How often should students meditate?

Meditation for teenagers

Listening to music, chatting, doing homework - young people often multitask. Your working memory is impaired as a result. Regular mindfulness meditations improve adolescents' memory performance.

Working memory is involved in cognitive tasks such as thinking skills, math problem solving and reading comprehension. It also saves information for a short time, for example it keeps the beginning of a sentence until the speaker has finished it. If adolescents manage several activities at once, the working memory capacity for the individual tasks is reduced. An American study shows that regular mindfulness meditations improve the capacity of adolescents.

Study on memory performance in adolescents

Researchers from the southwestern United States studied 198 middle school students in public schools. The adolescents either participated in mindfulness meditations or in hatha yoga. The third group was only on the waiting list. The participants were predominantly female and between the ages of 12 and 15 years. They came from families with mostly low incomes.

For a month, the students did mindfulness meditations or hatha yoga exercises twice a week. Two trained mindfulness trainers led the first group in the mindfulness meditations and taught breathing techniques. In addition, they discussed sitting posture, breathing and dealing with wandering thoughts with the young people. In addition, participants were asked to do 15 to 30 minutes of exercises at home every day, with CDs providing instructions. The yoga group was led by trained instructors in a similarly structured manner. In addition to breathing and discussions, the third focus was on the yoga exercises. The yoga group should also do exercises at home.

Mindfulness meditations improve working memory capacity

After four weeks, the researchers found that the mindfulness meditation group's working memory had improved. The experts suspect that the meditations act as a kind of centering in contrast to the multitasking behavior of the young people.

In addition, they cause neurological changes. "Theoretical and experimental research shows that mindfulness meditation is linked to changes in the nerve pathways, and this can be particularly effective in promoting executive functions," explains Dr. Kristen E. Jastrowski Mano from the Psychology Department at the University of Cincinnati. The executive functions are skills that control human thought and action. "The practice of meditation is closely related to the function of working memory," says Dr. Jastrowski continues. The result is consistent with research on adults.

The experts see a further benefit in the meditation exercises in the relationship between the young people and their meditation teachers. Adolescents who live in chaotic families do not always get a lot of attention. The meditation teachers often showed compassion and respect for this.

Yoga and mindfulness meditations reduce stress and anxiety

In the yoga group and the participants on the waiting list, however, there was no change in memory performance. However, hatha yoga and mindfulness meditations reduce the teenagers' awareness of anxiety and stress.

"But more research is needed to find out which teens benefit most from mindfulness meditation, and in what ways," concludes Jastrowski Mano.

The English-language study can be found on the website of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Authors

02/19/2016 | Julia Schmidt / Monks doctors online