Secondary school students taking part in a mindfulness programme report reduced indications of depression, anxiety, and stress up to six months later. They are also less likely to develop pronounced depression-like symptoms, suggests a study of 400 students aged between thirteen and twenty by Professor Filip Raes (Faculty of psychology and educational sciences, KU Leuven), The study is thought to be the first to examine mindfulness in a large sample of adolescents in a school-based setting, using a randomised controlled design.
In addition to the .b programme run through the MiSP, there are many mindfulness initiatives being rolled out for young people within education, including in a number of states in the US under the Association for Mindfulness in Education (AME) initiative.
Benefits include improved wellbeing, calmness, relaxation, improved sleep, less reactivity, increased self care, self-awareness, and a sense of connection with nature, according to a study of an MBSR and Tai Chi
programme for eleven to thirteen year olds in the US included (Wall, 2005).
Mindfulness can be easily incorporated within social and emotional learning (SEL) programmes. Katherine Weare, Emeritus professor at the Universities of Exeter and Southampton, suggests the two share goals and to some extent techniques. SEL programmes generally attempt to develop students' social and emotional skills, attitudes and capacities, including self-awareness, the ability to manage the emotions, optimism, persistence and resilience, empathy, and the ability to make relationships, all of which are also goals for mindfulness, through providing a spiral curriculum of explicit learning opportunities (Weare, 2012).
The mental toughness framework and mindfulness
Mindfulness supports the development of the four mental toughness (MT) components, particularly control, challenge, and commitment.
Marchant says, “If there is one factor that underpins people´s ability to perform at their best, it's their ability to focus and control their focus of attention effectively” (Marchant, 2012, p. 247). He also highlights estimates that in the UK the average attention span of young people dropped to seven to eight minutes at the start of the twenty-first century, compared to ten to twelve two decades earlier.
Practising mindfulness helps young people improve their attentional control. One study (Semple, Lee, Dinelia & Miller, 2010) found nine to thirteen year old children who were struggling academically who took part in a twelve-week MBCT-based programme enjoyed significant improvements on measures of attention, as well as reductions in anxiety and behaviour problems compared to non-participants.
Another study (Schonert-Reichl & Hymel, 2007) reviewed the MindUP programme developed by the Hawn Foundation, which fosters the development of wellbeing traits using social, emotional, attentional, and self-regulation strategies, including mindfulness exercises. Teachers noticed improvements in nine to thirteen year olds behaviour, attention, and focus.
Adolescents with attention and/or behaviour control deficits also reap benefits from mindfulness, including significant increases in personal goals, sustained attention, happiness, and mindful awareness (Bögels, Hoogstad, van Dun, de Schutter & Restifo, 2008) and
improvements on tasks measuring attention and cognitive inhibition, and in externally observed and self reported anxiety and depressive symptoms (Zylowska, 2008).