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Is There Evidence to Indicate Meditation Should be Taught in Schools?

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Are the effects of meditation the same on children as adults?

There’s no doubting the emotional and psychological benefits that meditation has on people – study after study have proven it.

However, a majority of the studies and research that has been done to support this has all been done on adults and not on children.

Does meditation have the same effects on children as it does adults and do children see a major increase in their cognitive abilities and ability to concentrate.

It’s a fascinating debate – read on to learn more!

New research in the fields of psychology, education and neuroscience shows teaching meditation in schools is having positive effects on students’ well-being, social skills and academic skills.

recent meta-review of the impact of meditation in schools combined the results from 15 studies and almost 1800 students from Australia, Canada, India, the UK, the US and Taiwan. The research showed meditation is beneficial in most cases and led to three broad outcomes for students: higher well-being, better social skills and greater academic skills.

Students who were taught meditation at school reported higher optimism, more positive emotions, stronger self-identity, greater self-acceptance and took better care of their health as well as experiencing reduced anxiety, stress and depression. This was compared to before the meditation programs and compared to peers who were not taught meditation.

The review also showed that meditation helps the social life of students by leading to increases in pro-social behaviour (like helping others) and decreases in anti-social behaviour (like anger and disobedience).

How meditation is taught

“Mindfulness” meditation is one of the more popular practices being taught at schools. It involves a three-step mental process where students are asked to:

  1. focus their attention on a particular target (for example their own breathing, a sound, a sensation);
  2. notice when their attention has wondered away from the target;
  3. bring their attention back to the target.

Students are asked to do this without being judgemental and with a curiosity that allows them to identify patterns in their thoughts and feelings.

Examples of mindfulness techniques include teachers striking a music triangle or bell and asking students to pay attention for the exact moment where the sound turns into silence.

What the detractors say about teaching meditation

While meditation is an age-old practice, the scientific journey into the effect of meditation education is only just beginning. Detractors argue that it should not be introduced in schools until the long-term value is better known. Given the newness of the field, it is certainly true that the longitudinal research is yet to come.

However, meditation has three decades of scientific research on its side. Adult samples show long-term benefits on well-being and brain functioning.

Some are concerned with how to fit meditation into an already over-crowded curriculum. However, the positive evidence of meditation has led large numbers of teachers to find time for meditation in school. The combined data from MeditationCapsules and Smiling Minds, two Australian organisations that provide mindfulness training to schools, show that more than 7500 teachers are using mindfulness.

Check out the entire article by Lea Waters at The Conversation.com

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