Robyn Rutgers ’24
Psychological distress in university students has become a public health concern due to its increased prevalence. Evidence has suggested issues such as academic performance and financial struggles as potential causes of such distress. The increase in psychiatric disorders among university students presents a need for strategies allowing students to improve their psychological well-being. Research shows that mindfulness training in university settings produces benefits including reduced depressive and anxiety symptoms, and that maintaining trait mindfulness, or the ability to maintain a nonjudgmental attitude toward current situations, may correlate to decreased psychological stress. Recently, Dr. Geovan Menezes de Sousa and colleagues at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte devised an experiment to evaluate the efficacy of mindfulness training in university students. The researchers hypothesized that both high trait mindfulness and participation in mindfulness training are directly related to decreased psychological stress in university students.
Dr. de Sousa and his team conducted a randomized controlled trial with a sample of 40 students between the ages of 18 and 30 without any previous experience in meditation or declared psychiatric disorders. Prior to the start of the trial, researchers assessed the participants for state and trait mindfulness. State mindfulness, or awareness during a specific period of time, can be increased in the moment or after mindfulness training, while trait mindfulness remains more stable over time. Next, researchers randomized participants into mindfulness training and active control groups, with both groups participating in 30 minute interventions for three consecutive days. However, only the mindfulness training group participated in meditation practice. Data collected showed individuals with higher trait mindfulness experienced lower levels of stress, anxiety state, and anxiety trait. In the mindfulness training group, researchers observed a reduction in anxiety state and perceived stress after the intervention and increased state mindfulness. Moderated mediation analysis showed that the increase in state mindfulness mediated the increase in positive affect and decrease in perceived stress.
The results of this trial suggest that brief mindfulness training is beneficial in reducing distress in university students. Moreover, mindfulness training is a powerful strategy due to the short duration and short-term outcomes of the interventions. Implementing mindfulness training into the lives of university students can allow students to develop skills to cope with adversities and mitigate psychological distress and the severity of psychiatric disorders.
 G. Sousa, et al., Brief mindfulness-based training and mindfulness trait attenuate psychological stress in university students: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychology 9, 1-14 (2021). doi: 10.1186/s40359-021-00520-x
 Image retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/nl/photos/meditatie-zen-chan-yoga-standbeeld-3338691/