What is Learning to BREATHE?

Learning to BREATHE (L2B) is a developmentally appropriate universal prevention program that can be integrated into educational, prevention or other settings and is compatible with school curricula. The program is designed to teach mindful awareness, increase emotion regulation, stress management, and executive functions in order to support well-being and learning. L2B is a mindfulness curriculum created for classroom or group settings. Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of one’s present-moment experience, both pleasant and unpleasant experience, with compassion and openness as a basis for discernment and wise action. Mindful awareness, as used in the curriculum, refers to the practice of training the mind to pay attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and with openness, curiosity and non-reactivity (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Research on mindfulness suggest that this practice can impact student academic and behavioral outcomes by supporting the emotion regulation and attention that ultimately support learning and mental health.

L2B is designed to coordinate with curriculum standards for health, developmental guidance or other academic areas in secondary schools, but it may also be part of a wellness or therapeutic program in other settings. It has been used successfully with college students and adults, with very minor adaptations. The program includes instruction in the practice of mindful awareness and provides opportunities to practice these skills in a group setting.

Six themes, built around the “BREATHE” acronym, form the core of the curriculum, and may be adapted for various student groups or ages. The sequence of themes may be presented in 6, 12 or 18 (or more) sessions. Each lesson includes a short introduction of the topic, several activities for group participation and discussion to engage students in the lesson, and an opportunity for in-class mindfulness practice. Workbooks and audio files for home mindfulness practice are available for students and can be used in this program.

What are the goals of the program?

The goals of Learning to Breathe are to enhance emotion regulation, strengthen attention and performance, support prosocial behavior, build stress management skills and improve health and well-being.

What is the lesson sequence for L2B?

Each letter of the word BREATHE stands for a theme or lesson focus: Body, Reflections/Thoughts, Emotions, Attention, Tenderness, Healthy Habits of Mind (all leading to the destination of Empowerment). In each lesson, group activities and practice focus on the key points of the theme. 

Is L2B evidence-based?

Yes. L2B was researched through a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education (Institute of Education Sciences) and has been studied extensively in educational and clinical settings. L2B was cited in a recent (December, 2023) report for school leaders from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as an example of an effective program for youth. Please see the research link from the L2B website for more detailed information about the research cited in this FAQ document.

See https://learning2breathe.org/research-summary-table/ 

Does L2B address student and community needs?

Providing universal Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programming for students offers all of them the life skills that can increase their chances for success and promote their emotional wellbeing going forward. L2B helps prepare students for life after school by giving them tools to address the stressors they face with greater balance and equanimity and by reducing the risk that ongoing stress can exert on learning and wellbeing. L2B has been designated by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning: www.casel.org) as a SEL supportive program.

Does L2B improve academic performance?

Yes. The skills involved in mindfulness practices support the processes of learning and regulating emotions that are essential for academic success. Children and adolescents learn best when they can pay attention, manage distractions, and flexibly redirect attention back to the task of learning. They also need to become aware of and manage their emotional responses, which can highjack the learning process. A study by Frank et al (2020), supported by the US Department of Education, studied effects of L2B compared to a regular health ed curriculum with high school juniors in two public high schools in PA. Outcomes demonstrated improved executive functions, such as working memory and inhibiting distractions, for those students who took L2B compared to those who did not.

Does L2B reduce emotional distress?

Yes. Learning how to deal with emotions is an important developmental goal. The skills involved in emotion regulation may be fostered by becoming aware of emotions and by learning how to manage them without pushing them away or getting tangled up in them. Mindfulness helps train the mind to pay attention and notice, so that action can be taken with greater reflection. Because everyone has distractions and strong emotions, learning to observe these inner experiences with curiosity and openness, instead of reactivity, is an important part of all children’s education.

Does L2B improve self-efficacy and resilience?

Yes. The ultimate goal of a mindfulness program is encapsulated in the final E of BREATHE. E stands for Empowerment. This kind of empowerment provides students with an ‘Inner Edge’ which equips them to navigate the ups and downs of life with greater equanimity and emotional balance. Research with low-income students (Felver et al) showed sustained levels of resilience in L2B participants over the school year compared to students who did not participate in L2B.

