Mindfulness Training Reduces Stress and Amygdala Reactivity to Fearful Faces in Middle School Children Clemens CC Bauer et al. (2019) Behavioral Neuroscience, 1-18
The authors report on a randomized controlled trial of 40 sixth grade students in a predominantly low-income urban environment in which they examined the effects of a school-based mindfulness intervention (Calmer Choice) on students’ emotional reactivity to fearful stimuli using functional imaging of brain changes. This sample was part of larger sample that also included measures of perceived stress and positive and negative affect. Students assigned to participate in the mindfulness intervention received eight weeks of daily mindfulness instruction for a total of 24 hours of instruction while the active control group of students received training in a computer coding curriculum designed to teach creative thinking, reason and collaboration for a similar duration. Students assigned to the mindfulness intervention condition showed a significant reduction in perceived stress and but no difference in the affect measures when compared to the active controls. Since right amygdala changes were found to be associated with greater fear responses, investigators also assessed brain changes in this area. Significantly lower amygdala activation was found for the mindfulness trained group in comparison to the controls. These students also showed significantly increased functional connectivity between brain regions (amygdala-ventromedial prefrontal cortex) associated with emotional regulation than the control group. These findings suggest the potential value of mindfulness interventions for alleviating stress, as reflected in both the subjective report and objective measures.
Mindfulness Training in UK Secondary Schools: a Multiple Case Study Approach to Identification of Cornerstones of Implementation Stephanie Wilde, Anna Sonley, Catherine Crane, Anam Raja, James Robson, Laura Taylor, Willem KuykenMindfulness (2019), 10:376
This article explores the barriers and facilitating factors present as schools have embarked on implementing mindfulness into the school culture using a qualitative case study design. The authors sampled seven schools that were at various stages and progress in their efforts. All the schools had utilized the Mindfulness in School .B program or variation of it. They interviewed teachers, school leaders and staff as well as held focus groups to gain the range of perspectives. Not surprisingly, the authors report that the long-term success of the initiative across all the schools resulted from four major themes: people, resources, time and perceptions. The article provides many interesting comments to illustrate how these themes influenced successful implementation.
Critical seemed to be the availability of a person (s) who initially and continually championed the effort within the school as well as at least one another support person from staff leadership. Commitment of time for staff training as well as for embedding it into the curriculum was also a crucial factor. The importance of involving teachers in the process was believed to be essential and staff turnover was a significant barrier. Maintaining enthusiasm over time was recognized as a long-term challenge. Implementation was most successful when staff shared similar perceptions of what constitutes “mindfulness,” and its value for students. There was the recognition that the process of transformation of a mindfulness culture in a school takes a long time, with several stops and starts along the way. The authors indicated that these findings support what is known about the broader implementation efforts of programmatic mental health promotion in schools and mindfulness in healthcare settings.
School-based mindfulness intervention supports adolescent resiliency: A randomized controlled pilot study
Felver, Joshua C. et al.
International Journal of School and Educational Psychology, 2018, 159, 1-12.
The study examined how Grades 9-12 students responded to the 8-week Learning to Breathe (L2B) curriculum in an ethnically diverse school with the following a priori hypotheses: 1) students would show improvements in psychosocial resiliency; 2) demonstrate reductions in problem behaviors; and 3) have increased attendance and grades as a result of participating in the intervention. Because L2B is designed to be a universal prevention program and is easily integrated into secondary settings at the classroom level, it may have great utility for increasing students’ capacity to withstand the high levels of stress typically experienced during this developmental period. Forty students from two health classes were invited to participate. Of those 40, 29 students consented; however, due to sample attrition, only 11 students remained in the treatment and control conditions. Even though a pre-post, controlled randomized trial design was used, the small size and volunteer nature of the sample, indicates that we hold any study findings lightly. Significant differences between the intervention and control group post intervention occurred for the resilience measure only. Interestingly, resilience scores did not change over time in the treatment group, but the control group’s resilience scores lowered post intervention, suggesting that protective-stabilizing factors are enhanced by L2B exposure during the adolescent period.
This study adds to the growing literature on how school-based mindfulness programs may afford high school level students key solutions for maintaining their well-being.
Developing Mindful Schools: Enhancing Resilience in Early Adolescence
With a grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, MC4ME provided and evaluated the delivery of a comprehensive mindfulness training (MT) program to educators and staff at a middle school in the larger Detroit Area. The MT program consisted of group based sessions for teachers held primarily after school for 2 hours weekly over an 8 week period, followed by MT to students during several of the teacher’s classrooms for another 8 weeks. The teacher MT used an adapted evidence based Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction Program (MBSR). The classroom MT used the Learning to Breathe (L2B) curriculum of push-in lessons twice a week for 9 weeks. MT was offered by MC4ME mindfulness instructors.
Participating teachers in the weekly MT included a cross-section of 6th, 7th and 8th grade as well as counseling staff. Students in fifteen 7th and 8th grade English classes subsequently participated in the 9-week classroom-based L2B mindfulness curriculum. Pre-post standardized questionnaires were administered to staff and students, along with open-ended surveys to assess teacher and student perceptions. The study was approved through the Institutional Review Board William Beaumont School of Medicine Oakland University.
