What Are the Benefits of Meditation for Kids?
Meditation is a practice that promotes a calm, integrated state of mind. It increases attention, self-awareness, and the ability to manage thoughts and feelings. Extensive research demonstrates the positive impact of adult meditation on our mental and physical well-being. More recently, emerging research has shown the many benefits of meditation for kids too!
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends meditation as an effective and safe mind-body therapy for children. In particular, the AAP mentions “improvements in mental health, coping, and self-regulation as well as decreasing hypertension and negative school behaviors.”
5 Benefits of Meditation for Kids
Here are five reasons to practice meditation with your children or students!
Benefit #1: Helps with Managing Stress and Anxiety
Meditation triggers the body’s relaxation response, calming the body and mind. Over time, people who practice meditation become less reactive to stress. They experience less stress when facing challenging situations, and they’re able to recover from feelings of stress and anxiety more easily.
Most of the research on meditation, stress, and anxiety focuses on adults. But several small studies have shown that children feel happier and more relaxed when they engage in mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga.
Mindfulness-based interventions help children with severe stress and trauma self-regulate and learn. This finding is especially important. Kids experiencing chronic stress often become stuck in fight or flight, making it difficult to focus, learn, and behave appropriately. Simple, healthy practices like meditation can make a meaningful difference!
Through meditation, kids practice calming strategies. They develop the ability to notice their thoughts and emotions without overly engaging with or judging them. Gradually, it becomes easier to recognize and manage stress, anxiety, and big emotions. As a result, both learning and behavior can improve.
Benefit #2: Improves Focus
Practicing meditation means practicing sustained attention. Children learn to sit still and focus on their breathing. They practice not getting distracted by friends, sounds, and even their own thoughts.
They allow their thoughts to harmlessly float by, without dwelling on or questioning them. In fact, studies show that meditators have more stability in their ventral posteromedial cortex (vPMC). The vPMC is linked to mind-wandering and spontaneous thoughts. People who meditate have more control over the “background noise” constantly running through our minds.
As children sharpen their ability to focus, they can apply it in the classroom too. This is great news because concentration and focus is linked to academic achievement.
Benefit #3: Boosts Confidence
Confidence is hugely important for motivation, grit, academic success, and overall well-being. The practice of meditation boosts confidence because it is all about personal improvement and self-awareness, and never about comparison or competition.
As kids practice meditation, they move at their own pace in a way that feels comfortable for them. They’ll feel excited and accomplished as they deepen their practice and experience the results. That’s empowering!
Another confidence-related benefit of meditation for kids is that meditation makes it easier to turn off negative self-talk. With practice, it becomes easier to let go of the untrue stories, judgments, and criticisms we often hold about ourselves. Imagine the powerful impact of learning to limit negative self-talk from a young age.
Finally, meditation triggers endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. These feel-good chemicals promote positive feelings and increased self-esteem.
Benefit #4: Fosters Compassion
As children learn to be kinder to themselves, they learn to be kinder to others in turn. Mindfulness meditation is linked to more kind and caring thoughts about others, as well as more compassionate actions.
Experts aren’t sure exactly why meditation leads to an increase in prosocial behaviors. It helps people pay more attention to the present moment, which may make them more aware of what others are feeling. And people who meditate are often happier, which correlates with increased kindness and generosity toward others.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that meditation can encourage kids to treat both themselves and others with increased kindness and compassion. In a classroom, this could result in a more united and collaborative culture. At home, this could mean greater peace between siblings.
Benefit #5: Improves Sleep
We all love a good night’s sleep, but it’s especially important for growing kids. Children who get adequate sleep have improved memory, attention, learning behavior, and overall mental and physical health.
Learning to relax the body and brain through meditation naturally makes it easier to fall asleep. It’s also easier to sleep when stress and anxiety are reduced.
Additionally, meditating releases melatonin, which contributes to more restful sleep. People who meditate have shown improvements in slow-wave sleep and REM sleep, along with fewer nighttime awakenings. Meditation is even being studied as a treatment for insomnia.
Quick Tips to Maximize the Benefits of Meditation for Kids
Overall, it’s clear that the benefits of meditation for kids positively impact physical health, mental health, and even social and emotional skills.
Of course, you may wonder how to teach meditation to kids. Here are a few quick tips on starting a meditation practice with your children or students:
- Gently encourage, rather than forcing, meditation. Children who are unwillingly meditating won’t reap the benefits, and they may even become averse to the practice.
- Start with movement, like combining meditation with yoga. Movement can make meditation more fun, and it can ease children into the practice. It’s also essential for children impacted by trauma.
- Begin with small increments of time, even if it’s only 2 minutes. Gradually increase the time as kids become more comfortable.
- Do it together. Modeling always helps when learning something new. Plus, meditating with children can make it a positive bonding experience for everyone involved.
- Explain the benefits, so children understand the value of meditating.
- Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing is an important part of meditation, so it’s helpful to begin by teaching breathing if you haven’t already done so. Deep breathing is also a skill children can use to calm themselves and regulate their emotions.
- Make it a fun, nonjudgmental experience. Meditating can feel awkward at first, so help children feel comfortable and relaxed. Avoid criticizing children who struggle to sit still or focus at first. Instead, be encouraging and patient as they learn new skills.
By following these tips, you can maximize the benefits of meditation for kids. Children will feel less stressed and more confident and focused. They’ll also treat others with kindness and compassion, and even get better sleep. Ultimately, meditation improves children’s overall health, their relationships with others, and their ability to behave and learn in school. If you want to start incorporating more mindfulness and meditation into your classroom you can start with these activities.