research on mindfulness has indicated largely that mindfulness intervention
programmes have promising potential for improving the youths overall mental
health and wellbeing, as well as improving their resilience to stress and
anxiety and learning how to live in the moment.
This report aimed to investigate whether mindfulness in schools affects
children’s mental health and wellbeing.
Method: Four 17-year-old
male school pupils took part and were interviewed about the effects they felt
the mindfulness programme had on them, using semi structured interviews. The
data was analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: As a result of
this the overarching themes were self-management, psychological benefits, the
future, and academic improvements. Including subthemes of, improved sleep,
better time management, increased self-control, increased happiness,
relaxation, enjoyment and self acceptance. Discussion:
Teaching mindfulness in schools does appear to have an impact in the children’s
levels of stress, their academic abilities, their happiness, and their time
is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what
we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around
us. In this investigation, it aimed to explore the effects of teaching
mindfulness in schools and whether it had benefits to the involved children’s
mental health and wellbeing. A paper by Kuyken, Weare, Ukoumunne, Vicary,
Motton, Burnett, Cullen, Hennelly and Huppert (2013) assessed the acceptability
and efficacy of a school based universal mindfulness intervention to enhance
mental health and wellbeing on a total of 522 secondary school students aged
12-16. They concluded that their findings provide promising evidence of the
programmes acceptability and efficacy. Finding that children, who participated,
reported fewer depressive symptoms, lower stress and greater well being at the
follow ups. Similarly, a meta analysis by Zoogman, Goldberg, Hoyt and Miller
(2014) found mindfulness interventions with youth overall were found to be
helpful and suggests that mindfulness appears to be a promising intervention
modality for youth. This corresponds with the findings from our investigation
which suggests that all four of the participants did find mindfulness to be a
useful intervention, that can be put to good use as and when needs be. Furthermore,
Zenner, Herrnleben-Kurz, and Walach, found in their systematic review and meta
analysis that mindfulness interventions in youths hold promise, specifically in
relation to resilience to stress and improving cognitive performance. This is
in line with evidence found in our study, which suggests that the boys involved
felt more relaxed, and had seen some academic improvements. Similarly, Weare
(2013) found that when the .b programme is well taught and practiced regularly,
it has shown to be able to improve mood, self regulation, self esteem, mental
health and wellbeing, positive behaviour and academic learning. This is
comparable with our findings in which one of the four boys found the practice
hard to keep up once the programme had finished. In addition, Johnson, Burke,
Brinkman and Wade (2016) investigated the use of mindfulness in targeting
anxiety, depression, and eating disorder risk factors and found that anxiety,
depression, weight/shape concerns, and wellbeing were the primary outcome
factors and while acceptability measures were high, no significant improvements
were found for any outcome at post intervention or the 3 month follow up.
In this research a qualitative investigation was conducted, with a
semantic focus and used inductive thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke (2006)).
The purposes for using an inductive approach are to condense extensive and
varied raw text data into a brief, summary format; to establish clear links
between the research objectives and the summary findings derived from the raw
data and to develop of model or theory about the underlying structure of
experiences or processes which are evident in the raw data.
Four 17-year-old school boys were interviewed in this research. All of
which consented to their data being included in the reports.
The data were collected during semi-structured interviews conducted by
an Oxford Brookes University researcher. The interviews were transcribed
verbatim. In this study, ethics were granted by Oxford Brookes University.
There are six phases of thematic analysis. These are familiarising
yourself with the data, generating initial codes, searching for themes,
reviewing themes, defining and naming themes, and finally producing the report.
In phase one, familiarising yourself with the data, the researcher would
read and reread the data, making notes, in order to understand the whole
In phase two, generating initial codes, the researcher would work
through the data, identifying and coding units of data (see appendices 5, 6, 7
and 8). Looking for detail, changes in meaning, person, topic, tense, and
recurring topics. These codes are more numerous and specific than themes, but
provide an indication of the context of the conversation.
The third step in the process involved searching for themes. A theme
contains homogenous data, which is highly similar and coherent data, and
heterogeneous data, which is highly distinct, and not overlapping. (See
appendices 10). Relevant data extracts are sorted (combined or split) according
to overarching themes.
During phase 4, the researcher would review the themes. This would
involve reading through the data that has been put into a theme or subtheme and
then collate into a table. Data within themes should cohere together
meaningfully, while there should be clear identifiable distinctions between
themes. (See appendices 11).
