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“Let’s Keep Calm and Breathe”:
Meditation’s Effects on Children’s Behavior
Dr Joe Dispenza | 17 June 2024

Dr Joe partnered with Dr Peta Stapleton from Australia’s Bond University to study meditation’s effects on primary school children over a 10-week period. The published research shows improvements in self-regulation, happiness, emotional awareness, and school performance resulting from just five minutes of meditation a day.

Practitioner Points
Daily meditation of just 5 min for 4–8-year-olds predicted an increase in happiness, self-reported school performance, and a decrease in emotional and behavioral difficulties.

Daily meditation of just 5 min in 9–11-year-olds predicted an increase in emotional awareness, and a decrease in emotional and behavioral difficulties, but no change in happiness.

Daily meditation of just 5 min over 10 weeks enhanced self-regulation in primary school children.

This research can be read in full

In Australia, there is growing awareness about the high prevalence rates of psychological distress in school-aged children. The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Wellbeing conducted in Australia in 2013–14, estimated approximately one in seven Australians aged 4–17 years experienced stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms in the previous 12 months (Zubrick et al., 2015). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Mental Survey conducted in 2021 revealed that approximately one in five children reported feeling more distressed and anxious than they used to (De Young et al., 2021). Mental health-related issues such as this, have been considered as a major cause of school dropouts, social isolation, and other emotional and behavioral problems (Albrecht, 2019; Amundsen et al., 2020).

Studies have found that mindfulness meditation might decrease levels of stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, as well as enhance emotion regulation. Thus, the aim of the present study was to conduct a pilot study assessing whether a 10-week classroom-based mindfulness meditation intervention could improve emotional wellbeing in two groups – children aged 4–8 and 9–11. The program was conducted for 10 weeks to fit into a school term. The intervention was modified to be suitable for the classroom setting, involving 5–10-min sessions on a day-to-day basis. To our knowledge, no existing study has explored the association between daily meditation sessions and children’s emotional awareness along with emotional and behavior regulation (reduced difficulty). However, this may be more feasible for young children, given limited attention spans and other curricular based prioritizes.

The aim of this study was to assess whether meditation sessions could help improve children’s self-regulation, emotional awareness, happiness, and school performance. Preliminary studies in children and adolescents have shown numerous benefits, including reducing anxiety symptoms (Gomes et al., 2021), increasing self-compassion (Cheang et al., 2019), improving social behavior (Schonert-Reichl & Lawlor, 2010), improving behavior regulation (Klingbeil et al., 2017), executive function (Bigelow et al., 2021), and cognitive and socioemotional skills (Filipe et al., 2021). This research aimed to add to the growing research on mindfulness interventions in children with a 10-week daily meditation trial in primary school aged students.

Increasing mental health issues prevalent among children warrants for further investigation of school-based mindfulness programs (Crescentini et al., 2016; Filipe et al., 2021). This study has contributed to the empirical evidence regarding the potential benefit of a school-based meditation program on improving children’s emotional and behavioral difficulties and enhancing emotional awareness. The study findings are promising and longitudinal research with control-group design may provide greater demonstration of the benefit of meditation practice on children’s self-regulation and happiness. The current research has provided support for meditation improving children’s well-being; however, the effect sizes are small. This research supports the implementation and feasibility of brief, daily meditation in schools, and for both groups, this resulted in statistically significant improvements in well-being. Future research is required to determine the meditation interventions that provide the greatest improvements and enduring results in children’s well-being. Future research could be strengthened by comparing a mindfulness-based program to other validated psychoeducation programs to fully explore the relationship between mindfulness, self-regulation, and psychological wellbeing. With a strong focus on fostering emotional awareness, mindfulness-based programs are hoped to maximize children’s psychosocial outcomes and flourishing not only in the context of school but also in daily living.

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Best wishes, Kathie Baker

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