Gap Statement: Investigating whether mindfulness programs may benefit elementary school children by lowering their levels of depression and anxiety and boosting their temperament and the resultant effects.
Adapted from Poli A et al. (2022).
Even though studies have demonstrated that frequent mindfulness practice might enhance emotional stability and attentional processes, therapists are beginning to use mindfulness practice in child development. We have to address whether mindfulness programs may assist in boosting children’s temperament and lower their levels of depression and anxiety. In this paper, we analyze whether mindfulness programs may benefit elementary school children by reducing their levels of depression and anxiety and boosting their temperament and the resultant effects.
Worldwide, mindfulness-based therapies are becoming more helpful in treating issues with anxiety and depression because they are effective. Less research, however, has looked at the outcomes of a mindfulness-based counseling session based on widely used treatments for temperament, anxiety, and depression. This study fills that knowledge gap and focuses on self-compassion, mindfulness, mind-wandering, behavioral activation systems, and behavioral inhibition (BAS/BIS) as potential mediators. The most prevalent and tenacious mental ailment is depression. It is also among the least treatable. After a severe depressive episode, up to 80% of persons may relapse. Chances are that medications may not work, and if they do, their potency may deteriorate with time. However, increasing evidence points to a treatment that, by changing cognitive processes, seems to prevent possible recurrence without having any adverse side effects: This assessment comes from the MBC, which stands for mindfulness-based cognitive treatment. The study also discovered that those with a history of severe childhood trauma, which is connected to a higher likelihood of relapse, were more affected by MBCT than were participants as a whole (Hempel S et al., 2014)
The following eligibility requirements had to be met: participants had to be healthy volunteers between the ages of 9 and 11 and of either sex. Children between the ages of 9 and 11 were required to meet the following inclusion criteria: they must be willing to participate in most intervention sessions with their parents; they must have a sufficient understanding of Italian; they must have a reasonable grasp of spoken language and be able to follow simple instructions. Exclusion criteria include concurrently enrolling in other randomized trials and having a child or parent who routinely engages in complementary health practices like meditation. The meditation program was launched in a Pisa, Italy, public elementary school. All of the study participants’ parents gave their formal, written consent.
A competent psychotherapist with a certificate in mindfulness instruction led the class. The initial design and implementation of the mindfulness program followed the procedures outlined in the literature. The intervention focused on practicing mindful eating, breathing techniques, body scan activities, and walking. We define mindfulness exercises as “paying attention to the here and now.”
Experts reveal that the program was successful in altering temperamental characteristics. The amount of social orientation, pleasant mood, and attitude increased, and levels of resistance to novelty decreased (Zenner, C., 2014). The outcomes show that mindfulness training considerably lowered anxiety levels in kids participating in regular school activities (Semple R. J et al., 2010), but not in the case of depressive symptoms. According to a recent study (Tymofiyeva O et al., 2021)
Mindfulness training for adolescents helped them feel less anxious and altered the amygdala’s network architecture, improving structural connectivity. Additionally, studies have indicated that mindfulness interventions are successful treatments for anxiety and mood issues in clinical populations of adults. These interventions also lower the chance of chronic depression by reducing concern and rumination. However, we discovered that mindfulness training among elementary school students aged 9 to 11 could dramatically lower anxiety levels but not sadness. Interestingly, a recent meta-analysis also emphasized the potential efficacy of mindfulness-based therapies for adolescents and children with mental health problems. Surprisingly, mindfulness-based therapies improved stress and anxiety but not depression in non-clinical patients compared to non-active controls. The non-clinical samples, in contrast to clinical samples, may not demonstrate significant levels of guilt or shame about a real clinical symptom of anxiety or depression. It may show better and healthier emotional levels at baseline that might not require treatment for depression, as experts have shown that increased amounts of shame and dysfunctional guilt were associated with the emergence of elementary school depression as young as age 3. That guilt and shame assert adverse effects on cognition and attention.
The mindfulness approach successfully fostered the growth of pro-social traits like good social and emotional orientation and cognitive performance traits like attention. Since these are essential factors in assessing interpersonal conflict, it is conceivable that mindfulness training can help kids develop their pro-social and attentional skills. It allows them to become adept at a simple method for controlling their emotions and calming down. According to the research, angry or rejected kids had trouble switching their focus from an unfavorable to a positive behavioral effect. Children who are violent or rejected were shown to be less able to control their behavior after suffering social failure, proving the link between attention and behavior. A direct correlation between concentration and pro-social behavior is also implied by previous findings, which reveal that attentional widening also results in higher pro-social behavior. A previous study has demonstrated that pro-social attitudes influence attentional broadening. Reorienting attention can also be considered a significant outcome of mindfulness therapy. Research has shown that the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), which is involved in reorienting attention, is also involved in the assumption of other people’s movement efforts and the cost of assisting. TPJ may therefore support higher-order social cognition and its function in reorienting attention.
