College students experience a considerable amount of stress. Unmanaged stress is associated with poor academic performance, health risk behaviors (i.e., inadequate sleep and physical activity, alcohol consumption, poor dietary behaviors), and poor mental health. Coping with stress has become a priority among universities. The most tested stress-related programs to date have been mindfulness-based and face-to-face. These programs demonstrated significant improvements in stress, mindfulness, and self-compassion among college students. However, they may be burdensome to students as studies report low attendance and low compliance due to class conflicts or not enough time. Few interventions have used more advanced technologies (i.e., mobile apps) as a mode of delivery. The purpose of this study is to report adherence to a consumer-based mindfulness meditation mobile application (i.e., Calm) and test its effects on stress, mindfulness, and self-compassion in college students. We will also explore what the relationship is between mindfulness and health behaviors.
College students were recruited using fliers on college campus and social media. Eligible participants were randomized to one of two groups: (1) Intervention - meditate using Calm, 10 min/day for eight weeks and (2) Control – no participation in mindfulness practices (received the Calm application after 12-weeks). Stress, mindfulness, and self-compassion and health behaviors (i.e., sleep disturbance, alcohol consumption, physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption) were measured using self-report. Outcomes were measured at baseline and week eight.
Of the 109 students that enrolled in the study, 41 intervention and 47 control participants were included in analysis. Weekly meditation participation averaged 38 minutes with 54% of participants completing at least half (i.e., 30 minutes) of meditations. Significant changes between groups were found in stress, mindfulness, and self-compassion (all P<0.001) in favor of the intervention group. A significant negative association (p<.001) was found between total mindfulness and sleep disturbance.
An eight-week consumer-based mindfulness meditation mobile application (i.e., Calm) was effective in reducing stress, improving mindfulness and self-compassion among undergraduate college students. Mobile applications may be a feasible, effective, and less burdensome way to reduce stress in college students.