I’ve been increasingly amazed by the sheer breadth of benefits of meditation for students. What was once something I dismissed as niche or woo-woo is now mainstream. The benefits are backed up by robust science. I now wholeheartedly endorse meditation for students, and recommend it to many of my exam success coaching clients.
Meditation has been shown to fundamentally alter the brain itself, supporting the development of brain structures that handle attention, learning and emotion.
All this leads to an absolute wealth of benefits ranging from sharper concentration to better memory, from stress relief to improved mental health. I’ve distilled 2-3 decades of research into 24 mind-expanding benefits of meditation practice for students – read on to discover them all!
Mindfulness vs meditation?
Quick aside before we get into it…
… am I talking about mindfulness or meditation? And what’s the difference, anyway?
Meditation is the practice of “extended contemplation to achieve focused attention”, and comes in many forms. Mindfulness is simply “awareness of one’s internal state and surroundings”, and can also come in many forms.
Put the two ideas together, and you have a “mindfulness meditation”. That’s a way to training your attention (as if it were a muscle!) to achieve a mental state of calm concentration.
“Mindfulness meditation” is what most people mean by either word, and that’s predominantly what this article – and the studies I reference – are talking about.
Meditation benefits students’ concentration and focus
1. Improved attention
Students who meditate are better able to control their attention, with less mind-wandering.
2. Fewer distractions, better focus
Mindfulness meditation helps individuals focus, for example, reducing “mindless reading” where they’re scanning the text without really absorbing the meaning.
3. Concentrate for longer
Mindfulness meditation also improves performance on tasks that need a concentration span over a long time.
Meditation has benefits for students’ stress levels
Meditation has substantial benefits emotional benefits, such as reduced stress, improved well-being and higher self-esteem.
4. Lower stress levels
Reducing stress is one of the key reasons many adults take up meditation. There’s good evidence that mindfulness meditation programmes reduce feelings of stress at all ages: in adults, in adolescents, and even in pre-schoolers.
5. Cope better with stress
Reducing stress is great, but it’s rarely possible to entirely eliminate it from stressful situations, especially when a big assignment deadline or major exams is looming.
Meditation practice also helps students cope better with stress, continuing to perform even when under pressure.
6. Helps with exam nerves
Worrying about the exam, test-day nerves… lots of students get the jitters at some point as the stakes get higher. The good news is that students who have practiced meditation experience less test anxiety.
7. Improved self-esteem
Meditation also has benefits for students’ self-esteem – handy in today’s world, when social media seems to be doing its best to undermine our self-esteem.
8. Greater well-being and happiness
Meditation may even make you happier!
Meditation reduces negative emotions, increases positive ones, and improves well-being.
People’s minds wander 47% of the time, according to Harvard researchers. That’s nearly half of our waking time! Mind-wandering often triggers unhappiness, either through ruminating on future worries or past events, or through frustration we’re not making progress on what we’re supposed to do.
So a focused mind not only gets more done, it seems to be a happier mind too.
9. Better resilience
Some researchers report that meditation can even boost students’ resilience, perhaps because they are better equipped to cope with stressful situations.
10. Improved social skills
One benefit of meditation for students that I hadn’t expected when researching for this article was the improved social skills.
But several researchers have found mindfulness meditation improves students’ social skills.
Meditation even seems to make the world a slightly more trusting place: students who meditate even show greater trust in their friends.
11. Greater empathy and compassion
Students who meditate show greater empathy for others, and are more likely to help someone in need.
Students who meditate show a reduction in behavioural problems at school, whether they’re young children or teens / adolescents. They also tend to show less aggression towards other.