Meditation Helps Children Overcome Exam Stress

By Vishakha Sonawane, Parent Herald June 20, 07:25 am

Exam stress is something children find difficult to handle. But now they can easily make stress and nervousness disappear with a simple technique of "mindfulness," a latest study confirmed.

Three leading universities of U.K. said that mental exercises similar to Buddhist meditation improves attention span in children and helps them cope with the stress and perform better in exams.

For the study, over 250 students aged between 12 and 16,from six schools were given nine-week lessons in mindfulness that included breathing exercises, "striking visuals" and "film clips." These classes aimed at training these students to control their thought process.

Later the researchers examined the children during the summer and found "fewer depressive symptoms, lower stress and greater wellbeing" than a control group who did not receive the 'mindfulness' course.

"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."

Students were trained to view their thoughts as buses and choose to get on it or not. This means that they could reject negative thoughts and accept the positive and useful thoughts.

"If a young person is sitting outside an exam hall 10 minutes before an exam and gets preoccupied with thoughts like 'I've not revised enough, I'm going to fail,' mindfulness training can train them to see their mind creating these thoughts, to step back and to choose not to put more fuel on the fire," Professor Kuyken said.

Following the study, several U.K. schools have started lessons with the help of Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP), which was involved in the study. Academics from Oxford and Cambridge  also took part.

Around 80 percent of the students said they continued practicing the techniques taught in the mindfulness course. According to the practitioners of mindfulness, regardless of the origin of meditation, the program only concentrates on helping focus an individual's attention.

"It's largely about giving them something to deploy - to centre themselves, calm themselves and to respond to situations, rather than simply reacting. There is a whole field of human experience besides the realm of thought which schools are not introducing to our students," Dominic Morris, a modern foreign languages teacher at Bethnal Green Academy that provides mindfulness lessons,  told The Independent.

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