Research on Mindfulness and Education
Mindful Schools’ programs are informed by decades of research and 15 years of experience in this field.
Share this page with your principal, PTA, or peers to make the case for mindfulness in schools.
Our Schools Are in Crisis
“I’ve been teaching for a long time and every year I’m seeing our 9th grade class come in with more anxiety, more stress, more built up stuff… it’s painful for a lot of our students, and even for our staff, to just BE.“
Students Are Facing a Record Mental Health Crisis
Meeting academic and social expectations – and simply growing up and developing a sense of self, belonging, and well-being – can be tough. Yet the pressures in today’s educational environment reach far beyond these basics. Many of today’s students face challenges that affect their ability to focus attention, regulate difficult emotions, build inner resilience, and form healthy relationships.
1 in 3
adolescents will meet criteria for an anxiety disorder by the age of 18.1
hours a day
is the average that U.S. teens spend on digital entertainment, excluding school work.2
of high school seniors report that they often feel lonely and left out. 3
of all children in the U.S. have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE).
For Black children, it’s 61%.4
A CDC survey of high schoolers’ mental health found that youth who felt connected to adults and peers at school were significantly less likely to report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness (35% vs. 53%); seriously consider attempting suicide (14% vs. 26%); or attempt suicide (6% vs. 12%).5
Fewer than half of youth reported feeling close to people at school.5
Students need help calming their anxious nervous systems and accessing supportive relationships, nurturing experiences, and positive learning environments. Teachers are ideal for providing this support, but are often not positioned or resourced to do so.
“Educators can deliver the daily doses of healing interactions that truly are the antidote to toxic stress. And just as the science shows that it’s the cumulative dose of early adversity that’s most harmful, it also shows that the cumulative dose of healing nurturing interactions is most healing.”
– Dr. Burke Harris
Trauma researcher and pediatrician
Educators Are Facing Their Own Crisis
Educators want to cultivate communities of belonging and support young people; yet their unsustainable working conditions hinder productivity and creativity, and can cause anxiety, frustration, and, eventually, burnout.
of teachers report being stressed out. 6
of US teachers say they are burned out.7
of teachers’ say their mental health is “not good.” 6
Public school educators are quitting their jobs at the highest rate on record.
The rates are even higher for educators of color.8
Mindful Schools is focused on addressing the overall health and sustainability of learning environments and supporting the well-being of every educator, student, and member of the school community.
And we know this starts with supporting the adults in the school.
Mindfulness Supports Well-Being
We now have decades of research on the benefits of mindfulness for personal well-being, and recent studies confirm the positive impact on educators.
A 2022 meta-analysis of educator well-being initiatives found that not only did mindfulness have the most robust evidence base, it was also the only intervention that created sustained changes in educator well-being, between three and five months after delivery.9
That’s why Mindful Schools focuses on putting skills into practice.
We support teachers and staff within school communities by providing courses and coaching, and working with leadership teams to ensure sustainability.
“Mindfulness has been a very powerful experience for my staff. My work with Mindful Schools helped me reach a better understanding of how mindfulness could be taught to children and profoundly affect the culture of a whole school.”
– Kit Flynn
Principal, Ann Arbor, MI
Mindful Schools’ Results Speak For Themselves
The Impact of Our Training
Mindful Schools conducts qualitative surveys to learn more about the impact our graduates have, how our courses have affected them, and how we can serve them better. By requesting input both before and after course completion, we are able to measure the impact of our work.
Graduates of our 101: Mindfulness Fundamentals course, which focuses on educator well-being, shared this feedback:
are more connected and present in interactions with students
develop strategies for pausing in difficult situations before reacting
learned new strategies to care for themselves when stressed
feel a greater sense of well-being
Once educators have built a foundation of mindfulness in their own life, they may explore more about teaching mindfulness in a trauma-informed and equitable way in our 201 course.
For educators who go on to participate in 201: Mindfulness in the Classroom, the feedback is just as strong:
can better cultivate empathy for their students
are more present and attentive as they teach
learned effective strategies for creating a positive classroom environment
are more able to build and strengthen relationships with students, families, and colleagues
Because teachers are the number one determinant of students’ well-being at school, investing in teacher well-being benefits students, as well.
Graduates of our 201 course also reported the following among their students:
A Trusted Partner
Mindful Schools’ programs have been vetted and supported by state and local government agencies, foundations, and corporate partners, including Cigna Foundation, the NY Office of Mental Health, The Trust for the Meditation Process, and over 500 schools and districts across the country. Get started on your journey today.
