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Child Neuropsychology A blog by Dr Jonathan Reed
  • Children’s Brains and Mindful Meditation

    Living in the 21st century can be stressful.  If you listen to the media there is potentially a lot to worry about now; economic meltdown, ecological catastrophe, medical pandemics to name but a few.  Also there are the constant distractions of 24 hour news, TV, email, twitter and blogs! In general there is information overload.  So how do you cope with this?  I am becoming increasing interested in the potential of mindful meditation.   Whilst this may seem a bit New Age, at its core it is in fact a very simple idea.  The key is to focus on the present moment.  Not to worry about the future or the past.  To try and focus on something simple like your breathing and to not be distracted by intrusive thoughts.  Humans have used meditation to cope with life in different cultures for 1000′s of years, be it though Buddhism, Christianity or Taoist teaching.  More recently it has been shown to be very effective in dealing with mental health problems.  Combined with Cognitive therapy it certainly seems helpful for depression see Ma and Teasdale 2004 and anxiety see Evans et al 2007 .

    As a child neuropsychologist there are two areas of mindfulness that particularly interests me. Firstly it is becoming clear that meditation is associated with changes to brain function.  This includes increased thickness in prefrontal brain areas and increased grey matter in brain stem.  In his very impressive book The Mindful Brain in Human Development: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-being Dan Siegel discusses in detail the neuroscience and development of mindful meditation.  In my opinion mindfulness is closely related to working memory (see post for details of working memory) and meditating on a regular basis by focusing on a set stimuli (voice, breathing, light) may be similar to working memory training.  It requires holding a focus in mind.  As I have discussed in the past working memory can be improved with practice.  There is some research showing that meditation training brings cognitive benefits.  A recent paper in  Consciousness and Cognition by Zeiden and colleagues suggests that brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning.

    Secondly can mindful meditation be used to help children?  A recent special issue in the Journal of Child and Family studies shows a number of potential applications including for children with ADHD and also to help parents cope with managing difficult children.  At present I think the evidence that it works with children with neurodevelopmental problems is not quite there although there are promising indications. Certainly working memory training works with children and so meditation should in principal.  I also think that in this increasingly distracted, stressful age, preparing children with skills to deal with life such as mindful meditation may prove to be very useful.

    If you want to try it yourself there is a good resource site from UCLA with MP3 files with meditations etc here.  There is also a good paper with advice from Karen Hooker and Iris Fodor on how to help children in Gestalt Review here.



    Published on May 3, 2010 · Filed under: Uncategorized;
    6 Comments

6 Responses to “Children’s Brains and Mindful Meditation”

  1. Hi,
    I love the idea of mindfulness for kids. Just before I left my job as a child and adolescent psychiatrist we were beginning a mindfulness program on our acute care inpatient unit in Halifax Canada. The kids loved it and the initial results were promising. Thanks for the post…

    Bobbi

  2. Thanks for the comment Bobbi. I think it would be great if more child mental health services took up this approach. I think it teaches good strategies to kids for coping with life.

  3. Meditating is an easy exercise to get a more peaceful life. I know it helped me and kept me alive no matter what happened.

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  6. I love what you are doing here! I think you may enjoy this as well. A Seashell Meditation for Children introduces meditation in a short story rhyme and uses a seashell as a tool for focus and concentration. Each book offers a qr code that when scanned, background music plays as you read the story to the child. Check it out when you get a moment. Namaste. https://youtu.be/4cS68MIv-aY

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