Maths, music and then… mindfulness? Meditation lessons should be part of national curriculum to combat stress of going to secondary school, experts say
- Most students see decline in well-being during move from primary school
- Cambridge and Manchester experts studied 11,000 young people across UK
- Experts suggested introducing ‘positive psychology’ initiatives in classes
Children should be given mindfulness lessons to overcome self-esteem woes they suffer after moving up to secondary school, a study suggests.
Most students experience a sharp decline in their well-being during the transition from primary school, regardless of their background, Cambridge and Manchester University researchers found.
A UK study of more than 11,000 young people showed their happiness with friends, school and family dropped substantially between the ages of 11 and 14.
They suggested ‘positive psychology’ initiatives like mindfulness sessions should become part of the national curriculum to improve their life satisfaction.
Children should be given mindfulness lessons to overcome self-esteem woes they suffer after moving up to secondary school, a study suggests
Researchers used data from the Millennium Cohort Study, people born between 2000 and 2002, to calculate a well-being ‘score’ for each student, accounting for factors such as such as economic advantage and bullying.
While most adolescents were satisfied with life at age 11, the majority were extremely dissatisfied by age 14.
By that age, the well-being scores of 79 per cent of the participants fell below what had been the average score for the entire group three years earlier.
The study also captured information about the adolescents’ satisfaction with specific aspects of their lives, such as schoolwork, personal appearance, family and friends.
What even is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a popular form of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment.
The practice involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
It is often touted as a universal tool for boosting mental wellbeing by reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness has become popular in recent years as a way to improve mental and physical well-being.
Celebrities endorsing it include Emma Watson, Davina McCall, Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey.
How can it lower blood pressure?
It is thought that taking in deep breaths helps dilate blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow through them and lowering blood pressure.
Scientists believe having strong respiratory muscles allows for deeper breathing, increasing the effectiveness of the practice.
But researchers say it should not be a replacement for other healthy habits like exercise, which have benefits beyond just blood pressure.
It suggested the most dramatic downturns between 11 and 14 were probably related to school and relationships with peers, according to the findings published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.
Ioannis Katsantonis, of Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education, said: ‘Even though this was a large, diverse group of adolescents, we saw a consistent fall in well-being.
‘One of the most striking aspects was the clear association with changes at school.
‘It suggests we urgently need to do more to support students’ well-being at secondary schools across the UK.’
The drop in wellbeing typically related to school and peer relationships, pointing to a close connection with shifts in these young people’s academic and social lives.
Students with higher self-esteem at age 11 experienced a less significant drop in well-being at age 14, suggesting efforts to boost it during the first years of secondary school would help.
Teachers should celebrate students’ achievements, underline the value of things they do well and avoid negative comparisons with other students, they suggest.
Professor Ros McLellan, a specialist in student well-being, and co-author, said: the link between self-esteem and well-being seems especially important.
He said: ‘Supporting students’ capacity to feel positive about themselves during early adolescence is not a fix-all solution, but it could be highly beneficial, given that we know their well-being is vulnerable.’
He added: ‘It’s really important that this is sustained – it can’t just be a case of doing something once when students start secondary school, or implementing the odd practice here and there.
‘A concerted effort to improve students’ sense of self-worth could have really positive results.
‘Many good teachers are doing this already, but it is perhaps even more important than we thought.’