Decrease Stress and Improve Academic Performance with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Those higher in mindfulness experienced less anxiety associated with high-pressure math tests, and this in turn was linked with improved performance.” – Matthew Brensilver
In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school.
The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede performance. A better tactic may be the development of mindfulness skills with contemplative practices. These practices and high levels of mindfulness have been shown to be helpful in coping with the school environment and for the performance of both students and teachers. So, perhaps, mindfulness training may provide the needed edge in college academic performance.
In today’s Research News article “A Randomized Controlled Pilot Intervention Study of a Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) on Stress and Performance.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605596/, Sampl and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to either receive a 10-week Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) program or a wait-list control condition. MBSLT was administered once a week for 2 hours. In addition to mindfulness training MBSLT trained students in self-goal setting, self-reward, self-observation, self-cueing and reminding, visualizing successful performances, self-talk, and evaluating beliefs and assumption. The participants were also given exercises to be practiced at home. All participants were measured before and after training for mindfulness, self-leadership, perceived stress, test anxiety, self-efficacy, semester grades, and Grade Point Average (GPA).
They found that at the conclusion of training the Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) group had significantly greater mindfulness, self-efficacy, and self-leadership and significantly lower levels of perceived stress and test anxiety. Importantly, the MBSLT group had significantly 24% higher grades at the end of the semester than the control group. Hence, mindfulness training improved the student’s mental health and academic performance.
These results are interesting and important and replicate prior research findings that mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety, including test anxiety and improves self-efficacy and academic performance. The present study supplemented mindfulness training with self-leadership training. Since there was not a mindfulness only or a self-leadership training only condition, it cannot be determined whether each component alone or in combination produced the benefits. In addition, they did not perform a mediation analysis to determine if the improvements in the students’ psychological condition was responsible for the improved academic performance.
Regardless, it is clear that the Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) training produced significant improvements in the students’ mental condition and academic performance. The magnitude of the increase in grades was striking and suggests that the mindfulness training may be important for college students to allow them to improve their psychological outlook and in turn reach their full academic potential.
So, decrease stress and improve academic performance with mindfulness.
“cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with widereaching consequences.” – Michael Mrazek
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Sampl, J., Maran, T., & Furtner, M. R. (2017). A Randomized Controlled Pilot Intervention Study of a Mindfulness-Based Self-Leadership Training (MBSLT) on Stress and Performance. Mindfulness, 8(5), 1393–1407. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0715-0
The present randomized pilot intervention study examines the effects of a mindfulness-based self-leadership training (MBSLT) specifically developed for academic achievement situations. Both mindfulness and self-leadership have a strong self-regulatory focus and are helpful in terms of stress resilience and performance enhancements. Based on several theoretical points of contact and a specific interplay between mindfulness and self-leadership, the authors developed an innovative intervention program that improves mood as well as performance in a real academic setting. The intervention was conducted as a randomized controlled study over 10 weeks. The purpose was to analyze the effects on perceived stress, test anxiety, academic self-efficacy, and the performance of students by comparing an intervention and control group (n = 109). Findings demonstrated significant effects on mindfulness, self-leadership, academic self-efficacy, and academic performance improvements in the intervention group. Results showed that the intervention group reached significantly better grade point averages than the control group. Moreover, the MBSLT over time led to a reduction of test anxiety in the intervention group compared to the control group. Furthermore, while participants of the control group showed an increase in stress over time, participants of the intervention group maintained constant stress levels over time. The combination of mindfulness and self-leadership addressed both positive effects on moods and on objective academic performance. The effects demonstrate the great potential of combining mindfulness with self-leadership to develop a healthy self-regulatory way of attaining achievement-related goals and succeeding in high-stress academic environments.