Effects of Mindfulness Interventions on Temperament, Anxiety, and Depression
MBCT is a collaborative program that covers eight weeks and includes body awareness exercises, yoga, and daily assignments like eating or completing domestic tasks while paying close attention to every instant of each activity. Focusing on one’s emotions in the current or present state is the basic concept of mindfulness. It entails continuously monitoring thoughts and feelings without passing judgment or becoming sucked into them. When thoughts arise during a training session, the ideal meditator observes where it goes and then calmly retreats to the present moment, possibly concentrating on the breath, physiological sensations, or a basic yoga pose. In one study, Williams and associates discovered that individuals with more significant hardship or abuse as children or who acquired depression at a younger age were more likely to gain from MBC (Williams J. M et al., 2014). The tendency to think adversely about the past, the future, or oneself is one sign of depression. People who practice mindfulness become more conscious of these ideas and learn to step back and examine their thoughts as they go across their minds. Mind wandering and Obsessive thoughts, which are both linked to depression, are two behaviors that the MBCT focuses on reducing in addition to its emphasis on increasing acceptance and mindfulness of the present situation.
Additionally, it was thought that mindfulness intervention treatment programs might boost self-compassion, resulting in a decline in anxiety and depression. The desire to lessen one’s pain and to cure oneself with kindness is what some researchers (Neff K. D,2003) refer to as “feeling affected by and sensitive to your suffering, and not ignoring or separating from it.”
Mindfulness Interventions and Depression
Depression in women is likely to manifest as feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and sadness. Women may be more prone to the disorder due to hormonal changes and changes associated with the life cycle, such as postpartum depression. Depression in males frequently manifests as fatigue, sleep issues, and irritability. They stop enjoying activities they formerly found enjoyable. Men are additionally more susceptible to using alcohol and drugs, engaging in risky behavior, or becoming obsessively focused on work, trying to block out their condition.
The common disability and illness among teenagers is depression which is on the rise worldwide. For teenagers and preteens, depression can manifest as getting in trouble at school, being irritable for extended periods, and having a solid sense of being misjudged. Despite the effectiveness of psychotherapy and antidepressants, approximately 40% of depressed children obtain treatment. The reason is that there are not enough specialists, financial hurdles, and personal barriers, including stigma, a lack of enthusiasm, and negative views about treatment. The use of complementary and alternative therapies for depression is expanding. Mindfulness meditation is one of these treatments. According to recent research on the effects of mindfulness meditation on depressive symptoms, the group in the mindfulness category showed lower depressive tendencies than the control group (Reangsing C et al., 2021). Depression is frequently a chronic disorder that relapses despite medication and therapy, making treatment challenging. Research also indicates that relapse rates may reach up to 80% (Burcusa S, 2007).
It is interesting to note that relapse rates decrease when mindfulness we incorporate into the typical depression therapy methods. Clinicians skilled in mindfulness therapies may suggest mindfulness meditation to adolescents with moderate to severe symptoms of depression as well as to adolescents at risk for developing depression. The benefits of mindfulness therapy on teenage depression were moderated by funding, individual counseling, mindfulness intervention type, and time until the follow-up.
Mindfulness Interventions and Anxiety
When one is prepared to exercise mindfulness during meditation and actively seek out opportunities to implement this knowledge and understanding on occasions when they are not meditating, practicing mindfulness can assist. This outcome comes regardless of whether one’s anxiety manifests as social anxiety, generalized anxiety, or panic attacks.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been demonstrated to be efficient treatment modalities for anxiety (Li, J et al., 2021). This study had five components: (I) patients with anxiety symptoms or disorders; (II) a design for a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT), (III) MBIs given to the experimental group; (IV) CBT given to the comparison group; and (V) the clinical outcomes which were sleep quality, anxiety, and depression. The study results between CBTs and MBIs concerning anxiety, sleep quality, and depression, after the conclusion of CBT and MBIs group sessions. Additionally, subgroup analysis was carried out, and the outcomes showed that MBIs might offer little benefit over CBT for those with anxiety symptoms.
Mindfulness and Temperament
Temperament inclinations might come from two different places. The first is based on probabilistic processes of purposeful reasoning that use clearly stated ideas and incentives to alter people’s explicit attitudes. Contrarily, the second source originates in automatic and associative mechanisms through which intuitive thoughts and judgments shape people’s attitudes. (GawronskiB & Bodenhausen G.V.,2006). According to research, mindfulness interventions might encourage a person’s personality and self-concept to change for the better. This realization may make it easier to define the shift in self-perception as a critical mechanism of action by which MM exerts its positive health effects. This shift in viewpoint may be particularly assisted by a high capacity for perceiving the sense of one’s self as a transient occurrence as opposed to as a permanent and unchanging thing brought on by mindfulness (Hölzel et al., 2011). It is common to have mental clashes between intuitive impulses and analytical assessments when making day-to-day decisions. These conflicts can even affect more private areas like self-representations and self-attitudes, which affect temperament.
Despite these drawbacks, the study showed that a mindfulness initiative in a group of primary school students (9–11 years old) could alleviate anxiety-related symptoms. They also alleviated temperamental aspects of physical emotions, social orientation, attitude, and inhibition of novelty when compared to a corresponding non-active control group.
The findings support the use of mindfulness training for primary school students to prevent anxiety symptoms. More importantly, mindfulness training may effectively combat loneliness, increase social interaction, and enhance cognitive performance by boosting the production of miRNA-29c in neurons. Additionally, a strong negative correlation was discovered between mindfulness, absorption, and depersonalization.
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