Mindfulness as a strategy to combat chronic trauma


We are at the very beginning stages of Mindfulness at our district. We have taken out staff through a professional development series regarding calming centers and self-regulation. Our latest step is building our skill in Mindfulness. I’m hoping the Inner Explorer program can scaffolding for staff that are less comfortable and skilled with Mindfulness. Any important details while starting out?


Hi Colleen,

Thank you for posting! What a wonderful and important gift your district is offering to both students and teachers as you introduce mindfulness. Many of the schools we work with are supporting their students around trauma. The research supports mindfulness practice, not only as a means of self-regulation and stress reduction, but also behavioral issues, academic success, and overall mental and emotional well-being.

The Inner Explorer programs work well for both those who are skilled at practicing mindfulness and also beginners. The key to any mindfulness practice is consistency. We have found that when teachers practice with their students on a daily basis they not only tend to stick with the practice, but also experience more benefit, both personally and within the classroom. Because our program is as simple as pressing ‘play’ and requires no advance prep, the teachers can more easily incorporate the 5-10 minute practices into their day and model the value of practicing to their students as they practice mindfulness along with them. This way, the practice becomes embodied and more authentic. Finally, while not advised to force participation, the more teachers/support staff (and parents as there is a parent opt-in so parents can practice also) who practice within the school community, the more mindfulness becomes an inherent part of that community. So, it is very helpful when a principal and/or administrator is also actively engaged.

While there are an abundance of studies that demonstrate the benefits of mindfulness for adults, and it is feasible that these same benefits would apply to children, there have been fewer studies on children and children in education. However, in recent years, this has changed considerably as education is such a logical and important environment for reaching youth to offer these valuable lifelong skills. Inner Explorer has a Summary of Research Abstracts on everything from academic performance to executive functioning, stress reduction, etc. If you are interested, please email me at lgrady@innerexplorer.org.

Here is a research summary on self-regulation you may find helpful:

Ability to self-regulate improves with MBSR Training program.

Flook, L. et al. (2010). The effects of mindful awareness practices on executive function in elementary school children, Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26: 1, 70-95.

These two pilot studies demonstrated that mindful awareness practices improve executive function in elementary school children. Specifically, there was improvement in self-regulatory abilities among preschool and elementary school students who participated in an 8-week modified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training program, taught in two 30-minute sessions per week. Children who were initially less well regulated showed the strongest improvements subsequent to training, as compared to children in the control group who did not receive the training.

And here is one that specifically addresses trauma:

**MBSR program reduces post-traumatic stress symptoms **
for urban youth.

Sibinga, E., Webb,L., Ghazarian,S., Ellen, J. (2015). School-Based Mindfulness Instruction: An RCT.

An adapted mindfulness-based stress reduction program was evaluated to determine its ability to ameliorate the negative effects of stress and trauma. Low-income, minority, middle school students from two Baltimore City Public Schools were randomly assigned to receive either the MBSR program or a health education program. 300 students in grades 5-8 provided survey data. Both the MBSR and the Health Training group were comparable at baseline. However, post-program, the MBSR students experienced significantly lower negative coping and affect, depression, rumination, self-hostility and post-traumatic symptom severity. The results support the hypothesis that MBSR supports improved psychological functioning and may reduce symptoms of trauma among urban middle school students.

I am happy to discuss this further and offer you more support as you introduce mindfulness to your district.

With warmth,