Scoop Education Article

Research Finds PBS Mindfulness Training Will Help Create Positive Learning Environments & Improve Wellbeing for NZ School Children

Research Finds Pause, Breathe, Smile Mindfulness Training Will Help Create Positive Learning Environments & Improve Wellbeing for NZ School Children

Latest New Zealand research shows positive benefits for children who participate in the Pause, Breathe, Smile programme. This most recent study has just been published in the international Journal of Applied School Psychology Pause, Breathe, Smiles is New Zealand’s own locally developed, researched, and curriculum-aligned mindfulness in schools programme.

Results from research studies led by the University of Auckland and AUT University show a variety of positive benefits for children including:
– Increased calmness
– Improved focus and attention
– Enhanced self-awareness
– Improved conflict resolution skills and positive relationships
– Reduced stress for teachers
– Statistically significant increase in wellbeing

“The great thing about research is you can let the results speak for themselves,” says Grant Rix, Director of Mindfulness Education Group. “We can see a range of skills developing that will help kids to navigate life’s challenges and to grow into healthy, happy adults. Pause, Breathe, Smile is a positive response to a raft of issues concerning children’s wellbeing in schools.”

Children today face increasingly high stress levels, impacting their well-being. Schools can play a crucial role in teaching social and emotional skills; therefore, there is a need to identify effective interventions.

Of the research conducted on the Pause, Breathe, Smile programme, the Journal of Applied School Psychology published the most recent study which pitched Pause, Breathe, Smile against another programme designed to enhance children’s emotional literacy. While both programmes led to a significant increase in children’s wellbeing, the change was significantly greater for the children who participated inPause, Breathe, Smile. These higher wellbeing benefits are believed to have resulted from significant gains measured in children’s mindfulness, that is their ability to focus, pay attention and respond constructively to how they are feeling in the moment, which was observed for the children in the Pause, Breathe, Smile group only. What’s more, the study found that these results were sustained three months following the delivery of the Pause, Breathe, Smile programme.

The Pause, Breathe, Smile mindfulness education program was incubated and developed at the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand led by Grant Rix. The Pause, Breathe, Smile programme (PBS) is operated by the Mindfulness Education Group, who provide high quality mindfulness training to teachers and other education professionals, certifying them to deliver PBS in their schools. So far over 200 schools throughout New Zealand have been involved, positively benefitting thousands of students. The skills the children learn through the mindfulness training help them in a wide variety of situations.

Fiona McAree-Ngaau, Deputy-Principal at Bairds Mainfreight Primary, Otara, is using Pause, Breathe, Smile with some of their students. “We thoroughly enjoyed the mindfulness sessions and are continuing to do mindfulness in our classes. Early this year we had a lockdown at school. The doors to the classroom were locked and we were all sitting down low on the carpet unsure of exactly what was happening outside. The children were scared. A few were crying and I was trying to keep everyone clam. At one point, there were about four police officers that ran through the back toilets connected to our classroom. That’s when I heard a child say, “Let’s do some mindfulness to calm us down.” So, there we all sat, taking some deep mindful breaths in the middle of the chaos happening outside. It really did help us all.”
Pause, Breathe, Smile is gaining momentum in Canterbury schools as a response to post-earthquake stress.

Ann Huggett, Clinical Psychologist and Pause, Breathe, Smile Facilitator in Christchurch says “I recall a situation after the last major earthquake we felt here in Canterbury. It happened on a Sunday night. On the Monday I was in a PBS class whose houses were in the street at the epicentre! While it was only our third session this is what these children were saying… “I felt it in my body – I felt quivery / my heart was pumping strong / I felt tension in my arms / I had butterflies in my tummy / my legs helped me run fast”. “I used mindfulness – I took some breaths and felt more calm / I was able to fall back to sleep / I helped my sister do mindfulness to feel calm too / I did mindful touching of my blanket and felt calm / it helped me to feel safe”. “I am grateful – that my family are safe / that I slept through it / that I had a table to hide under / that I had parents to cuddle / that I could fit into my dog crate where it was safe / that I could sleep with mum and dad / that my house stayed up.”

“These were just a brief taste and echo many of the conversations in classes that week. What I (and teachers) noted was the children’s ability and willingness to talk about their feelings, having a language to describe what was happening in their bodies, their spontaneous use of breathing and touching as calming anchors, and their orientation to all that they are grateful for. PBS is very relevant to these kids in Christchurch and helping us all through shaky times,” says Huggett.

Pause, Breathe, Smile trainings are held throughout New Zealand with upcoming events listed here. Teacher training costs $895 + GST for the full mindfulness professional development pathway and certification (early-bird rates and group discounts available).

Mindfulness Education Group have developed a supporting online course to improve teacher wellbeing by helping reduce stress and burnout. This personal development course is eight sessions and costs $79.00 + GST