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.
A 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).
Finally, meditation was found to improve a host of academic and learning skills in students. These included faster information processing, greater focus, more effective working memory, more creativity and cognitive flexibility.
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:
- focus their attention on a particular target (for example their own breathing, a sound, a sensation);
- notice when their attention has wondered away from the target;