Today’s stressful environments can take a toll on the mental well-being of not just adults but also children. Previous studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) showed that including mindfulness—the practice of focusing on one’s present—in schools could benefit children by improving their academic performance and reducing stress. Now, a new study has found that practising mindfulness remotely, using an app, could also improve children’s mental health.
In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic began and millions of students were sent home from school, a group of MIT researchers started investigating whether remote, app-based mindfulness practices could offer benefits similar to in-person intervention at schools. They conducted a study in 2020 and 2021 which demonstrated that children who used a mindfulness app at home for 40 days reported improvements in mental health, and a reduction in stress and feelings of loneliness, according to MIT News.
The findings, published in the journal Mindfulness, show a wider population could be reached through remote, app-based mindfulness practice. “There is growing and compelling scientific evidence that mindfulness can support mental well-being and promote mental health in diverse children and adults,” said senior author John Gabrieli in the press statement published in MIT News.
In another study, published in PLOS One in July, researchers in Gabrieli's lab reported that children who showed higher levels of mindfulness were more emotionally resilient to the negative impacts of Covid-19. Mindfulness can help how you respond to and interpret it. “To some extent, the impact of Covid is out of your control as an individual, but your ability to respond to it and to interpret it may be something that mindfulness can help with," lead author Isaac Treves said in the statement. Mindfulness practice can also help in reducing fear-based responses and thoughts.
The findings of the new study reiterated this and found that after using remote, app-based mindfulness practice for eight weeks, children experienced more significant decreases in anger and sadness. The app-based practice also helps children define their own pace and have more control over how they engage with mindfulness.