Qualitative exploration of a targeted school‐based mindfulness course in England

McGeechan, G. J. et al. | Qualitative exploration of a targeted school‐based mindfulness course in England | Child and Adolescent Mental Health | published 27 June 2018

Abstract

Background

Mindfulness‐based training has been shown to provide benefits for adults with numerous conditions such as cancer, chronic pain, and depression. However, less is known about its impact for young people. Early adolescence (typically 10–14 years) is a time fraught with challenges such as cognitive changes, social, and academic pressures in the form of exams, all of which can provoke anxiety. While there is a lack of effectiveness studies, there is growing interest in the potential for school‐based mindfulness programmes to help young people cope with the pressures of modern life.

Methods

This study outlines a qualitative exploration of a school‐based targeted mindfulness course. We interviewed 16 young people who had taken part in a 10‐week mindfulness course, and held a focus group with three members of teaching staff who delivered the programme. Interviews and focus groups were analysed using applied thematic analysis.

Results

While young people felt that they had to take part, once they started the programme they enjoyed it. Young people felt that they learned a range of coping skills, and it had a positive impact on their behaviour. However, the targeted approach of the intervention could lead to young people being stigmatised by their peers. Teaching staff could see the potential benefit of mindfulness courses in schools but felt there were some barriers to be overcome if it were to be implemented in the long term.

Conclusions

Young people were willing to engage in mindful practice and felt it better equipped them to deal with stressful situations.

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School based yoga and mindfulness can help children better manage stress and anxiety

The introduction of a mindfulness and yoga programme with child-friendly poses in an US public school yielded improvement in emotional and psychosocial quality of life for the pupils who participated in this intervention. Researchers worked with a school New Orleans to add mindfulness and yoga to the school’s programming for students needing additional support.  Pupils who were screened for symptoms of anxiety previously were randomly assigned to two groups. The school children participated in the small group activities at the beginning of the school day, these sessions included breathing exercises, guided relaxation and several traditional yoga poses. A control group (n= 32 students) received care as usual, which included counselling and other activities led by a school social worker.  Researchers evaluated each group’s health related quality of life before and after the intervention, using two widely recognized research tools, this included one specifically designed for children, the Paediatric Quality of Life Inventory  (via Science Daily).

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Principal author of the study  Alessandra Bazzano said : “The intervention improved psychosocial and emotional quality of life scores for students, as compared to their peers who received standard care.”

The full news release from Science Daily can be read here

Abstract

Objective: To assess the impact of a yoga curriculum in an elementary school on student quality of life, and to assess teacher and staff perception of potential barriers to, and benefits of, introducing yoga and mindfulness into the classroom.

Methods: A randomized controlled trial was utilized to assess the impact of a brief intervention on third-grade students who screened positive for symptoms of anxiety. Students were randomized to an intervention group of 20 students receiving small-group yoga/mindfulness activities for 8 weeks between October 2016 and February 2017, and a control group of 32 students receiving care as usual. The Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale-Peabody Treatment Progress Battery and the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) served as outcomes. Teachers were invited to participate in two professional development sessions about introducing yoga and mindfulness into the classroom, and completed a survey following each of the sessions.

Results: In generalized estimating equation models adjusted for time, the yoga-based intervention was associated with a 14.17 unit increase in student emotional PedsQL (p-value 0.001) and a 7.43 unit increase in psychosocial PedsQL (p-value 0.01). Results were not attenuated by adjustment. Teachers and staff reported using yoga more frequently in the classroom following the second of two professional development sessions (p-value less than 0.05). Perceived barriers to introducing yoga to the classroom were similar at two data collection time points, while perceived benefits remained high.

Conclusion:
The intervention was associated with a significant improvement in emotional and psychosocial quality of life in the intervention group when compared to the control group, suggesting that yoga/mindfulness interventions may improve symptoms of anxiety among students. Yoga/mindfulness activities may facilitate stress management among elementary school students and may be added as a complement to social and emotional learning activities.

The paper is published in  Psychology Research and Behavior Management where it can be downloaded

School-based mindfulness programs

Perhaps teenagers are too cynical to benefit from mindfulness, say authors of latest school trial

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In the UK, more and more children are learning mindfulness at school. The Mindfulness in Schools project claims that over 4000 of our teachers are now trained in the practice. However, some experts are concerned that the roll-out of mindfulness has raced ahead of the evidence base, which paints a mixed picture.

A research team led by Catherine Johnson at Flinders University has now reported in Behaviour Research and Therapy the results of their latest school trial, which included new features in the mindfulness intervention, such as parental involvement and better designed homework materials, intended to maximise the programme’s effectiveness. However, once again the mindfulness programme led to no observable benefits.

Full story via The British Psychological Society

Link to Journal abstract: Johnson, C et al.  A randomized controlled evaluation of a secondary school mindfulness program for early adolescents: Do we have the recipe right yet?  Behaviour Research and Therapy | Volume 99, December 2017 |  Pages 37-46

Mindfulness in schools: what next?

