Mindfulness and Cognitive ability

Mindfulness is something almost everyone has heard of at this point, and something that has been said to have numerous benefits with the ability to be fully present in the moment and tune in to ones own senses.  It can be achieved by meditation or yoga, and in this case an online course to help students and teachers in maintaining attention and student engagement. Observing the present moment as it is can be difficult for most people and often times we spend more time focusing on the past or future, and for teenagers, it can be even more difficult due to stress and other distractions. Research has previously been conducted on the effect of mindfulness training on cognitive ability. Some of these studies have worked with women with breast cancer and elite military service members, both of which had shown that cognitive ability improved and were correlated with the mindfulness training they had been performing.

25 high schools around the country have implemented the use of a course that practices mindfulness with personalized attention training to “teach students to focus their minds and manage their emotions so they can succeed academically.” It is developed at the “Center for Mindfulness & Human Potential (CMHP), part of the university’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences” at UC Santa Barbara. The online course involves 12 minute lessons and 4 minute daily exercises, most of which involve music that includes whichever genre they prefer. “We ask students to try to keep their attention focused on the sounds they hear,” explained Alissa Mrazek, who is a senior postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences. “Then when distractions arise, as they inevitably do, it’s an opportunity to practice letting go of that distraction and coming back to the music.” Each activity is designed to help students practice mindfulness in order to improve their ability to focus, and it also had an effect in improving students’ mental health.

The source I found this information from is an article featured by the University of California (https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/surviving-era-unlimited-distraction) and while the research is interesting, I feel like this article in particular seemed to be slightly condescending towards teens and their inability to focus because they’re too busy on their phones. “The unhealthy use of technology” is bolded in the headline, and I don’t really understand why the author felt it was necessary to include that since it wasn’t really mentioned later on in the article, and it doesn’t really make sense since the solution is an online program itself? Something else I noticed, is they mentioned having surveyed students, but no students are quoted in the article who have used the program, it’s just their teachers and those who are researching the program. However, I did appreciate that the research didn’t only look at students ability to focus, but also how there has been such a large decline in teens’ mental health, and I think it’s important that these schools are trying to improve how they treat the matter.

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Edit: Sorry the video didn’t work! Not sure how to fix so I just took it out. But it is included in the article from the University of California (4th link) if you wanted to take a look.

8 thoughts on “Mindfulness and Cognitive ability

  1. ellsonke

    I’d be interested in looking at the varying effect sizes for people who take mindfulness courses online and those who take them in person. I have also heard of some schools replacing detention with similar programs, which include mindfulness training and yoga; there are also some schools who add it to the curriculum. At one high school in Baltimore, “suspensions and verbal and physical altercations all decreased by more than half.”
    As for your criticism of the author’s condescension towards teens, the Adolescent and Adult Development class goes into some discussion about how teenagers are negatively stereotyped by adults.

  2. awaltrip

    I was really into mindfulness when I was younger; however, I have gotten out of the habit of doing it frequently. With the benefits you have talked about I am defiantly going to start meditating and practicing mindfulness again. However, I will not be reading the article with the comments that you gave.

  3. vleonled

    I would like to learn more about how students use mindfulness in their everyday lives and how they self care. Since students are under constant stress, a research on their own ideas of mindfulness and whether it works for what they need is interesting. Maybe a student coming up with their own mindfulness program could give better insight than researchers, or there could be a more hands on perspective from students. Using the information given, the stress levels or students habits could be measured.

  4. chooker

    I really liked this topic of mindfulness and people. It would be interesting to see if kids from a young age start practicing mindfulness, if their whole outlook on life would change. That way it can help kids to deal with life and different situations as well. If kids can learn self care and take necessary time to themselves, they will do so much better in the long run.

  5. kownbey

    I think mindfulness is a really useful tool for everyone. I just attended a psychology research team meeting where one of the psychology professors proposed collecting data on a first grade classroom where mindfulness is being implemented as a sort of pilot study. I think the demographic that could possibly be helped the most in terms of mindfulness would be our own age group (stress, stress, stress), and as you mentioned in your post, children. It’s great for learning how to control emotions and frustration, and I think it’s pretty cool that some schools are implementing mindfulness curriculum among the everyday routine.

  6. sbalenger

    First off, I loved your critique. Second, I agree that mindfulness is something many people have heard about by now, but I don’t know that many people actually understand it. It seems like it was a fad and then it faded out for some. I personally began practicing mindfulness a few years ago, and though I haven’t been consistent in my practice, it has definitely been helpful to come back to. Also, hearing that some schools are implementing mindfulness in place of typical punishments is exciting.

  7. Sydney Wayne

    I support implementing mindfulness into course curriculums. In general, it does improve focus and overall positive moods. Both do really help in an academic setting. I know a few students who have taken the mindfulness class at UMW and have really enjoyed it. I also saw an interview of a women who just won a memory contest. She said that her and her competitors use mindfulness and medication a lot, focus is a big part of memorization and recall.
    I have been doing yoga off and on for a few years now. I want it to be more of a solid routine in my daily life while as school for better focus. The fitness center has yoga classes!
    I also do not like how so many articles now point to teens always being on their phones. Not all of teens’ problems are because of cell phones, it invalidates their issues.

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