Research on Mindfulness

This page summarizes research on the benefits of mindfulness, including neuroscience, the latest scientific studies, and specific benefits for educators and students. We also describe research studies on the Mindful Schools curriculum and benefits our course graduates have seen in themselves and the students they serve.

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Scholarly research finds that mindfulness practice decreases stress and anxiety, increases attention, improves interpersonal relationships, strengthens compassion, and confers a host of other benefits. 

Here’s a summary of research findings on benefits of mindfulness particularly relevant to educators:

Attention

Attention

Numerous studies show improved attention1, including better performance on objective tasks that measure attention.2

Emotion Regulation

Emotion Regulation

Mindfulness is associated with emotion regulation across a number of studies3. Mindfulness creates changes in the brain that correspond to less reactivity4, and better ability to engage in tasks even when emotions are activated.5

Compassion

Compassion

People randomly assigned to mindfulness training are more likely to help someone in need6 and have greater self-compassion.7

Calming

Calming

Studies find that mindfulness reduces feelings of stress8 and improves anxiety and distress when placed in a stressful social situation.9

Mindfulness Changes the Brain

graphic-brain

 

1 Amygdala
Aroused when detecting and reacting to emotions, especially difficult or strong emotions such as fear. This part of the brain is less activated10 and has less gray matter density11 following mindfulness training.
2 Hippocampus
Critical to learning and memory, and helps regulate the amygdala. This part of the brain is more active12 and has more gray matter density13 following mindfulness training.
3 Prefrontal Cortex
The part of the brain most associated with maturity, including regulating emotions and behaviors and making wise decisions. This part of the brain is more activated following mindfulness training.14

Evidence Of The Benefits Of Mindfulness In Education

Mindfulness with Teachers

When teachers learn mindfulness, they not only reap personal benefits such as reduced stress and burnout15 but their schools do as well. In randomized controlled trials, teachers who learned mindfulness reported greater efficacy in doing their jobs16 and had more emotionally supportive classrooms17 and better classroom organization18 based on independent observations.

 

group-of-mindful-studentsMindfulness with Students

Studies find that youth benefit from learning mindfulness in terms of improved cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and well being. In turn, such benefits may lead to long-term improvements in life. For example, social skills in kindergarten predict improved education, employment, crime, substance abuse and mental health outcomes in adulthood.19

research-icon-cognitive-outcomes
Cognitive Outcomes

  • Attention and Focus 20
  • Grades 21

research-icon-socio-economic
Social-emotional Skills

  • Emotion regulation 22
  • Behavior in school 23
  • Empathy and perspective-taking 24
  • Social-skills 25

research-icon-well-being
Well Being

  • Test anxiety 26
  • Stress 27
  • Posttraumatic symptoms 28
  • Depression 29

Benefits of Mindful Schools Courses

Mindful Schools collects two types of survey data. Each year, we conduct an Annual Graduate Survey to learn more about the impact our graduates are having, how our courses have affected them, and how we can serve them better. We also conduct pre and post surveys each time we teach a course in order to test for significant improvements on validated measures. The infographics below summarize the results from these two types of surveys from participants who have taken our Mindfulness Fundamentals and Mindful Educator Essentials courses.

Mindful Educator Essentials Course Results

Benefits for Educators
98%Recommend the course to others30
77%Are more satisfied with their jobs
80%Deliver curriculum with more ease
82%Connect better with students
Teacher’s sense of efficacy31, stress32, and self-compassion33 improved significantly from pre to post on course surveys
What Educators See in Their Students
83%See Improved Focus
89%See Better Emotion Regulation
76%See More Compassion
79%See Improved Engagement

Mindfulness Fundamentals Course Results

90%of Course Grads Report Lower Stress. Mindfulness34, Stress35, and Self-Compassion36 improved significantly from pre to post on course surveys
70%of Course Grads feel More Satisfied with Their Jobs
98%Recommend the course

Mindful Schools Research Study

Research_Results_5701-1In the 2011-12 school year, Mindful Schools partnered with the University of California, Davis to conduct one of the largest randomized-controlled studies to date on mindfulness and children, involving 937 children and 47 teachers in 3 Oakland public elementary schools.

The Mindful Schools curriculum (which is taught to educators through our Mindful Educator Essentials course) produced statistically significant improvements in paying attention and participation in class activities versus the control group with just 4 hours of mindfulness instruction for the students – a very small, low-cost dose. Further instruction through our training courses could produce even more benefits.

See this presentation for more details about the Mindful Schools study.

Additional research: Mindful Schools curriculum reduces depressive symptoms

A 2010 pilot study37 found that the Mindful Schools elementary-grades curriculum reduced depressive symptoms among minority children. Researchers randomized 18 minority children at a summer camp to either mindfulness or health education. Children were ages 8-11, and 64% were from Caribbean and Central American countries. An instructor led ten 15-minute lessons from the Mindful Schools curriculum. The mindfulness group showed significantly more reduction in depressive symptoms than the control group. Anxiety results were in the same direction but not significant (p=.07).

