What is Mindfulness and what does the research show? How can this make a difference to the mental health of the pupils in your schools and community of clinics who are struggling with their mental health?
Mindfulness has amazing health and wellbeing benefits
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us, it’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,” he says.
An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience, this means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment, which might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
“Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment, it’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”
We know from the work we did in Slough secondary schools that young people who were struggling with low mood ,anxiety and self harm improved over the course of the Mindfulness projects . In a later assessment many of the young people who took part continued to experience the benefits of learning Mindfulness .
Since MiSP was formed in 2007, a number of studies have been conducted on the effects of its programmes on pupils and teachers. Most of these studies are small and do not have long term follow-ups, but they indicate that the programmes are acceptable and that they have potential to improve psychological wellbeing and attention.
Studies have measured changes using self-reported scores on questionnaires, computer-based attention tests, and neurological tests, and have compared the results to “control groups” who complete the tests at the same times but do not taken part in the courses. Some indicate that regular practice may be related to benefits, although this relies on self-report.
The current MYRIAD study will answer many questions about the effects on .b on adolescents’ psychological, neurological, behavioural and academic outcomes. A number of studies have already been published and are listed below, and there are many smaller and larger studies happening at the moment. This includes PhD’s on the effects of .b on adolescents at Coventry and Leeds Universities in the UK and Finders University in Australia, and Educational Psychology Doctorates at Queen’s University Belfast, Cardiff University, and Bristol University.
There are psychology education, and mindfulness undergraduate and masters research studies ongoing in the UK and internationally, and a number of HeadStart (a Lottery fund), Education Authority, and Public Health funded projects in the UK and continental Europe.
We are interested in high quality research into our programmes, and if you would like to approach us about this, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published Papers on Mindfulness in Schools Project Programmes:
Willem Kuyken et al (2013) reported that adolescents who completed .b had significantly lower depressive symptoms and stress, and greater wellbeing. You can read the British Journal of Psychiatry paper here
Other studies include Felicia Huppert and Daniel Johnson’s 2008 pilot study, which was published in Positive Psychology. It indicated that the earliest four lesson version of .b was acceptable to adolescents, and that practice time was related to benefits. You can read the paper here:
MiSP co-founder Richard Burnett’s paper on how mindfulness might fit into schools was published in The Buddhist Studies Review in 2011. You can read it here
MiSP Research Advisor Sarah Hennelly’s masters project on .b indicated that an eight lesson version was associated with improvements in mindfulness, resilience, and wellbeing, and that these benefits were sustained six months later. Interviews with pupils suggested that some felt more confident and academically competent. You can read the study here
Two Educational Psychology Doctoral projects have been completed, they indicated improvements in performance, attention, mood, and relationships.
The most recent paper, by Kevanne Sanger and Dusana Dorjee at Bangor University, reported that 17 to 18 year old pupils experienced less mind wandering and hypercritical self-beliefs, and were more able to control their attention (measured using event related potentials, ERP) when they took part in a computerised distraction test. This study is part of Kevanne’s PhD, you can read the Trends in Neuroscience and Education paper here
Shadi Beshai, Lindi McAlpine, Katherine Weare and Willem Kuyken have just published their findings on the effects of .b Foundations on school teachers. This study reported reduced stress and self-judgement, and improved wellbeing, mindfulness, and self-kindness. This study was part of Lindi’s Master’s in MBCT at Exeter University.
Mindfulness not only has the evidence to back it up as a tool to help improve mental health and wellbeing but is also a cost effective way of creating interventions that help young people.
Want to know how you can improve the mental health and wellbeing of your students utilising a range of tried and tested approaches (whole school and individual) then please email me so we can arrange a free 20 min consultation to see how we might work together .