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.
Background of Healthy Learning Mind-Research
The capacity to face new and stressful situations in the course of human life depends on 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.
Currently, the data is being analyzed and reporting of results continues.
During years 2019-2020 four peer-reviewed scientific articles have been published.
The research was conducted in four intervention waves in Southern Finland during years 2014-2016. Intervention sessions took place in participating schools and data was collected by questionnaires and objective measurements. The data has been ready for analysis since January 2018.
In the first statistical analysis we compared the mindfulness intervention group to the active control group who received a relaxation program. We 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 Healthy Learning Mind –development project.
Lassander, M., Hintsanen, M., Suominen, S., Mullola, S., Fagerlund, Å., Vahlberg, T. & Volanen, S-M. The Effects of School-based Mindfulness Intervention on Executive Functioning in a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. Developmental Neuropsychology, 2020, 45(7-8):469-484.
Beattie, M.M., Konttinen, H.M., Volanen, S-M., Knittle, K., & Hankonen, . et al. Social Cognitions and Mental Health as Predictors of Adolescents’ Mindfulness Practice. Mindfulness 11, 1204–1217 (2020).
Volanen S-M., Lassander M., Hankonen N., Santalahti P., Hintsanen M., Simonsen N., Raevuori A., Mullola, S., Vahlberg T., But A., Suominen S. Healthy Learning Mind - Effectiveness of a mindfulness program on mental health compared to a relaxation program and teaching as usual in schools: a cluster-randomised controlled trial. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2019, 260: 660-669.
Beattie M., Hankonen N., Salo G., Knittle K., Volanen S-M. Applying behavioral theory to increase mindfulness practice among adolescents: an exploratory intervention study using within-trial RCT design. Mindfulness. 2019, 10:2, 312-324.
Volanen S-M., Lassander M., Hankonen N., Santalahti P., Hintsanen M., Simonsen N., Raevuori A., Mullola S., Vahlberg T., But, A., Suominen S. Healthy Learning Mind - a school-based mindfulness and relaxation program: a study protocol for a cluster randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychology, 2016, 4:35.
Healthy Learning Mind – Development Project
Healthy Learning Mind –development project was a Finnish health promotion project that was conducted at Folkhälsan Research Center during 2016-2018. The project was financed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The aim of the project was to promote wellbeing among students and school personnel by implementing mindfulness practices into schools. During the development project we conducted a feasibility study in order to assess the best means to implement mindfulness practices into schools. 89 participants from four Finnish municipalities were recruited for the development project.
During the development project we developed a twofold mindfulness-based (MF-based) training course tailored for school personnel in Finnish comprehensive schools. The training course was delivered in three different formats: 1) a contact training course; 2) a combination of contact training course and webcourse and 3) a webcourse. The first module was an 8 week wellbeing course promoting eg. well-being, stress-management and self-compassion among school personnel. The second module was a 6 week course of implementing mindfulness practices into classrooms. During the second module school personnel received a Teacher’s Guide including mindfulness practices for students in different age groups and advice how to implement mindfulness practices into classrooms.
Feasibility Study and Results
We conducted a feasibility study in order to assess the implementation of the MF-based well-being program. Research data was collected from the school personnel by questionnaires and interviews.
Participants were satisfied with the mindfulness-based training course. They evaluated the training course to be feasible for school personnel and they would recommend the training course to their colleagues. Self-reported wellbeing benefits of the training course indicated that school personnel adopted tools in order to promote their own and students’ wellbeing. A few participants reported having benefit of mindfulness skills in order to manage difficult situations at school. Additionally a few participants had noticed positive changes in the interaction with students. Participants reported mindfulness practices to be beneficial for students and they assessed mindfulness practices to be in accordance with goals and values of the school.
The mindfulness-based training course was well received among school personnel in Finnish comprehensive schools and it is applicable in the Finnish school environment. Research data, feedback and experiences gained during the development project will be applied in order to implement mindfulness practices at every stage from the day care up to high school.