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Increasing Stress Resiliency and
Social-Emotional Competence
in Middle School Students

The Miami Heart Research Institute conducted a study to examine the impact of a HeartMath program on middle school students at a Florida school. School counselors had observed that many of the students were distracted at school by various social pressures and negative emotions such as anxiety and depression. This diverted their attention from learning.

Many students exhibited lack of motivation and risky behavior, and some were considered to be at risk of becoming drop-outs.

The emWave system was used in this school as part of several classroom based programs to facilitate learning of the HeartMath tools.

The first phase of this study, involving 32 seventh-grade students, assessed changes in students' social-emotional competence, including measures of achievement aptitude, mental attitudes and interpersonal skills.

  • Results showed that after learning and practicing the HeartMath tools, the students exhibited statistically significant improvements in 17 of the 19 areas assessed. These included a marked reduction in risky behaviors and improvements in stress and anger management, self-reliance, motivation, work management and focus, and relationships with teachers, family and peers.
  • A follow-up analysis indicated that many of these improvements were sustained over the following six months.

The second phase of this study, involving 60 students in the sixth through eighth grades, examined the impact of the HeartMath tools on childrens' physiological responses to stress - an objective measure of their stress resilience. As a measure of cardiovascular and nervoussystem dynamics, students' heart rate variability was measured immediately prior to, during and after a structured interview designed to elicit emotional responses to real-life stressful issues.

  • Results showed that compared to a control group of students who used the Quick Coherence technique after experiencing acute emotional stress demonstrated significantly increased heart rate variability and heart rhythm coherence.
  • These results demonstrated the HeartMath-trained studenst were able to favorably modulate their physiological stress response in real time, thus demonstrating increased stress resilience compared to the control group.