Girl smiling to camera

Pause Breathe Smile continues to make a proven positive impact for tamariki and their mind health

Tuesday , 12 December 2023 by Sue Hamilton

The homegrown mind health programme, Pause Breathe Smile, developed for tamariki throughout Aotearoa, has been found to be making a definitive positive impact based on the latest independent report*.

For a second year, research has found teachers who have trained in and delivered the programme, continue to report improvements in positive behaviours and attitudes, alongside reductions in negative or languishing behaviours and attitudes.

Key results:

  • Teachers were asked to reflect on student wellbeing and to indicate if they have seen positive or negative changes since rolling out the programme. The aggregate student wellbeing score shows an increase of 16.8 per cent, and the perceived student wellbeing score shows an increase of 9.5 per cent.
  • Increases in desirable behaviours and characteristics and decreases in those that are considered undesirable were identified. The measure of children flourishing saw a 10.6 per cent increase above the baseline score, while the measure of languishing saw a 7.1 per cent decrease.
  • Children were described as being more lively, focused, perseverant and hopeful, and less disinterested, sad, troublesome, or pessimistic.

“The first independent report produced last year analysing the efficacy of Pause Breathe Smile is one of the things that motivated me to sign on to support the programme,” said Sir Ashley Bloomfield, the former Director General of Health.

“These latest results continue to show how this simple and thoughtful mindfulness programme is being used in classrooms around the motu to help our children navigate life’s issues with more confidence; and build their resilience and capacity to deal with conflict, uncertainty, and stress. It also helps them to celebrate life’s positive moments.

Since 2020, Pause Breathe Smile has reached more than 125,000 children and 8,730 teachers and educators in more than 440 schools.

Southern Cross Healthcare CEO, Chris White said, “It’s heartening to see the research once again validate the positive stories we hear time and time again from schools which deliver Pause Breathe Smile in the classroom.

“The Pause Breathe Smile team has worked tirelessly this year to extend the programme and increase accessibility to more tamariki. This has been achieved through the launch of the Māori adaptation - Whaiwāhi Mauri Tau - and an app which has mindfulness practices in both English and te reo and is freely available to people of any age to download.

“I am also happy to confirm Southern Cross has extended our support for Pause Breathe Smile through to mid-2028. Improving the mental health and wellbeing of our tamariki, their teachers and whānau will reap benefits for our wider communities for years to come,” said White.

The teachers/Kaiako who deliver the programme should have the last word:

So many of our children need this – more and more anxious kids and the programme helps all of us to try and more positive and take more control.

Learners enjoyed the programme and were seen practicing the skills with their peers. The programme is making a difference in schools.

We have loved implementing this programme and we have seen an increase in children’s wellbeing.

I have had good feedback from parents saying their children are using PBS at home.

*Research methodology

In a 15-minute online survey, teachers enrolled in the programme were asked to describe the wellbeing, characteristics, and behaviours of children at their school. The survey has three parts – before training, after programme implementation and one year later. This is the second report to be produced.

Fieldwork was conducted between 9 February 2021 and 11 September 2023. Within that period, a total of 1,256 staff from 242 different schools responded to the 3-month follow-up, and 493 staff from 162 schools responded to the 1-year follow-up.

This report shows how teachers have noticed and experienced changes due to the implementation of Pause Breathe Smile in their schools.

*Pause Breathe Smile programme evaluation

Southern Cross commissioned an independent evaluation to understand the effects of Pause Breathe Smile on school communities. Surveys were carried out by Dr Reuben Rusk, formerly of Mindquip, now

Dr Rusk has worked in well-being science since 2009. Having earned his PhD at the University of Melbourne, he is an Honorary Fellow of the Centre for Wellbeing Science where he helps teach Master of Applied Positive Psychology. The research outlined in this report focuses on understanding the impacts and ongoing effects of Pause Breathe Smile for students and their teachers.