Thousands of school children to practice mindfulness and meditation in a bid to improve mental health

Children in hundreds of schools will be taking part in mindfulness and meditation classes [Photo: Getty]

Thousands of children are set to practice mindfulness and meditation at school to help them cope with the “pressures of the modern world.”

Pilot schemes in 370 primary and secondary schools have been introduced to test out alternative approaches to improving children’s mental health.

The Department for Education revealed that the trial, which is due to run until 2021, will teach pupils mindfulness, relaxation and breathing exercises to help them to regulate their emotions.

Additionally students will also have sessions with mental health experts.

Mindfulness is a popular meditation technique, which encourages people to refocus the brain to concentrate on the present moment.

According to the NHS mindfulness is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression in people who have had 3 or more bouts of depression in the past.

So it makes sense that the simple practice could help to improve the mental health of children.

Experts believe meditation can have several beneficial effects on children’s emotional, mental and intellectual development helping children to tune into themselves, sleep better and develop better social skills.

Meditation can also help enhance memory, improve behaviour, and encourage kids to cope with difficult situations.

In one study, mindfulness exercises including meditation were found to significantly reduce anxiety and improve emotional control in children.

The move comes as part of the Government’s efforts to improve the mental wellbeing among pupils.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced the trial to mark the start of Children’s Mental Health Week.

“As a society, we are more open about our mental health than ever before,” he said. “But the modern world has brought new pressures for children, while potentially making others worse.

“Schools and teachers don’t have all the answers – nor could they – but we know they can play a special role, which is why we have launched one of the biggest mental health trials in schools.”

The trial will be led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, in partnership with University College London.

Could mindfulness classes help to improve children’s mental health [Photo: Getty]

The Duchess of Cambridge has previously worked with the Anna Freud Centre as part of her ongoing campaign to help improve the mental health of children and young people. 

Commenting on the move project leader Dr Jessica Deighton said: “We know schools have a strong commitment to supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing but have had little clear guidance about the best ways to approach this.

“We want children and young people, parents and teachers to be confident that mental health in schools has an absolutely robust evidence base.”

It comes amid fears of an epidemic of mental health problems among children and teenagers, fuelled by social media and the Internet.

A recent study found loneliness among youths is on the rise due to increased use of social media.

The move comes following the launch of a new meditation app for children.

Headspace For Kids aims to encourage children to feel “calm and focused” through a series of short meditation exercises.

The app offers soothing sounds, breathing exercises, visualisation exercises and focus-based meditation for under fives, six to eight-year-olds and nine to 12-year-olds and has five themes for kids to explore: Calm, focus, kindness, sleep and wake up.

And exhausted parents rejoice because the app also promises to help kids fall asleep and wake up peacefully.

Altogether now kids ‘Ommmmmm’

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