Students taking a mindfulness-based stress reduction program during
the school day ended up with less symptoms of stress and trauma than
children attending classes on health topics, researchers found.
"High-quality structured mindfulness programs have the potential to
really improve students' lives in ways that I think can be really
meaningful over the life course," said lead author Dr. Erica Sibinga
of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Children in many U.S. cities are at an increased risk of stresses
and traumas due to the effects of community drug use, violence,
multigenerational poverty, limited education and economic
opportunities, Sibinga and her colleagues write in the journal
The new study involved 300 students in grades five through eight at
two Baltimore public schools. The researchers randomly assigned them
to either a 12-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program or
health classes to take during the school day.
Nearly all of the participants were black and almost all were
eligible for the free school lunch program, which is offered to
students with financially need.
The mindfulness program had three components: material about
meditation, yoga and the mind-body connection; practice of those
techniques; and group discussion.
In general, mindfulness training is geared toward a person "tuning
in" - instead of "tuning out" like other meditation practices.
"It allows them to not only know what is happening, but to stop and
take three breaths and figure out how they want to respond to what
is happening the present moment," Sibinga told Reuters Health.
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At the end of the program, compared to those who took health classes
for the 12 weeks, the students in the mindfulness program had lower
levels of general health problems, depression, recurrent thoughts
about negative experiences and other symptoms of stress and trauma.
Sibinga said the differences would be enough for the students to
notice in their day-to-day lives.
The researchers acknowledge some limitations to the research, like
children missing some classes and possibly being exposed to
mindfulness practices outside the sessions.
Sibinga also said it would be difficult to say how the programs
would work in other schools with different student populations, but
she suspects there would be benefits.
The next step is to look at how to spread the program to other
schools, and look at how the program may work, she said.
"It doesn’t get us off the hook of trying to reduce the sources of
trauma in our urban life," she said. But the study suggests adding
structured mindfulness programs in urban settings would be
beneficial, she added.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1k78lj3 Pediatrics, online December 18, 2015.
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