Teachers reported that the program greatly benefited them personally and professionally. MT significantly increased teacher’s level of mindfulness, self-regulation of mental states, positive affect, and self-compassion as well as decreased their negative mood and perceived level of stress. Prior to MT, teachers on average scored at high risk for clinical depression. Upon post training, these scores worsened despite the overall positive impact of the program they experienced.
Classroom teachers agreed that learning mindfulness prior to seeing it practiced in the classroom setting greatly assisted their understanding of how to engage mindfulness in their students. While the teachers found the push-in L2B lessons somewhat disruptive to their teaching schedule, this was not true for the students. During MT, students were highly attentive: 70% reported that they often or always practiced mindfulness during the formal lessons, and only 13 percent indicated non-adherence.
When students were asked how satisfied they felt with learning mindfulness, 35% reported they were highly satisfied, 25% somewhat satisfied and 40% indicated they were not satisfied with it. Slightly over 40% of students offered concrete examples of how they applied mindfulness at home or at school a week after the training had been completed. The examples revealed a reliance on and success with using a breathing practice for emotional self-regulation of stress during a variety of contexts, e.g., studying, test-taking, arguments with parents, disappointments, etc.
Post MT, teachers agreed that they observed substantial changes in their classrooms. Statistical analyses on pre-post student measures concur with this observation. MT had a significant positive impact on students’ capacity for mindful attention, regulation of distressing moods and abatement of anxiety and stress. The effectiveness of MT on modulating students’ emotional regulation and anxiety and increasing mindfulness overall, suggests that students learned and benefited from mindful practices, even though they may have felt some dissatisfaction in learning the practices in the classroom.
These findings suggest that intensive MT has a significant beneficial impact on both middle school teachers’ and students’ emotional life. Future exploration is needed to assess ways to pragmatically offer MT to all teachers in a school year, and provide opportunities for ongoing coaching and practice in implementing mindfulness activities in the classroom.
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A Randomized Trial Evaluating School-Based Mindfulness Intervention for Ethnic Minority Youth: Exploring Mediators and Moderators of Intervention Effects.
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. April 2018, published online. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-018-0425-7
Fung, J., Kim, J. J., Jin, J., Chen, G., Bear, L., & Lau, A. S.
This randomized wait-list control study examined the impact of the Learn to Breathe mindfulness training curriculum on mental health and emotional outcomes in a sample of 145 Asian and Latino ninth-grade students attending an an urban school district serving primarily low income families. Pre-post assessments included self-reports on standardized instruments measuring stress, youth behavior problems, and emotional regulation and coping strategies at three time points, pre-intervention, post intervention and 3 months follow-up. Findings showed significant immediate improvements due to this curriculum on internalizing problems, perceived stress and rumination as well as strategies related to cognitive reappraisal, emotional processing and expression. Furthermore, youth showed improvement on all measures with comparison across time, though smallest effect sizes occurred for attention problems. Meditational analyses that were conducted suggested that improvements in youth’s internalizing problems and stress occurred due to the reduction in expressive suppression and rumination. Mindfulness training appears to facilitate youth’s capacity to engage in healthier patterns of relating to one's’ emotions and experience, and hence, greater emotional regulation and well-being. This study is important in that it is one of the few empirical studies to identify specific factors through which mindfulness training affects emotional well-being in youth.
Do we have the recipe right yet? A randomized controlled evaluation of a secondary school mindfulness program for early adolescents
Behavior Research and Therapy, 99, 37-46.
Johnson, C., Burke, C., Brinkman, S., and Wade, T. (2017).
Johnson et al aimed to provide a rigorous evaluation of the mindfulness curriculum called .b
(“Dot Be”) in early adolescence. A randomized controlled design was used with 555 students assigned to one of three conditions: 1) control (no curriculum); 2) 9 week in-class .b curriculum with teacher involvement; and 3) 9 week in-class .b curriculum with teacher and parent involvement. The measures included anxiety, depression, weight/shape concerns, well-being and a multi-dimensional mindfulness measure consisting of 8 factors. The students’ average age was 13.44 years. Results were measured post-intervention at 6 and 12 month follow up. No interactions were found between the 3 groups. Only one main effect occurred --students in the two mindfulness conditions had lower scores on one measured mindfulness factor: Acting with Awareness. The researchers explored what might have led to the null findings, such as low distress scores prior to the curriculum introduction. Particular study limitations included low parental involvement in the 3rd condition and limited compliance with home practice in both tested curriculum conditions. While the results from this rigorous study suggest a lack of efficacy for use of .b with this age group, it warrants further replication with a US sample and with students at a later stage of adolescence.
Yoga in Schools: A Research Review
Sat Bir S. Khalsa and Bethany Butzer
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373 (2016), 45-55
These authors are timely in highlighting yoga's potential for developing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills as mental health concerns are so pervasive. The authors suggest that yoga may have significant benefit for three key areas: 1) mind-body awareness, 2) self-regulation and 3) physical fitness. Forty-seven peer-reviewed studies published from 2000 on the use of school-based yoga programs in elementary school settings are included in this bibliometric analysis. Of these, 57% included a randomized control study design. Overall, findings were generally positive and varied. Significant changes in students' emotional balance, attentional control, cognitive efficiency and memory were reported. Two of the three studies that included yoga for teacher support purposes found positive effects on measures associated with well-being. The authors conclude that the published evidence to date suggest that school-based yoga interventions hold promise for enhancing students mental state, health, performance, and positive behaviors.