The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation and Mind-Wandering on Coping-Related Hopefulness in Undergraduate College Students
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.