Terve oppiva mieli
Terve oppiva mieli

Healthy Learning Mind

Healthy Learning Mind is a health promotion project including a research and development project that is conducted in co-operation with Folkhälsan Research Center and the University of Helsinki.

Healthy Learning Mind – Research Project

The aim of the research project is to explore the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention program on e.g. stress resilience, mental health and learning among 12-15 year old adolescents in the school context. 3519 students and their teachers and parents participated in the study during 2014-2016. Analysing and reporting of the data started in the spring 2017.

Background of Healthy Learning Mind-Research

The capacity to face new and stressful situations in the course of human life depends on an individual’s internal resources which develop in interplay between psychological, physiological and social constituents of life. Early intervention, targeted to strengthen and support this capacity, would be needed to counteract the influence of stressors and to promote health and well-being.

During the last few years research on mindfulness has increased, and widened from the adult population to children and adolescents. Earlier preliminary international research has shown promising results among children and adolescents both in clinical and school contexts. Earlier research shows that practicing mindfulness develops e.g. children’s and adolescents’ stress resilience, attention, emotion regulation, compassion and social skills. However, to be able to indicate the significant beneficial effects of mindfulness practice on children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being, the research needs to shift toward large and well-designed studies with robust methodologies.

The Aim of the Study

The primary aim of the Healthy Learning Mind research is to explore the effectiveness of a mindfulness intervention program compared to a standard relaxation program among a large sample of children and adolescents in the school context. In addition, we are interested in comparing intervention and non-treatment groups. The sample size is altogether 3 519 students.

The aim is to:

  • Examine the effectiveness of the mindfulness intervention on attention, resilience, well-being and compassion.
  • Promote emotion regulation, self-regulation, self-kindness and happiness among children and adolescents.
  • Promote calmness in the classroom as well as teachers’ well-being at schools.
  • Bring a cost-efficient tool for promoting well-being, learning and positive school climate among both students and teachers.

The research project systematically explores the effects of a mindfulness intervention on changes in medical, psychological, psychophysiological, neuropsychological and educational outcomes. It is designed to evaluate children’s and adolescents’ stress resilience, mental health and well-being as primary outcomes, and related underlying mechanisms (attention, emotion regulation, self-regulation, self-kindness, happiness) along with school social climate, social relationships, school achievement, and health behavior as secondary outcomes.

A study protocol Healthy Learning Mind - a school-based mindfulness and relaxation program: a study protocol for a cluster randomized controlled trial was published 07/2016 in BMC Psychology.

Timetable

2014-2016
The research was conducted in four intervention waves in Southern Finland. Intervention sessions took place in participating schools and data was collected by questionnaires and objective measurements.

2017
Analysing and reporting of the data started in the spring 2017.

2018
Analysing and reporting of the data continues during 2018.
The results will be published as the analyzing of the data proceeds. See chapter results.

Results

The first statistical analysis of the Healthy Learning Mind –research has been conducted during autumn 2017. We have compared the mindfulness intervention group to the active control group who received a relaxation program. We have analysed the data by gender, grade and practice intensity. The primary outcomes are resilience, social-emotional functioning and depression.

With the regard of health benefits, the findings suggest that mindfulness intervention is more beneficial than a regular relaxation program among adolescents. Statistically significant increase in resilience and statistically significant decrease in depressive symptoms were found in the intervention group compared to the active control group.

The results are more recognizable among girls. However, a more detailed analysis revealed that boys who were practicing mindfulness regularly benefitted from mindfulness practices such as girls. There are many possible reasons for this finding. One possible explanation is that practicing mindfulness as well as recognizing the psychological benefits of these practices is easier for girls compared to boys. Mindfulness practices are an effective and recommendable mean in order to enhance skills in emotion recognition and emotion expression among boys.

Social-emotional functioning improved in the mindfulness intervention group compared to the control group but a significant effect was only found among seventh graders.

As expected, results showed that practicing mindfulness regularly increased health benefits. Information about more detailed results will be updated on this page when the article has been published.

In the future it is essential to investigate whether health benefits of mindfulness practices can be increased in the school context by organizing training for school personnel. We are examining this question in the ongoing Healthy Learning Mind –development project.

Healthy Learning Mind – Development Project

The research project expanded to a development project in autumn 2016 when our Healthy Learning Mind research group received a grant for Health promotion from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

During the development project, we will develop and implement a mindfulness-based (MF-based) well-being program for both school personnel and students in Finnish comprehensive schools. The development of the well-being programs is based on the research results as well as on school personnel’s and students’ experiences of the mindfulness and relaxation interventions during the Healthy Learning Mind –research.

The aim is to provide schools with a concrete and cost-effective tool to promote well-being, learning and happiness among students and school personnel as well as enhance social climate and calmness in classrooms.

Phases of the Development Project

The development project comprises three phases:
1. Development of the MF-based well-being programs for school personnel and students
2. Arrangement of the comprehensive training course, including two modules: 1) a training of the MF-based well-being program for school personnel and 2) a training of implementing the MF-based well-being program for students into schools
3. Implementation of the MF-based well-being program for students into schools after the school personnel’s comprehensive training course

The MF-based well-being program for school personnel is a mindfulness program promoting eg. well-being, stress-management and self-compassion among school personnel.

The MF-based well-being program for students includes mindfulness practices that promote well-being, learning, social and emotional skills and enhance a calm school environment. Mindfulness practices are suitable for different age groups.

Feasibility Study

During the development project, we are conducting a feasibility study in order to assess the implementation of the MF-based well-being program. Research data will be collected from the school personnel and students by questionnaires and interviews.

Timetable

2016
We started to develop the MF-based well-being programs in the autumn 2016. At the same time, we recruited schools to participate in our development project.

2017
The development of the programs was continued in the spring 2017. We arranged the first training of the MF-based well-being program for school personnel in March-May and the second one during September-November 2017.

2018
In the beginning of the year 2018, the trained school personnel will start implementing the MF-based well-being program for students into classrooms. In collaboration with the school personnel and students, we aim to find out the best ways to implement the MF-practices into schooldays. Based on the results of the feasibility study and feedback by school personnel and students we will finalise the MF-based well-being programs during 2018.

The progress of the project and information of new trainings will be updated on the website during 2018.

For further information, please contact the project coordinator Emilia Keijonen: info@terveoppivamieli.fi