Mindfulness can be beneficial in reducing student stress, research says

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WISCONSIN, March 28 — US researchers suggest integrating mindfulness practices into higher education to improve students’ emotional well-being and concentration, while reducing their stress and the risk of burnout. Conducted with graduate students in engineering, their research demonstrates the benefits of this form of meditation that encourages focusing on the present moment.As a major public health issue, mental health is currently the subject of numerous studies aimed at determining what measures can be put in place to fight against anxiety, stress and depression. These disorders particularly affect young people, teenagers and students, who have been hit hard by the pandemic. While several studies have recently shown that exercise could play a key role in the management of these mental health issues, a new study highlights the effect that mindfulness practices can have on the emotional well-being of the most stressed students.Focusing on the presentAchieved through well-known practices such as meditation, yoga or prayer, mindfulness involves being consciously and intentionally focused on the present moment, in a non-judgmental and accepting way. Many large companies, such as Google, have been using mindfulness-based training programmes for several years in order to improve the satisfaction, well-being, and even the concentration and creativity of their employees. This has been evidenced by numerous previous research studies.A team of US researchers, including engineers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and researchers from the Centre for Healthy Minds, this time looked at the role of mindfulness in managing stress and anxiety in students. Published in the journal Plos One, their research was based on two studies involving a total of 215 graduate engineering students over six academic semesters, or three years. A portion of them participated in a one-hour, instructor-led mindfulness training program once a week for eight weeks.Improved stress managementStudents who participated in the programme reported a “significant improvement” in their emotional well-being as a result of this specific training programme. They also reported a “more positive outlook” and “fewer negative emotions,” while stating that the training also helped them better manage stress and anxiety. These benefits should not be overlooked, especially since, at the same time, the students who did not take part in the training reported “steady or decreased well-being.”“What was beautiful is that we saw a really consistent pattern of results across all of the cohorts we did this study with,” says Pelin Kesebir, an honorary fellow with the Centre for Healthy Minds and a study co-author, quoted in a news release. “Modest investments of your time can result in really significant benefits to your overall well-being,” adds Susan Hagness, professor of electrical and computer engineering and one of the study’s co-authors.In light of these findings, the researchers suggest that mindfulness practices could be used more widely in the context of higher education. In the meantime, they recommend that those who wish to try it for themselves can do so via podcasts or exercises that are easily accessible online. The researchers also point out that mindfulness practice can be beneficial to everyone, even if this research focused primarily on graduate engineering students.“Because of the state of graduate student mental health nationally, there’s a tangible need for a concrete intervention like this,” concludes Susan Hagness. — ETX Studio

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