Does Mindfulness Meditation in School Have Benefits?

At school or at work, mindfulness meditation is in vogue among students on the one hand and staff on the other to take care of their mental health. Even if one of the tenets of this movement is to place responsibility on the individual rather than on the environment, one can ask from an integrative perspective whether the practice of mindfulness meditation actually makes it possible to reduce the risks of depression. in order to better manage his emotions and increase well-being. The answer is “no” according to one of the most robust studies published on the subject.

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[EN VIDÉO] Meditation at school: an experience from the movie Happy
Meditation promotes attention and empathy, reduces stress and the risk of depression. It would also be good for our mental and physical health. By learning this, more and more schools are introducing meditation into their daily routine. Immersion in a clip from the movie Happy, in theaters October 30.

The Back to school is fast approaching and maybe you are one of those teachers who integrate mindfulness meditation with the ambition to increase the well-being of your students or improve the management of their emotions. Before you started, did you wonder to what extent this practice and its alleged benefits have been confirmed by scientific research?

Whether from an ecological (results in the classroom context) or experimental (results on brain markers in the lab) perspective, meditation in full consciousness has so far failed to live up to its claims.

A robust trial with an active control group

Several issues are reflected in studies of the effectiveness of conscious meditation. In general, the design of the study does not allow the results to be considered statistically robust. In question is the low number of individuals in the samples, which reduces the statistical power of the experiment and the passivity of the control group that gate loss of comparability of the group.

A broad randomized study controlled by clusters made in Britain” My resilience in adolescence (Myriad), published in the section Evidence-Based Mental Health from British medical journal, seeks to address these methodological challenges. It includes a sample of more than 8,300 students in 84 different schools and a control group who receive the usual education about the Mental health and well-being.

The results are interpreted within an integrative model that takes into account the influence of environmental variables (country, school size, school sex distribution) and individual variables (age, gender, ethnicity, risk of depression, socio-emotional behaviour, well-being). being). By collecting all this data, the researchers found no benefit in the groups that received the meditation classes, either immediately after the intervention or a year later.

They even point to the risk that, for example, the youngest in those who have not yet matured certain executive functions, or those who are most at risk for depression, meditation can have deleterious effects. Interpretations of these results are complex, but they are enough to cast doubt on the claims of meditation techniques in the classroom.

The neurological argument on the chair

As a last resort, one could argue that the long-term effect of meditation is by discarding the neurological argument of saying that the practice of meditation is increasing. brain plasticity and thickens certain parts of the brain. First, this argument renders meditation as an aid ineffective for a school year, since the above study lasted a year and found no trace of effectiveness. Second, studies of the effects of meditation on the brain suffer from the same methodological problems as ecological studies.

Fortunately, a recent study published in Science also addressed the associated methodological challenges for this research question and found no difference between an active control group and a control group practicing meditation on the vast majority of brain structures. It therefore seems consistent, given this recent evidence, to be wary of the claims of mindfulness meditation in the school setting until proven otherwise.

What to remember

  • Mindfulness meditation claims to be able to reduce the risk of depression, learn to better manage your emotions and increase well-being;
  • The claims are not supported by any of the most robust clinical studies on the subject;
  • The neurological argument is no longer valid when the problems of sample size and control group passivity are resolved;
  • It is therefore advisable to be wary of the claims of mindfulness meditation until proven otherwise.

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