Mindfulness Lessons in School Can Limit Kids’ Stress and Trauma

Posted 02/17/2016 | By HealthCorps

A new study suggests that middle-school students in urban settings may benefit from mindfulness lessons. So many children in the U.S. are exposed to stressors and trauma due to the surrounding environment of community illicit drug use, violence, multigenerational poverty, education limits and poor economic opportunities. They need accessible resources to handle these issues and based on this new study, mindfulness training may be one solution.

A recent blog discussed a UK program that was using mindfulness lessons to help kids to focus and its results were promising. This new study involved 300 students in grades two through five at two public schools in Baltimore. Half the kids were randomly assigned to a twelve week mindfulness-based stress reduction program while the other half took health classes during the regular school curriculum. Almost all the participants were black and most were eligible for the free school lunch program, suggesting financial need.

The twelve week mindfulness program had three specific components: education about meditation, yoga and mind-body connection; the actual practicing of these three techniques; and group discussion.

One distinction about mindfulness training is that it actually asks the individual to tune in to realities rather than tune them out, as do other forms of meditation. With mindfulness training the individual is asked to stop, take some deep breaths, and then figure out how they want to respond to the stressor or trauma in real time.

At the end of the twelve week study, students in the mindfulness program had lower levels of depression, fewer general health issues, fewer recurrent negative thoughts about challenging experiences, and lower levels of other markers of stress and trauma, compared to the group that took school-time health classes. The researchers could only postulate that this type of mindfulness program would work well in other similar schools, though all schools have differences in their student body populations. The study does not suggest that we stop trying to reduce sources of trauma and anxiety. However, a high-quality mindfulness program that is structured, has the potential to improve students’ lives, and has long term applications that they can use throughout life.

The HealthCorps curriculum emphasizes skills for a healthy mind and skills for a healthy you. Based on a 2014 American Psychological Association’s 2014 survey, which found that high school students say they have stress levels that top those of adults, HealthCorps recognizes that “now, more than ever, young Americans need grit as well as physical and mental strength in an ever-challenging world.

HealthCorps shows young people that the everyday choices they make about what they put in their mouths, how much they move, and how positively they think and persevere, impacts how independent a life they will live. HealthCorps doesn’t bombard teenagers with facts about nutrition and exercise. Through the inspiring delivery of young mentors, HealthCorps teaches teens that they are accountable for their future through their simple thoughts and actions, and that they can set the course of their future now.”

Read more about the research behind HealthCorps’ curriculum and how the Living Labs and HCU (HealthCorps University) is shaping a healthier generation of teens.

Source: School- Based Mindfulness

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