One of my volunteer projects has involved publicizing the work of Roy Hintsa, who for some years has been teaching mindfulness meditation to Ontario high school students, thereby helping them to deal with test anxiety and similar concerns. I’ve recently (February 2014) heard from Roy Hintsa that the work he began in this area is now being done by Everyday Mindfulness, whose website is at www.mindfulnesseveryday.com
A key feature of Roy Hintsa’s work is that he’s been following an evidence-based approach to the effective teaching of mindfulness meditation in public school settings.
Lucinda Sykes introduced me to the practice of mindfulness meditation in 2004 when I was teaching elementary school at the Peel District School Board.
MBSR: Mindfulness-based stress reduction
I enrolled in an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course that I found beneficial in dealing with the stress responses I was experiencing in my work as a teacher. Had I not been experiencing stress in my job, it’s unlikely I would have gotten around to learning how to mediate.
Learning to meditate, and learning about the pleasures of teaching role play and drama, as a way for students to show understanding of Language and Social Studies concepts, are among the things I remember the best from my previous career as a teacher.
I’ve been meditating regularly since 2004 and have achieved gains in learning to apply mindfulness in my everyday life. I’m a beginner practitioner of mindfulness.
Mindfulness meditation, in my limited experience, is easy to practice as part of a secular lifestyle.
Methodologically sound research
An increasing number of methodologically sound research studies have been published in recent years in peer-reviewed professional journals regarding the benefits of regular meditation.
For example, the enhanced emotional control provided by meditation may give a person a measure of protection against secondhand stress.
My own anecdotal experience is as follows.
In 2004, I enrolled in a mindfulness-based stress reduction course in Toronto. There was a class one evening per week, and an hour of practice per day. Certain situations, in my work as a teacher, used to be a source of strong stress-related responses for me. In the months and years that followed the above-mentioned course, I’ve been meditating regularly every day.
Over that time since 2004, the stress-related responses have been reduced significantly. The kinds of stress I was experiencing several times a day now occur once or twice every several months. The intervals between such responses have been growing progressively longer over the years.
The experience of stress has been a great way for me to learn how to meditate. I would not have learned this skill had I not been in a line of work that can at times be very stressful.
University of Massachusetts Medical School
The above-mentioned courses of instruction in mindfulness are based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
A December 2012 CBC report about research regarding mindfulness meditation can be found at this link. A draft version of the research report, and of the appendix, can be accessed through the link noted in the previous sentence.
The report notes that a research review found moderate strength of evidence that mindfulness meditation programs are beneficial for reducing pain severity.
The report adds that the study also looked at whether meditation helps reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, and concluded there’s little evidence. A report on CBC Radio about the same topic said more research is required regarding the effect of mindfulness meditation on anxiety and stress.
A report on the same research appeared in December 2012 in the Los Angeles Times.
The opening sentence in the latter article notes that:
“Meditation this week won the scientific stamp of approval from a federal panel as a means of reducing the severity of chronic and acute pain. The influential committee also concluded the practice of mindfulness has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing stress and anxiety, but it found the scientific evidence for that claim weaker and more inconsistent.”
An article by Daphne M. Davis and Jeffrey A. Hayes of Pennsylvania State University, entitled “What are the Benefits of Mindfulness? A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research,” originally published in 2011, can be accessed here.
A May 12, 2014 New York Times article is entitled: “Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits.”
An excerpt from the article notes:
- Such quotidian decisions test a mental ability called cognitive control, the capacity to maintain focus on an important choice while ignoring other impulses. Poor planning, wandering attention and trouble inhibiting impulses all signify lapses in cognitive control. Now a growing stream of research suggests that strengthening this mental muscle, usually with exercises in so-called mindfulness, may help children and adults cope with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and its adult equivalent, attention deficit disorder.
- The studies come amid growing disenchantment with the first-line treatment for these conditions: drugs.
- In 2007, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, published a study finding that the incidence of A.D.H.D. among teenagers in Finland, along with difficulties in cognitive functioning and related emotional disorders like depression, were virtually identical to rates among teenagers in the United States. The real difference? Most adolescents with A.D.H.D. in the United States were taking medication; most in Finland were not.