The Many Benefits of Meditation in the Classroom

Just 10 minutes of meditation a day can have a big effect on student well-being, studies find
May 21, 2018 Updated: June 1, 2018

The fast pace of the business world—where competition is the rule and return on investment decides everything—can be challenging for business students.

They are expected to know the rules of business inside and out, but they also need to learn to master their emotions to enable them to make efficient and ethical decisions.

A traditional business education provides few opportunities for students to cultivate emotional resilience, empathy, and ethical judgment. Incorporating meditation into the curriculum could help rectify this.

Preliminary findings from a study conducted with business students at Simon Fraser University in Canada show that even 10 minutes of classroom meditation can gradually increase students’ levels of physical, mental, and emotional awareness.

Can meditation help all students—from elementary to university—to become more peaceful, calm, and better decision-makers?

Positivity, Creativity, Connection

Our study, conducted with 93 students of a third-year business ethics course in 2016, revealed that students who meditated in the classroom experienced a transformation in their thinking and behavior.

Initially, these students found it challenging to control their “monkey minds” during a 10-minute meditation.

Interestingly, after three months of practice, they found that 10 minutes became short for them, and they felt motivated to practice more at home.

For most of the students, meditation was a first-time experience, and gradually they began to feel calmness and equanimity. Meditation allowed them to know themselves better, helping them feel more relaxed and peaceful. It seemed to increase students’ level of physical, mental, and emotional awareness.

Moreover, students also reported waking dreams, visions, and a sense of tranquility during meditation.

Most of the interviewed students said that they enjoyed meditation and felt happy that they could attend the course.

Improving Children’s Well-being

Meditation is not just for adults; children and adolescents also benefit. Research shows that meditation in the classroom helps students become more focused, calm, quiet, settled, and rested by providing them an opportunity to learn to relax and reflect.

Researchers from the Universities of Udine and Rome, in Italy, studied the effects of a mindfulness meditation training on a group of 16 healthy elementary school children aged 7 to 8.

They found that meditation training improved the children’s attention and reduced internalizing problems, such as fearfulness, withdrawal from social groups, anxiety, and depression, thereby improving their psychological well-being.

Ten to 12 minutes of meditation also enhanced positivity and creativity among students, by reducing restlessness, nervousness, and irritation, according to research from Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management.

More importantly, 10 minutes of meditation daily can enable us to connect with ourselves, get acquainted with our innermost feelings, and plan better for the future.

Changes in the Brain

At the physiological level, research shows that meditation can reduce stress, pain, anxiety, cardiovascular diseases, and insomnia.

Meditation also balances blood pressure and heart rate, and improves respiration and cognition.

Research from neuroscience also suggests that the brain can be changed structurally and functionally through regular practice of meditation—resulting in improved emotional and mental states.

Furthermore, there is ample research to show that the largest effects of meditation are experienced by those areas of the brain that are responsible for happiness and positive feelings.

A Question of Commitment

The above discussion provides a glimpse of the potential of a meditation practice for students of all ages.

A meditation practice does not require any sophisticated equipment, infrastructure, support system, or money. It requires only commitment—to dedicate at least 10 minutes every day—and a small space to sit or stand comfortably.

Meditation as a part of regular teaching can play an important role not only in enabling students to increase their self-awareness, but also in changing their perspective, to some extent.

The ConversationWe think it is time for schools at all levels to acknowledge meditation practices as an important part of any curriculum—for the benefits of students, and for society as well.

Thomas Culham is a visiting lecturer at the Beedie School of Business at  Simon Fraser University in Canada, and Neha Shivhare is an assistant professor at Dayalbagh Educational Institute in India and a fellow at Simon Fraser University. This article was originally published on The Conversation.