Date of Award

12-2015

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Randolph Arnau, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Psychology

Abstract

High levels of stress in college students are extremely prevalent. This is evident in time-consuming academic responsibilities overlapping with family life, work duties, and personal life. Stress can have negative impacts on academic performance and physical health in college students , and it has been correlated with various negative outcomes including anxiety and depression (Segrin,1999), increases in headaches (Labbe, Murphy & O’Brien, 1997), increased rates of athletic injury (Brewer & Petrie, 1996), suicidal ideation and hopelessness (Dixon, Rumford, Heppner, & Lipps, 1992), sleep disturbances (Verlander, Benedict, & Hanson, 1999), poor health behaviors (Sadava & Pak, 1993; Naquin & Gilbert, 1996), and the common cold (Stone, Bovbjerg, Neale, et al.). The focus of the current study was to investigate mindfulness as a way to help college students to cope with on-going stress specifically through its impact on increasing hope related to coping with a current life stressor. Mindfulness is an openness to perceiving one’s present environment in a non- judgmental way with openness and flexibility (Compton & Hoffman, 2013; Bergen-Cico, Possemato, & Cheon, 2013). It allows one to be more fully aware of present moment situations, open to new outlooks and points of view, and it facilitates more knowledge and pathways to goal attainment (Compton & Hoffman, 2013). For the current study, it was hypothesized that a brief mindfulness meditation intervention would increase coping-related hopefulness in a group of college students compared to a mind-wandering intervention. Forty-two undergraduate college students from the University of Southern Mississippi completed measures of stress and hope and identified a current stressor in their life to focus on when responding to the hope scale. The mean differences in hope change across the mindfulness and mind-wandering groups were computed, and the results indicated the average hope increase for the mindfulness meditation group was not statistically significant from the average hope increase for the mind-wandering group. The participants were further divided into a high stress group (above the mean) and a low stress group (below the mean). Within the low stress group, the average hope increase for the mindfulness group was 2.08 (SD=4.01), and the average hope increase for the mind-wandering group was 2.0 (SD=3.42). Within the high stress group, the average hope increase for the mindfulness group was 3.7 (SD=3.37), and the average hope increase for the mind-wandering group was 2.4 (SD=3.63). The t-test indicated that the results were not statistically significant. However, the high stress group showed a greater increase in hope in the mindfulness group. Although not statistically significant, the results suggest a possible trend for increases in positive cognitions related to coping with stress in the mindfulness meditation group relative to the mind-wandering group, for the participants reporting higher than average numbers of life stressors. Future research should consider testing the same procedure with a larger sample of high-stress individuals in order to increase statistical power.

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Psychology Commons

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