The researchers concluded that the results “show promise for the use of mindfulness to decrease particularly depressive symptoms in minority children. In addition, there is evidence that a larger sample size might enable distinction between the groups for anxiety symptoms.” They also praised the Mindful Schools curriculum, noting that children “engaged completely in the activities” of the curriculum.

References:

1 Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5), 593–600.

Sedlmeier, P., Eberth, J., Schwarz, M., Zimmermann, D., Haarig, F., Jaeger, S., & Kunze, S. (2012). The psychological effects of meditation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 138(6), 1139.

2 Jha, A. P., Krompinger, J., & Baime, M. J. (2007). Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 7(2), 109–119.

3 Roemer, L., Williston, S. K., & Rollins, L. G. (2015). Mindfulness and emotion regulation. Current Opinion in Psychology, 3, 52–57.

4 Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-­based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83.

5 Ortner, C. N., Kilner, S. J., & Zelazo, P. D. (2007). Mindfulness meditation and reduced emotional interference on a cognitive task. Motivation and Emotion, 31(4), 271–283.

6 Condon, P., Desbordes, G., Miller, W. B., & DeSteno, D. (2013). Meditation increases compassionate responses to suffering. Psychological Science, 24(10), 2125–2127.

7 Birnie, K., Speca, M., & Carlson, L. E. (2010). Exploring self-­compassion and empathy in the context of mindfulness-­based stress reduction (MBSR). Stress and Health, 26(5), 359–371.

Neff, K. D., & Germer, C. K. (2013). A Pilot Study and Randomized Controlled Trial of the Mindful Self-­Compassion Program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 28–44.

Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-­care to caregivers: effects of mindfulness-­based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1(2), 105.

8 Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-­based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-­analysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5), 593–600.

Pbert, L., Madison, J. M., Druker, S., Olendzki, N., Magner, R., Reed, G., … Carmody, J. (2012). Effect of mindfulness training on asthma quality of life and lung function: a randomised controlled trial. Thorax, 67(9), 769–776.

9 Hoge, E. A., Bui, E., Marques, L., Metcalf, C. A., Morris, L. K., Robinaugh, D. J., … Simon, N. M. (2013). Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 74(8), 786–792.

10 Lutz, A., Slagter, H. A., Dunne, J. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(4), 163–169.

Desbordes, G., Negi, L. T., Pace, T. W., Wallace, B. A., Raison, C. L., & Schwartz, E. L. (2012). Effects of mindful-­attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-­meditative state. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6.

11 Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Evans, K. C., Hoge, E. A., Dusek, J. A., Morgan, L., … Lazar, S. W. (2010). Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdala. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 5(1), 11–17.

12 Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-­based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83.

13 Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191(1), 36–43.

14 Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2010). A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations. Psychological Medicine, 40(08), 1239–1252.

15 Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., Bonus, K., & Davidson, R. J. (2013). Mindfulness for teachers: A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout, and teaching efficacy. Mind, Brain, and Education, 7(3), 182–195.

Jennings, P. A., Frank, J. L., Snowberg, K. E., Coccia, M. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2013). Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. School Psychology Quarterly, 28(4), 374–390.

Kemeny, M. E., Foltz, C., Cavanagh, J. F., Cullen, M., Giese-­Davis, J., Jennings, P., … Wallace, B. A. (2012). Contemplative/emotion training reduces negative emotional behavior and promotes prosocial responses. Emotion, 12(2), 338.

Roeser, R., Schonert-­Reichl, K. A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R., … Harrison, J. (2013). Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomized, waitlist-­control field trials. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(3), 787–804.

16 Jennings, P. A., Frank, J. L., Snowberg, K. E., Coccia, M. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2013). Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. School Psychology Quarterly, 28(4), 374–390.

17 Jennings, P. A., Brown, J. L., Frank, J. L., Doyle, S. L., Tanler, R., Rasheed, D., DeWeese, A., DeMauro, A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2015). Promoting teachers’ social and emotional competence, well-being and classroom quality: a randomized controlled trial of the CARE for Teachers Professional Development Program. In C. Bradshaw (Ed.), Examining the impact of school-based prevention programs on teachers: findings from three randomized trials. Washington D.C: Symposium presented at the Society for Prevention Research Annual Meeting. (Submitted for Initial Review).

18 Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., Bonus, K., & Davidson, R. J. (2013). Mindfulness for teachers: A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout, and teaching efficacy. Mind, Brain, and Education, 7(3), 182–195.

19 Jones, D. E., Greenberg, M., & Crowley, M. (2015). Early Social-­Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness. American Journal of Public Health, 105(11), 2283–2290.

