Teenagers struggling through this summer’s exam season take note – the secret to academic success could be achieving inner peace.
A new study from three leading universities has revealed the benefits of teaching “mindfulness” in schools, providing the first evidence that mental exercises akin to Buddhist meditation improve children’s attention spans, lower their stress levels and contribute to better exam performance.
More than 250 pupils at six schools, aged 12 to 16, were given a nine-week course in mindfulness, which included breathing exercises, “striking visuals” and “film clips” all aimed at allowing them to train their minds to control their own thought processes.
After being followed up during the summer exam period, the pupils displayed “fewer depressive symptoms, lower stress and greater wellbeing” than a control group who did not receive the special lessons, the study’s authors said.
“What we’re teaching is the ability to have better attention and to be able to deploy that attention in ways that are useful emotionally, academically and socially,” said Professor Willem Kuyken from the University of Exeter. “It’s like going to the gym and doing reps with the arms and seeing the arms getting stronger, but instead you’re using meditative practices to train the mind to better hold the attention on an object you want to hold it on.”