According to a major UK study, school mindfulness lessons don’t work for teenagers. The technique, which encourages people to meditate and live in the moment, was no better than what schools were already doing for mental health.


Many pupils were not that interested in using the method, calling it “boring”. Hundreds of teachers and thousands of pupils at 85 different secondary schools participated in the experiment. Researchers say the results, published in a journal called Evidence-Based Mental Health, are disappointing but useful.


Despite the lack of evidence for its efficacy, relaxation has recently become increasingly popular in boosting well-being. However, this study suggests that it may not be effective for everyone, especially teenagers.


The research suggests that other interventions should be explored, such as tackling deprivation and giving more targeted mental health support. This is important because mental health problems are rising among young people in the UK.


But what is it? Mindfulness is an approach that aims to help people focus on what is happening rather than worry about what has happened or what might happen. Advocates say it can help people enjoy life more and understand themselves better, rather than getting caught up in harmful, negative thoughts.


The school pupils were given mindfulness lessons during a school term. They were also asked to continue the technique at home – but very few did.

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Co-researcher Prof Mark Williams from Oxford University said that, on average, pupils only practised mindfulness once over the ten-week study period. He said: “This is not enough to produce any benefits.”


Pupils who did practise this activity reported feeling calmer and more able to concentrate. But when the researchers looked at the pupils’ well-being and academic performance, they found no evidence that mindfulness had made any difference.


So why didn’t it work? The study’s authors say there are several possible explanations. First, many pupils were not interested in using mindfulness and found it boring. Second, the school environment may not have been conducive to practising mindfulness – for example, if pupils felt under pressure or were worried about being ridiculed by their peers.


It’s also possible that mindfulness is not suitable for some people – just as some people don’t respond well to other forms of therapy.


The authors say more research is needed to explore why mindfulness doesn’t seem to work for some people. In the meantime, they say other interventions should be explored to improve well-being among young people.


If you’re considering trying, it may be worth talking to your doctor or a mental health professional first to see if it’s right for you.


What do you think? Have you tried mindfulness? Do you think it’s helpful? Let us know in the comments below.

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