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Mindful Breathing is Coming to a Classroom Near You

Two to five minutes of daily mindfulness has shown positive effects in schools around the world - and looks set to become part of school life.

Sign saying: Mindfulness

At the start of this school year, all public schools in New York - from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 - are required to offer two to five minutes of mindful breathing every day to improve mental health. As part of this initiative, the city has rolled out a citywide professional development program for educators to make sure at least one staff member in each school is trained in mindful breathing practices. Mindful breathing in this context is taught as a secular practice that students of any religious tradition can adopt as a powerful tool to cope with anxiety and stress.

Schools that have implemented similar programs have established a body of scientific research that shows mindfulness practices can significantly reduce anxiety and stress.

Erica Sibinga, a pediatrics professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has published several studies that show the positive impact of mindfulness on children and teenagers, especially youths with trauma and significant stressors. “We see mental health benefits,” Sibinga told the New York Times. “We see some behavioral benefits. Youth are more likely not to engage in conflict — more likely to walk away from contentious discussions. They express greater acceptance of themselves.”

Students in England and other parts of Europe have collected positive evidence of mindful breathing’s benefits in hundreds of schools. Over the past ten years, youth meditation programs have been implemented in England (Mindfulness in Schools Project), other parts of the U.S. (Mindful Schools and MindUp), Canada (Mindful Education), Israel (The Mindfulness Language) and India (The Alice Project).

“Are schools the right place to teach meditation?” researchers asked in a recent study and came to the conclusion: “From the standpoint of maximizing reach, the answer is clearly yes. Unlike other potential sites for intervention, schools have contact with large numbers of children on a regular basis and across their formative developmental years where lifelong habits may be established.”


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