Phase 5, defining and naming themes involved encapsulating the data.
Theme names and clear working definitions that encapsulate the data and each
theme in a concise manner are provided.
Finally phase 6, is to produce the report. The analysis needs to be
transformed into an interpretable piece of writing.
Four overarching themes were found, namely, psychological benefits,
academic improvements, self-management, and the future. The themes and their
subthemes are illustrated in Table 1.
One theme that was focused on was psychological benefits. Throughout the
data, from all four of the participants, many psychological benefits were
demonstrated. The subthemes for the theme psychological benefits are happiness,
increased confidence, enjoyment, relaxation, and more positive.
The subtheme of happiness describes how the participants found the
mindfulness practice to increase their level of happiness, “I just really think I am happy” (Chris) and “I was happy before, but I am happier” (Alistair). All participants
found that the practice of mindfulness enabled them to segment and separate
their worries and “be able to enjoy
myself without thinking about things that need to be done” (Chris) and “it has enabled me to stop before I do
things, take a step back and think a bit more about it” (Dominic) which has
led to psychological benefits such as increased happiness, “I feel more confident, more happy”
(Alistair). This shows that mindfulness appears to benefit participants
psychological wellbeing and happiness.
The subtheme of relaxation describes how participants found the
mindfulness course benefitted them in ways that enabled them to relax more “I think it would make us all calmer” (Felix),
suggesting that all other students should have the chance to learn mindfulness.
All four boys strongly agreed when asked whether all students should have the
chance to learn mindfulness, suggesting that it gave them the ability to manage
their workload, giving them more time to relax in turn “It gives me more time” (Alistair). “I used to be really uptight about things” but now “I’m a bit more relaxed about things” (Chris).
This demonstrates that the practice of mindfulness is a useful resource in
enabling the students to relax and have more time to themselves.
The subtheme, enjoyment, outlines how the four boys found the
mindfulness course to be enjoyable “I
found it quite enjoyable” (Dominic) and “I wish it had lasted longer” (Dominic). This clearly shows that
Dominic found the mindfulness practice enjoyable, however it might suggest that
it could have had longer lasting benefits had the course lasted longer. It
perhaps indicates that the boys have a newfound way of engaging with daily life
“I’m really enjoying life at the moment”
(Chris). The participants suggest that mindfulness is a useful tool as “you enjoy it and something that benefits
you” (Alistair). The boys confessed that some of them used it as an excuse
to get out of games sessions at school but in the end “really enjoyed all the sessions” (Felix).
Table 1: themes and sub-themes
of the experimental effects of taking part in a school-based mindfulness
In our investigation, the results
showed that the .b mindfulness programme did show to have positive effects on
mental health and wellbeing, as well as academic improvements, and improvements
in levels of self-management, for example, time management, anxiety management
and more self-control. The results support much of the surrounding research,
for example research conducted by Zenner, Herrnleben-Kurz, and Walach
(2014), found mindfulness interventions in youth holds promise, particularly in
resilience to stress. This is supported in our findings in which all
participants found themselves to be more relaxed, largely as a result of
managing their time for efficiently. Therefore, a strength of the study is that
is that it did demonstrate that the .b mindfulness programme showed promise,
and thus could be offered as part of a curriculum in schools in the future. However,
one problem is that the majority of studies on mindfulness with youth engage
generally healthy participants, recruited from schools. The meta analysis
conducted by Zoogman, Goldberg, Hoyt and Miller (2014) suggests that future
research might target youth in clinical settings and focus on symptoms of
psychopathology. Himelstein, Hastings, Shapiro and Heery (2012) did investigate
the experience of 23 incarcerated male adolescents who participated in a 10
week adapted mindfulness-based intervention. They found increased well-being,
increased self regulation, an accepting attitude toward the treatment
intervention and an increase in awareness. This suggests that adapted
mindfulness-based interventions are feasible treatments for incarcerated youth and
have promising potential. A further limitation of many studies done on
mindfulness in youth is that many existing studies are conducted on small
numbers, with little use of random allocation or control groups, often relying
on self report, therefore there is perhaps a need for more robust studies to
support exponential growth. One problem with the study is the issue of
reflexivity, my previous knowledge and biases towards mindfulness could have
influenced analysis, and other people with different prior knowledge of
mindfulness could interpret the data differently.
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