A group of teenage boys, taught to meditate, reported feeling happier and more contented after the practice.
Boys aged 14 and 15 years from two UK schools in Tonbridge and Hampton undertook the four-week crash course in mindfulness.
The success of this initial study has led to the creation of an eight week mindfulness curriculum for schools in both the state and private sectors.
They boys were supervised by researchers from the University of Cambridge who assessed the group of 155 boys both before and after the trial.
“More and more we are realizing the importance of supporting the overall mental health of our children. Our study demonstrates that this type of training improves well being in adolescents” said Prof Felicia Huppert of the Well-being Institute at the University.
She said the study found the more the boys practised “the greater the benefits.
“Importantly many of the students genuinely enjoyed the exercises and said they intended to continue them – a good sign that many childen would be receptive to this type of intervention.
Highest anxiety levels benefitted most
“Another significant aspect of this study is that adolescents who suffered from higher levels of anxiety were the ones who benefitted most from the training,” she added.
For the experiment, students in six classes were trained in mindful awareness which is a way of consciously bringing awareness to the present moment without making any judgements.
Students in the five control classes attended their normal religious studies lessons.
The training consisted of a single 40 minute class each week,which concentrated on the concepts of awareness and acceptance.
It also taught the boys how to practice bodily awareness by noticing where they were in contact with their chairs or the floor, paying attention to their breathing, and noticing all the sensations involved in walking.
In addition the boys were asked to practise outside the classroom and were encouraged to listen to a CD or mp3 file for eight minutes a day.
At the end of the trial they completed a short series of online questionnaires which measured the effect of the training.
The researchers found that although it was a short programme, the students who participated in the mindfulness training had increased levels of well-being which were proportional to the amount of time the students spent practising their new skills.
The new curriculum introduced in schools, which includes games and video clips, should have even greater benefits say the researchers.