Mindfulness holds great promise, but can it really improve children’s thinking and wellbeing? And if so, does that help children to behave well in class and do better in school? | by Jennifer Hanratty for The Mental Elf Blog

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Maynard and colleagues (2017) carefully reviewed the evidence for MBIs for children in schools. They did a very thorough search of databases, relevant websites and conference records and contacted experts. They found 65 relevant studies of MBIs. Out of all the evidence found, 44 studies were well designed; in that the researchers assigned children or whole classes to either get MBI or not. Those who didn’t get MBI were put on a waiting list or just continued with their normal school activities. This means that the two groups (“got MBI”, “didn’t get MBI”) can be compared to see what effect MBIs have independent of any changes that would happen anyway without MBI. This is especially important for children because they will naturally develop thinking skills and social skills as they get older and also learn and practice these skills at school.

The author’s conclusions are slightly different to my own. They conclude that:

There is some indication that MBIs can improve cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes, but no support for improvement in behavior or academic achievement.

My interpretation of the evidence presented is that, as the authors say, there is a small effect of MBIs on helping children to feel good and improve their thinking skills. However, based on the forest plots it seems, to me at least, that there may well be a small positive effect on behaviour and academics too, but these results were not statistically significant and studies were of low quality. Without more and better quality studies we can’t say for sure whether or not MBIs might help children behave better or do better in school tests.

Mindfulness facets and problematic Internet use

The aim of this study was to study the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between mindfulness facets and problematic Internet use in adolescents | Addictive Behaviors

Highlights: 

  • Acting with awareness and non-judging are the dimensions of mindfulness that are most closely associated with all PIU components.
  • Non-judging is the only dimension of mindfulness that predicts a decrease in the preference for online social interactions over face-to-face relationships.
  • Conclusions are supported by the use of a longitudinal design.

Findings indicated that non-judging is the only dimension of mindfulness that predicts a decrease in preference for online social interactions over face-to-face relationships. Moreover, non-judging indirectly predicted reductions in the rest of the problematic Internet use components. The observing and acting with awareness dimensions of mindfulness directly predicted less deficient self-regulation of Internet use and indirectly predicted less negative outcomes through their impact on deficient self-regulation. Thus, these dimensions seem to act when the maladaptive use of the Internet is consolidated.

Full reference: Calvete, E. et al. (2017) Mindfulness facets and problematic Internet use: A six-month longitudinal study. Addictive Behaviors. Vol. 72 (September) pp. 57-63

Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Adolescents with Chronic Illness

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have emerged as a promising strategy for individuals with a chronic illness, given their versatility in targeting both physical and mental health outcomes. However, research to date has focused on adult or community-based populations | The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Objectives: To systematically review and critically appraise MBIs in clinical pediatric samples living with chronic physical illness.

Results: Of a total 4710 articles, 8 articles met inclusion criteria. All studies were small , included only outpatient adolescent samples, and focused on feasibility and acceptability of MBI; only 1 study included a comparison group (n = 1). No studies included online components or remote attendance. All studies found that MBI was acceptable to adolescents, whereas feasibility and implementation outcomes were mixed. Many studies were underpowered to detect significant differences post-MBI, but MBI did demonstrate improvements in emotional distress in several studies.

Conclusions and Implications of Key Findings: The literature on MBIs is preliminary in nature, focusing on adapting and developing MBI for adolescents. Although MBIs appear to be a promising approach to coping with symptoms related to chronic illness in adolescents, future research with adequate sample sizes and rigorous research designs is warranted.

Full reference: Ahola Kohut, S. et al (2017) Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Clinical Samples of Adolescents with Chronic Illness: A Systematic Review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Vol. 23(no. 8) pp. 581-589.

The role of trait mindfulness in quality of life and asthma control among adolescents with asthma

The current study focused on the role of trait mindfulness in asthma-related quality of life (QoL) and asthma control in adolescent asthma patients | Journal of Psychosomatic Research

In this cross-sectional study, questionnaire data of 94 adolescents with asthma that were prescribed daily asthma medication were included. Two Structural Equation Models (SEMs), a direct model and an indirect model, were tested.

We found that trait mindfulness was directly related to asthma-related QoL, but not to asthma control. The relationship between trait mindfulness and asthma-related QoL was explained by asthma-specific, but not by general stress. Furthermore, an indirect relation from mindfulness to asthma control via asthma-specific stress was found.

Cross-sectional evidence for a relation between mindfulness and asthma-related QoL is found. These findings may point to the possibility that an intervention aimed at increasing mindfulness could be a promising tool to improve asthma-related QoL in adolescents via a decrease in asthma-specific stress.

Full reference: Cillessen, L. et al. (2017) The role of trait mindfulness in quality of life and asthma control among adolescents with asthma. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. Vol. 99 (August) pp. 143–148.