Mindfulness meditation improves students’ performance
Regularly practicing mindfulness meditation not only provides benefits to mental health but in the long run also improves performance. For the first time, WZB researcher Mira Fischer, together with Lea Cassar (University of Regensburg) and Vanessa Valero (Loughborough University), has demonstrated this positive effect for university students in a larger randomized field study. Their grades had improved significantly six months after completing a course in mindfulness-based stress reduction.
For their study, the researchers invited students at the University of Cologne to attend an eight-week course in mindfulness-based stress reduction. It took place once a week under the guidance of a certified instructor. Participants, as well as course applicants who had not been offered a place and served as a control group, were surveyed before and after completing the course. The researchers also had information about the grades students earned before and immediately after the course, as well as in the following semester.
Surprisingly, the participants' performance dropped off shortly after completing the meditation course. Their grades worsened compared to the control group. Six months later, however, the tide had turned. The students who had received a place in the meditation course were now performing significantly better than the control group.
According to the researchers, the short-term drop in performance may be due to a change in lifestyle. For example, the students in the meditation course reported drinking less coffee and making sure they got enough sleep, among other things. "These behavioral changes, as well as engaging in a meditation practice, possibly distracted students from their academic work in the short run. But in the long run, this investment paid off", Mira Fischer explains.
Mindfulness meditation is a popular relaxation method. Many companies and more and more universities offer courses for learning it. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation promotes mental well-being. Until now, however, reliable studies demonstrating this effect for academic performance have been lacking.