Meet Our School Partners
We work with hundreds of schools and districts across the United States, custom tailoring programs that work for each leader and community. Here are some of our larger partnerships aimed at supporting teacher wellbeing and building communities of care.
Not All Mindfulness Programs Are Created Equal
A review of school-based positive psychology interventions found that “the structure of the interventions was as important to success as the content of the programs.”18 We design our programs with this in mind.
We have also learned by doing. We have 15 years of experience, and over that time, the basis of our whole-school approach has been validated by research: students receive more lasting benefits when taught by their trusted classroom teachers than by outside providers.11 Research on programs addressing trauma also shows that whole-school approaches work better than individual interventions.19
Mindful Schools works with each school and district to understand their culture, context, assets, and needs, and we emphasize:
Mandatory self-care doesn’t work
Because everyone learns differently
Each school or district community is unique
Group or cohort experience
Learning with colleagues enhances the ability to actually use mindfulness in stressful situations at work20
Experience matters––Mindful Schools faculty are experienced educators and mindfulness practitioners
Consistency is key
You can read more about the research on mindfulness in education, and hear from our Executive Director Seewan Eng in this article:
Researchers and key figures reflect on the results and implications of one of the largest studies on mindfulness in schools ever conducted. The bottom line: the structure and approach matter.
“You can have the best curriculum in the world, in any subject area, if you’re not able to show up in good shape, it’s eventually going to go sideways.
Mindful Schools has long had curricula for students, but the whole school approach really begins with adults first. We offer teachers as many entry points as possible. As a teacher, I need a community to support me, not just pressure to do it all on my own. I need an invitation and a reminder to practice, not just another mandate to do more. As more people learn together each year, and capacity builds, this is how a culture of care takes root and sustains.” – Seewan Eng, Mindful Schools
1 “Any Anxiety Disorder,” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), n.d., https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml
2 “Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens,” Common Sense, 2021, https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/research/report/8-18-census-integrated-report-final-web_0.pdf
3 Jayne O’Donnell, “Teens Aren’t Socializing in the Real World. And That’s Making Them Super Lonely,” USA TODAY, March 20, 2019, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/03/20/teen-loneliness-social-media-cell-phones-suicide-isolation-gaming-cigna/3208845002/
4 “Adverse Childhood Experiences Among US Children,” The Child Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI), November 2017, https://www.cahmi.org/docs/default-source/resources/issue-brief-adverse-childhood-experiences-among-us-children-(2017).pdf
5 “Coronavirus Disease 2019,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d., https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/p0331-youth-mental-health-covid-19.html.
6 “2017 Educator Quality of Work Life Survey,” American Federation of Teachers, 2017, https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/2017_eqwl_survey_web.pdf
7 Madeline Will, “Stress, Burnout, Depression: Teachers and Principals Are Not Doing Well, New Data Confirm,” Education Week, June 15, 2022, https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/stress-burnout-depression-teachers-and-principals-are-not-doing-well-new-data-confirm/2022/06
8 Michelle Hackman and Eric Morath, “Teachers Quit Jobs at Highest Rate on Record,” WSJ, December 28, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/teachers-quit-jobs-at-highest-rate-on-record-11545993052
9 Emily Berger et al., “A Systematic Review of Evidence-Based Wellbeing Initiatives for Schoolteachers and Early Childhood Educators,” Educational Psychology Review 34, no. 4 (July 4, 2022): 2919–69, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-022-09690-5
10 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.
11 Jha, A. P., Krompinger, J., & Baime, M. J. (2007). Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 7(2), 109–119.
12 Condon, P., Desbordes, G., Miller, W. B., & DeSteno, D. (2013). Meditation increases compassionate responses to suffering. Psychological Science, 24(10), 2125–2127.
13 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.
14 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.
15 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.
16 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.
17 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.
18 Duyen T. Vo and Kelly Allen, “A Systematic Review of School-Based Positive Psychology Interventions to Foster Teacher Wellbeing,” Teachers and Teaching 28, no. 8 (November 12, 2022): 964–99, https://doi.org/10.1080/13540602.2022.2137138
19 Dana Carsley, Bassam Khoury, and Nancy L. Heath, “Effectiveness of Mindfulness Interventions for Mental Health in Schools: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis,” Mindfulness 9, no. 3 (October 23, 2017): 693–707, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0839-2
20 Jutta Tobias Mortlock, Alison Carter, and Dawn Querstret, “Extending the Transformative Potential of Mindfulness through Team Mindfulness Training, Integrating Individual with Collective Mindfulness, in a High-Stress Military Setting,” Frontiers in Psychology 13 (June 30, 2022), https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.867110.