According to Mindfulness Research Monthly (Black, 2010), neuroscience research on the benefits of mindfulness has become more prolific. In recent years there has been a surge in NIH-funded research trials in the U.S. In 2008, even the U.S. Department of Defense began using mindfulness practice as part of its treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to Black (2010), a meta-analytic review by Sawyer, Witt and Oh in 2010 found that mindfulness-based therapies had a dramatic effect on improving both depression and anxiety. Research is currently being conducted or has recently been completed on the effectiveness of mindfulness practices in youth.
There is now evidence to show the impact which mindfulness has on the prefrontal cortex and interconnections involved in attention, working memory, executive function, emotional and behavioral regulation, all of which are of relevance to academic, psychological and social well-being and the success of youth today. Several more prominent school-based interventions (Napoli, 2002; Napoli, 2004; Napoli, Rock Krech, and Holley, 2005; Rechtschaffen and Cohen, 2010) focused on mindfulness training for elementary school students. Linda Lantieri’s work in New York City after 9/11 with children in crises culminated in interventions for students and teachers (Lantieri and Goleman, 2008). Willingham (2011) notes that teachers who use emotion regulation skills in their classrooms can improve the self-control capacities of their students.
In the 2011-2012 school year, Mindful Schools partnered with the University of California, Davis to conduct the largest randomized-controlled study to date on mindfulness and children. View the presentation and see the results from that study, here.
As Jon Kabat-Zin stated in an article in Mindful, February, 2014,
“The brain science has become very rigorous. A lot of credit obviously goes to Richie Davidson in his lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds. Their work is unique and focuses on both basic science and translational research, which takes place in real-life settings such as Madison’s public schools.”
“I noticed a difference right away. There was less conflict on the playground, less test anxiety, just the way the kids walked into the classroom was different. Our state test scores also went up that year, which I’d like to attribute to my teaching, but I think had more to do with the breathing they did right before they took the test.”
Mindful Kids Miami Research Committee
Mindful Kids Miami is planning a substantive research study based on its Inner Journey – Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (IJ-MBSR) Program for public school educators. The Research Committee is composed of: David J. Lee, Ph.D., David T. Brookes, Ph.D., Ronit Richman, Ed.S., Judy Chin, Ed.D., Silvia Rojas and Valerie York-Zimmerman.
Participants in the Inner Journey—Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (IJ-MBSR) and Mindful Teachers Training (MTTP) Programs during 2014 completed Pre- and Post- Surveys which included the Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMW), Zung Anxiety Scale, and Self-Compassion Survey.
The Five-Facet Questionnaire measures improvements in the ability to:
Analysis of the data from all participants who took part in the 2014 trainings resulted in significant improvements in their Total FFMQ scores.
These improvements were found in 3 out of the 5 Facets:
[Note: prior research has revealed that the Total FFMQ score is associated with positive well-being (Baer, 2008), something that is necessary to help reduce burnout. Research indicates that higher scores on the “Observing” facet are associated with good psychological adjustment in meditating samples (Baer, 2008).]
Although in the Mindful Kids Miami studies no significant improvements were made in the participants’ ability to describe their thoughts and emotions (Facet 2) and their ability to be non-reactive (Facet 5) at the end of their IJ-MBSR training, significant gains were made on those two facets by the time they completed Phase 2, the MTTP training.
Possible explanations include the possibility that these two facets (describing and non-reactivity) take longer to cultivate or that the MTTP Program itself may help facilitate the cultivation. Most participants also experienced a significant reduction in anxiety and an increase in self-compassion.