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Mindfulness is one of those terms you see thrown around nowadays on the Internet paralleling the current rise and interest in meditation. Now you may be skeptical about western culture's recent obsession with the "power of mindfulness," yet there is some great science behind it supporting its potential benefits.
Even research conducted by Harvard Medical School has illustrated that practicing mindfulness can change the brain in depressed patients for the better.
Continuing with this trend, two recent studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has revealed that mindfulness has the potential to improve the mental health of students as well as their academic performance. The studies further the idea that implementing mindfulness has the potential to be very beneficial to our daily lives.
The power of mindfulness
For the uninitiated, mindfulness is defined as the psychological process of bringing all your attention to your current experiences in the present. One of the best paths to the mastery of mindfulness is the practice of meditation. The MIT study demonstrated there was an obvious correlation between mindfulness in schools and better overall academic performance, better behavior, and less stress.
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As mentioned and defined in the MIT press release by Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, “By definition, mindfulness is the ability to focus attention on the present moment, as opposed to being distracted by external things or internal thoughts."
"If you’re focused on the teacher in front of you, or the homework in front of you, that should be good for learning."
Divining further into the study
Conducted and leading charter schools in Boston, the MIT team of researchers looked at 100 sixth graders for their project. Half of the students were asked to take coding classes, while the other half was given mindfulness training every day for eight weeks. During the student's mindfulness classes, students were asked to pay attention to their breath and to, of course, focus all of their energy on the present rather than the past or the future.
The students who participated in the course would go on to report having less stress compared to the students in the control group. These same students would go on to report feeling fewer negative emotions. The overall study further illustrated how schools could benefit from implementing mindfulness training.
In the next study, researchers took a much larger sample size evaluating the mindfulness of 2,000 students ranging from elementary school to middle school. Students who demonstrated high levels of mindfulness produced higher test scores and better overall performance at school.
Though both studies have demonstrated strong correlations between mindfulness and academics, the biggest challenge of practicing mindfulness is consistency. Sure, you can teach classes on mindfulness, but for it to be truly effective, you need to learn how to turn it into a daily habit.