20 Baijal, S., Jha, A. P., Kiyonaga, A., Singh, R., & Srinivasan, N. (2011). The influence of concentrative meditation training on the development of attention networks during early adolescence. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 1-9.

Napoli, M., Krech, P. R., & Holley, L. C. (2005). Mindfulness Training for Elementary School Students. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 21(1), 99–125.

Semple, R. J., Lee, J., Rosa, D., & Miller, L. F. (2010). A randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: promoting mindful attention to enhance social-emotional resiliency in children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19(2), 218–229.

21 Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M. S., Abbott, D., Thomson, K., Oberlander, T. F., & Diamond, A. (2015). Enhancing cognitive and social–emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 52-66.

22 Metz, S. M., Frank, J. L., Reibel, D., Cantrell, T., Sanders, R., & Broderick, P. C. (2013). The effectiveness of the learning to BREATHE program on adolescent emotion regulation. Research in Human Development, 10(3), 252–272.

Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M. S., Abbott, D., Thomson, K., Oberlander, T. F., & Diamond, A. (2015). Enhancing cognitive and social–emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 52-66.

23 Barnes, V. A., Bauza, L. B., & Treiber, F. A. (2003). Impact of stress reduction on negative school behavior in adolescents. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 1(10), 1–7.

Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M. S., Abbott, D., Thomson, K., Oberlander, T. F., & Diamond, A. (2015). Enhancing cognitive and social–emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 52-66.

Semple, R. J., Lee, J., Rosa, D., & Miller, L. F. (2010). A randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: promoting mindful attention to enhance social-emotional resiliency in children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19(2), 218–229.

24 Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M. S., Abbott, D., Thomson, K., Oberlander, T. F., & Diamond, A. (2015). Enhancing cognitive and social–emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 52-66.

25 Napoli, M., Krech, P. R., & Holley, L. C. (2005). Mindfulness Training for Elementary School Students. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 21(1), 99–125.

Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M. S., Abbott, D., Thomson, K., Oberlander, T. F., & Diamond, A. (2015). Enhancing cognitive and social–emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 52-66.

26 Napoli, M., Krech, P. R., & Holley, L. C. (2005). Mindfulness Training for Elementary School Students. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 21(1), 99–125.

27 Barnes, V. A., Davis, H. C., Murzynowski, J. B., & Treiber, F. A. (2004). Impact of meditation on resting and ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate in youth. Psychosomatic Medicine, 66(6), 909-914.

Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M. T., Dariotis, J. K., Gould, L. F., Rhoades, B. L., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38(7), 985–994.

Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M. S., Abbott, D., Thomson, K., Oberlander, T. F., & Diamond, A. (2015). Enhancing cognitive and social–emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 52-66.

Sibinga, E. M. S., Webb, L., Ghazarian, S. R., & Ellen, J. M. (2016). School-Based Mindfulness Instruction: An RCT. Pediatrics, 137(1), 1-8.

Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz, S., & Walach, H. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools—a systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 5.

28 Sibinga, E. M. S., Webb, L., Ghazarian, S. R., & Ellen, J. M. (2016). School-­Based Mindfulness Instruction: An RCT. Pediatrics, 137(1), 1-­8.

29 Raes, F., Griffith, J. W., Van der Gucht, K., & Williams, J. M. G. (2014). School-­based prevention and reduction of depression in adolescents: A cluster-­randomized controlled trial of a mindfulness group program. Mindfulness, 5(5), 477–486.

Sibinga, E. M. S., Webb, L., Ghazarian, S. R., & Ellen, J. M. (2016). School-­Based Mindfulness Instruction: An RCT. Pediatrics, 137(1), 1-­8.

30 Recommendation rates from post-course surveys in fiscal year 2016 (i.e., July 2015-June 2016).

31 Teacher Self-Efficacy Scale (TSES: Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001), Cohen’s d effect size = 0.24.

Tschannen-Moran, M., & Hoy, A. W. (2001). Teacher efficacy: Capturing an elusive construct. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17(7), 783–805.

32 Perceived Stress Scale (PSS: Cohen et al., 1983), Cohen’s d effect size = 0.34.

Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 385–396.

33 Self-Compassion Scale – Short Form (SCS-short: Raes et al., 2011), Cohen’s d effect size = 0.38.

Raes, F., Pommier, E., Neff, K. D., & Van Gucht, D. (2011). Construction and factorial validation of a short form of the self-compassion scale. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 18(3), 250–255.

34 Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS: Brown & Ryan, 2003) , Cohen’s d effect size = 0.43

Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822-848.

35 Perceived Stress Scale (PSS: Cohen et al., 1983), Cohen’s d effect size = .65.

36 Self-Compassion Scale – Short Form (SCS-short: Raes et al., 2011), Cohen’s d effect size = .53.

37 Liehr, P., & Diaz, N. (2010). A Pilot Study Examining the Effect of Mindfulness on Depression and Anxiety for Minority Children. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 24(1), 69–71.