing Visual Perception and Motor Accuracy among School Children through a Mindfulness and Compassion Program. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 281. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00281

 

Abstract

The present study assessed the effects of the mindfulness/compassion cultivating program: “Call to Care-Israel” on the performance in visual perception (VP) and motor accuracy, as well as on anxiety levels and self-reported mindfulness among 4th and 5th grade students. One hundred and thirty-eight children participated in the program for 24 weekly sessions, while 78 children served as controls. Repeated measures ANOVA’s yielded significant interactions between time of measurement and group for VP, motor accuracy, reported mindfulness, and anxiety. Post hoc tests revealed significant improvements in the four aforementioned measures in the experimental group only. In addition, significant correlations were obtained between the improvement in motor accuracy and the reduction in anxiety and the increase in mindfulness. Since VP and motor accuracy are basic skills associated with quantifiable academic characteristics, such as reading and mathematical abilities, the results may suggest that mindfulness practice has the ability to improve academic achievements.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5323376/