The research team evaluated three classroom-based wellness training programs that incorporate breathing and emotional intelligence strategies, finding that two led to improvements in aspects of wellbeing.
The most effective programme led to improvements in six areas, including depression and social connectedness.
The researchers, who reported findings in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, said such resiliency training programmes could be a valuable tool for addressing the mental health crisis on university campuses.
“Student mental health has been on the decline over the last 10 years, and with the pandemic and racial tensions, things have only gotten worse,” said study lead author Emma Seppala from the Yale University in the US.
For the findings, the research team conducted the study, which tested three skill-building training programs on 135 undergraduate subjects for eight weeks (30 hours total) and measured results against those of a non-intervention control group.They found that a training programme called SKY Campus Happiness, developed by the Art of Living Foundation, which relies on a breathing technique called SKY Breath Meditation, yoga postures, social connection, and service activities, was most beneficial.
Following the SKY sessions, students reported improvements in six areas of wellbeing: depression, stress, mental health, mindfulness, positive affect, and social connectedness.A second programme called Foundations of Emotional Intelligence, developed by the Yale resulted in one improvement: greater mindfulness — the ability for students to be present and enjoy the moment.
A third programme called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which relies heavily on mindfulness techniques, resulted in no reported improvements.
“Now that I have these techniques to help me, I would say that my mentality is a lot healthier,” study participant Davornne Lindo said.
“I can devote time to studying and not melting down. Races have gone better. Times are dropping.” Another participant in the SKY programme,” Lindo added.
Anna Wilkinson, who participated in the study, said she was not familiar with the positive benefits of breathing exercises before the training, but now uses the technique regularly.
“I didn’t realise how much of it was physiology, how you control the things inside you with breathing. I come out of breathing and meditation as a happier, more balanced person, which is something I did not expect at all,” Wilkinson said.