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Research report

Mindfulness

Richard Churches and James Gibbs

This research report looks at how mindfulness can be used to manage teacher work-related stress. The report is based on a small-scale study of the effects of stress on the structure of consciousness.

Teacher emotional state may affect classroom climate and in turn teacher and school effectiveness. Extended periods of work-related stress may harm a teacher's ability to manage emotions and have an impact on staff retention as well as a wide range of other negative effects such as lowering overall performance.

Mindfulness, as a meditative approach, has grown significantly in popularity as a means of managing stress. However, there has been limited research into its effectiveness with teachers themselves. Previous research has tended to focus mainly on the effects of using mindfulness with children and parents.

This research aimed to measure the effects of training teachers to apply mindfulness to manage work-related stress; it sought the views of teachers about the potential of using this technique in their work.

The results suggest that work-related stress significantly affects teachers, causing increased levels of negative feeling and reduced levels of positive emotion. Using mindfulness had a positive impact on the teachers. This was clear in all the evidence from the study. Specifically, following training, the application of a mindfulness technique for a short period to manage work-related stress restored teachers' levels of tension to those they experienced when sitting quietly with their eyes closed, not feeling stressed. In particular, mindfulness stops feelings of anger and muscle tension, and restores levels of self-talk (inner dialogue and discussion) to normal.