Mindfulness programme has major impact on boys – study

A mind health programme taught in New Zealand primary and intermediate schools is having a significant positive impact on boys, research has found.

Pause Breathe Smile with Southern Cross has been found to have major unanticipated benefits for boys aged five to 12, the study by Ihi Research revealed.

The programme, which was launched in 2013, equips pupils and their teachers with tools to navigate life’s ups and downs.

It has been available without cost to any New Zealand primary or intermediate school since September, when Southern Cross joined forces with the Pause Breathe Smile Trust and the Mental Health Foundation to fund the programme.

Commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, the research notes the programme’s positive impact on all students but highlights it has a particularly transformative effect on boys.

More than 70 per cent of teachers believe PBS strategies help boys describe their feelings and understand the feelings of others.

The study also noted the programme “assisted boys to calm their minds to make better choices. Changes in boys’ behaviour could be dramatic and rewarding not just for the individual child but for those who interact with him”.

The Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, Shaun Robinson, said the importance of the findings about Pause Breathe Smile’s impact on boys could not be overstated.

“New Zealand’s enduring macho culture punishes boys and men for expressing their emotions and daring to show vulnerability.

“It’s vital for their mental health, and for the health of our society as a whole, that males feel able to share their feelings and empathise with others. The good news is that these skills can be learned, and that’s exactly what’s happening through this programme.”

Evidence based and curriculum-aligned, Pause Breathe Smile provides professional learning and development for teachers, who deliver the programme in their classrooms and incorporate its practices into their teaching.

The Managing Director of Ihi Research, Dr Catherine Savage, said Pause Breathe Smile had a ripple effect beyond students, teachers and school communities.

“The benefits flow from pupils and teachers to parents and whānau, from classrooms to playgrounds to staff rooms, positively impacting school culture and beyond that into homes, as children and teachers apply what they have learned.”

The research also highlighted the programme’s physical, spiritual, social, emotional and cognitive benefits for both Māori and non-Māori children.

“We found the programme is appropriate for Māori because it gives schools the ability to contextualise the programme to their own setting,” Savage said.

Other key findings include:

  • Ninety eight per cent of teachers reported that only did Pause Breathe Smile have a positive impact for children in their classrooms but they also used the techniques to calm their own anxious feelings
  • Ninety three per cent of children reported the programme’s activities enabled them to feel calmer, and helped them worry less
  • There were substantial reductions in stress, conflict and bullying among students, and relationships and social connections improved
  • Pause Breathe Smile enabled children to improve their focus and engagement in learning activities
  • The use of Pause Breathe Smile enabled calmer and emotionally safer classrooms and school environments, considered more conducive to teaching and learning
  • Children opened up about their feelings, and teachers were able to adjust their teaching practices accordingly

Expressions of interest in the programme from schools and teachers can be sent to [email protected]

For more information, see the Pause Breathe Smile website here.

*Click for research studies here.

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