Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It’s become an increasingly popular way of training attention on the present moment that has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, there has been little robust evidence on its effectiveness in supporting students’ mental health – until now.
According to recent research from the University of Cambridge, mindfulness training has been proven to help build resilience in university students and improve their mental health, particularly during stressful summer exams. The study involved around 600 Cambridge students and concluded that the introduction of mindfulness courses could help prevent mental illness and boost students’ wellbeing.
Evidence of effectiveness
Mindfulness is actually an ancient Buddhist meditation. Today, it is championed by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Emma Watson, and even recommended by the NHS.
It also makes people feel better within themselves, the research claims. In particular, practicing mindfulness by sharing challenging experiences with others may help to reduce social shame, which is a common trigger for stress, according to the researchers.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the most robust study to date to assess mindfulness training for students, and backs up previous studies that suggest it can improve mental health and wellbeing during stressful periods,” reported Dr Julieta Galante, of Cambridge’s psychiatry department, who led the study.
Professor Peter Jones, also from Cambridge’s department of psychiatry, added: “The evidence is mounting that mindfulness training can help young people cope with accumulative stress. It appears to be popular, feasible, acceptable and without stigma.”
The findings, published in the journal The Lancet Public Health last October, add to the growing evidence that mindfulness could prove to be a useful tool for many students – from a 16-year-old tackling their first major exams to older students completing PhDs.
Exam stress buster: The five senses drill
Take one or two breaths to finish.
Repeat this exercise to deliberately bring your awareness to what is happening in the present moment and to build your resilience to dealing with exam anxiety.
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