Chelsea Silver has been meditating for more than four years. She’s kind of a meditation pro, and she’s only in the fourth grade.
“After I normally do meditation, it helps me feel a lot calmer in general and it helps you focus more on what you’re doing,” she said.
Over the past five years, scientists and schools have increasingly looked into the academic benefits of mindfulness meditation for children for that very reason: focus.
Since kids’ brains are still developing, it’s possible that a consistent meditation practice could help them become more focused and better-regulated adults. That in turn could lead to greater academic success.
Kristen Lyons is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She and a colleague did a comprehensive review of several studies on meditation and children.
She notes a few studies have shown that meditation does help kids in the classroom.
“Children who do engage in meditation have better selective attention, meaning they are more able to focus on the main thing they’re supposed to be focusing on and that they’re better able to ignore distractors,” Lyons said.
Selective attention is something Chelsea Silver thinks could help her classmates.
“In class, I normally see people like drifting off and maybe playing with their hair or doing something with their hands, or holding something at their desks,” she said.
To counter the urge to daydream in class, Silver mentally summons a pebble meditation — a practice where the meditator uses four different pebbles to help visualize calm.
Lyons says while more kids and classes are using these techniques, using it in children, and the research to measure it, are both relatively new. “There’s a lot of encouraging results… but I think like most new interventions, we need to do a lot of work to understand exactly what pieces might be working and why,” said Lyons.