An experiment in the UK tried to teach children to meditate and live in the present, rather than worrying about the future or thinking about the past. But most teens answered with a common word among young adults: “boring.”
Mindfulness – the practice of paying more attention to the present moment through your thoughts, feelings, and the world around you, with the goal of improving well-being and mental health – is gaining followers around the world.
In the UK, health and education authorities have believed that vigilance can be particularly helpful in adolescence – the most vulnerable stage in life when mental problems first appear.
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A group of researchers from some of the most prestigious universities in the world, such as Oxford and Cambridge in England, created an experiment: they decided to teach mindfulness in some secondary schools in the country to analyze its effects on young people.
The result was a fiasco.
The study — published in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health — found that teaching mindfulness lessons to teens in school to increase well-being is often a waste of time.
The method of performing meditations and small exercises did no more to improve the mental health of young people than the schools did.
Thousands of students and hundreds of teachers from 85 secondary schools participated in the experiment. Most of the students showed little interest in using the method they described as “boring”.
The results, while disappointing, say the researchers. They point out that while mindfulness may help some students, introducing it universally in schools would be a failure. The study recommends exploring other interventions that may be helpful, such as providing more specific mental health help.
Mindfulness is a method that aims to help people focus on what is really happening at the moment – Image: Pexels
Mindfulness is a method intended to help people focus on what is really happening at the moment, rather than worrying about what has already happened or what might happen.
Advocates of this meditation-based technique say it helps people enjoy life more and understand themselves better, rather than falling into the trap of negative and harmful thoughts.
Students who participated in the study took several mindfulness classes during a semester. They were also asked to use this technique at home, but few did.
One of the study’s researchers, Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University, noted that students, on average, practice mindfulness only once during the 10-week course.
“It’s like just going to the gym once and hoping to get back in shape,” Williams explained. “But why didn’t they train? [mindfulness]? Many of them found it boring.”
Many of them among teachers have found that practicing mindfulness is beneficial for their well-being.
For Dan O’Hare of the British Psychological Association, “It is important not to view mindfulness sessions as a panacea or a ‘ready-to-use’ product that can help teens and their teachers become ‘more resilient’ without taking into account all the other factors that can influence on their lives, like the school environment.”
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“We also cannot ignore the fact that teenagers and teachers have had a very difficult two years. [por causa da pandemia]. Given the conditions we live in and the stresses this creates, it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that the study sample did not show a significant improvement in well-being,” says O’Hare.
Julieta Gallant from the University of Cambridge stresses that this research reinforces the importance of collecting data to see if the method really works.
The researchers believed the trial could be effective based on several small-scale studies. However, she says, “we need to be absolutely certain of the benefit before launching any comprehensive health intervention.”
“The results do not completely rule out the potential of mindfulness-based therapy in young people: as with any therapy, it works for some people, but not all. The important thing is to determine who can benefit from it, when and how,” says Professor Stella Chan, a specialist at the University of Reading.
This text was originally published in https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-62190873
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