Does L2B have any health benefits?

Yes. Research has reported improvements in sleep and reductions in fatigue after participating in L2B. Current studies (e.g. Shomaker et al) have showed significant reduction in stress and insulin resistance for participants who took L2B, and this line of research is continuing.

Does L2B reduce problem behaviors?

Much research has shown that social-emotional approaches are fundamental to all other academic learning and can, in fact, reduce behavioral problems in classrooms (see the CASEL 2011 meta-analysis on their website; casel.org). In the CASEL study, students who had social-emotional learning programs in their schools performed better on achievement tests (by 9 percentile points on average) than students who didn’t have SEL programming. A recent follow-up of SEL effects that included close to 600,000 students who received SEL programs found “significantly improved skills, attitudes, behaviors, school climate and safety, peer relationships, school functioning, and academic achievement” compared to youth who had not received SEL (Cipriano et al, 2023).

Although improvement in problem behaviors are likely, no current studies have specifically investigated the effects of L2B on problem behaviors in school-age children. However, a study of college-age students did show significant reductions in binge drinking for those who participated in L2B compared to those who did not.

Does L2B have a curriculum that is lesson-based?

Yes, the manualized curriculum clearly outlines and provide scripts and guidance for complete lessons for each theme. A theme (for example, the B theme) can be taught in 1, 2, 3 or even more lessons, depending upon the needs of the group. The 2nd edition of L2B includes expanded guidelines for teachers, detailed outlines for 6, 12 and 18 session program offerings, whole school mindfulness practices, and updated background chapters on adolescent development, stress, learning and mindfulness. Trauma-sensitive adaptations are included throughout the revised lesson outlines and are explained in more depth in a separate chapter. Free and downloadable supplemental materials include fidelity checklists for the six themes of the program, a short version of the Teaching Mindfulness in Education Observation Scale (TMEOS; Frank et al) for teacher self-assessment or rating by observers, and sample pre-post assessments as well as the practice audios. Posters and wallet card reminder templates are also available as program accessories. Student workbooks are included in the L2B manual and can also be purchased separately from New Harbinger Publications. An app that supplements L2B is currently in development and will be available soon (Lucas-Thompson, et al).

Which grade levels are appropriate for L2B?

L2B is used with middle school, high school and college-age students. The program is also being offered in many places to parents, teachers, and other adults.

Is L2B for College Students?

Yes. L2B has been studied with emerging adults in several studies. In a study of college undergraduates, post-intervention effects showed significant reductions in participants’ anxiety and depression, improved life satisfaction, and marginal improvements in sleep quality and alcohol consequences ( (Dvořáková et al. 2017)).  Intervention effects on distress and life satisfaction at the 3-month follow-up were sustained, after controlling for gender and participation in therapy before college (Dvorakova et al, 2022). 

What type of training is available for those who want to teach L2B to students?

There is a strong consensus among trainers and researchers that clinicians and educators need to have some mindfulness practice of their own before teaching others. Since mindfulness is a practice, some experience with this practice is enormously important in making any outreach to students effective. A course like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or some other mode of training may be pursued at the local level or online. Schools and agencies that contract with L2B for workshop training on site must agree to provide some personal mindfulness training/professional development to their attendees in advance.

After the mindfulness training, basic teacher training in L2B involves three days and includes a program overview and experience in teaching the program. All materials for the workshops are provided (except the manual itself which can be purchased from New Harbinger or Amazon). Group workshop trainings may be arranged with the program developer (broderickl2b@gmail.com). Trainings are available in-person or online. A certificate of completion is offered for this level of training.

The Three-Day Sequence can be found here: https://learning2breathe.org/training-levels/  

Is there a way to become certified to offer L2B trainings to other teachers?

Yes. L2B Master Trainer certification is available. The process involves an application process and prerequisites such as MBSR, L2B workshop participation, L2B instruction for at least five group, as well as other requirements.


Please contact the program developer for more information: broderickl2b@gmail.com

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