Earlier this year, the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Grace Tatter reported that the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University (CEPR), MIT, and Transforming Education released a study that shows how mindfulness education in the classroom can reduce students' sense of stress and lengthen attention spans.
The study tracked two groups of sixth graders: One group participated in an eight-week mindfulness program four times each week, the other group did not. Students in the mindfulness group were taught anxiety-reducing techniques such as focusing on a rock for a minute, then discussing when their mind wandered and refocused on the rock.
Tatter reported, "after the eight weeks, the mindfulness group reported being less stressed than they had been before the mindfulness education, and better able to practice self-control."
Amazingly, the student responses were validated with brain scans that showed that the part of their brains that control emotion, known as their amygdalas, had a decrease in response to pictures of fearful faces after the mindfulness work. Tatter noted that this suggests that "their brains were less sensitive to negative stimuli, or, in other words, that they were less prone to get stressed out and lose focus."
The other group that did not engage in mindfulness did not see the same benefits during their brain scan tests.