Thanks in great part to research done by organizations like Mindful Schools, there is evidence suggesting ways that mindfulness helps shape a child's brain in positive ways. It helps them learn now, and live better and healthier lives later on.
Research findings include:
- Teachers who practice mindfulness suffer less burnout.* They demonstrate greater efficacy and have more engaged and mutually-supportive students.
- Students who practice mindfulness have improved cognitive, social and emotional outcomes from their classroom experience, and they report overall improved well-being.*
- Areas of the brain related to learning and memory, like the amygdala and the hippocampus, are also involved in regulating strong emotions like fear and anger.* Mindfulness practice has been shown in some studies to show evidence of changes of changes related to neuroplasticity in these areas.
- Following mindfulness practice, the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain important for regulating emotions and making decisions) has shown changes, including greater connectivity.*
Thriving Versus Getting By
Some may consider mindfulness to be a luxury. We disagree. There is mounting evidence that suggests that when we are more mindful, we are likely to suffer fewer mental health issues related to stress, we can experience an increase in inner peace, and we are more likely to practice compassion toward others. In a world where our kids are constantly bombarded with images and messages that are often designed to create anxiety and motivate unhealthy behaviors, mindfulness practices can help them develop discernment and, in doing so, contribute to making healthy choices.
Mindfulness as a Coping Mechanism
Without mindfulness practice, stress can often lead children to:
- Feel overwhelmed, like life is just too much for them to handle;
- Become compulsively busy to avoid dealing with stressful issues;
- Ruminate over the same stressful thoughts, creating anxiety;
- Dissociate from their own emotions when they do not know how to cope;
- Lose empathy for others and focus on soothing their own egos as a coping mechanism.
When children, and adults for that matter, practice mindfulness, they increase their chances to:
- Understand what is causing feelings of overwhelm or other difficult emotions, understand that they are only temporary, and respond to them in a constructive manner;
- Focus on the moment they are in rather than ruminating on past behavior or "what-if" scenarios;
- Connect to their own emotions, recognize feelings, and develop resilience;
- Develop and practice compassion for others, and become able to recognize the impact of their own behavior on others.
Value-Based Independent Education
Mindfulness practice is in complete alignment with our value-based curriculum at Mizzentop Day School. Everything we teach from math to the arts include elements of mindfulness. Cultivation of self-awareness, emotional maturity, and compassion for others are cornerstones of our value system. We don't think it is enough to prepare students for academic success. Our goal is to give them a solid foundation for success, no matter what life may bring.
Davidson, R.J. 2004. Well-being and affective style: Neural substrates and biobehavioural correlates. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 359:1395-1411.
Goleman, D., Davidson, R.J. 2017. Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, Penguin Random House.
Holzel, B.K., U. Ott, T. Gard, H. Hempel, M. Weygandt, K. Morgen, and D. Vaitl. 2008. Investigation of mindfulness meditation practitioners with voxel-based morphometry. Social Cognitive and affective Neuroscience 3:55-61.
Lazar, S., C. Kerr, R. Wasserman, J. Gray, D. Greve, M. Tradeway, M. McGarvey, B. Quinn, J. Dusek, H. Benson, S. Rauch, C. Moore, and B. Fischl. 2005. Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport 16:1893-1897.
Luders, E., A. W. Toga, N. Lepore, and C. Gaser. 2009. The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. Neuroimage 45:672-678.
Lutz, A., L. Greisch, N. Ralings, M. Ricard, and R. Davidson. 2004. Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. Proceedings of the National academy of Science 101:16369-16373.
Singleton. O. et al. Changes in Brainstem Gray Matter Concentration Following a Mindfulness-Based Intervention is Correlated with Improvement in Psychological Well-Being. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, February 18, 2014.