Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Four days of mindfulness meditation training for graduate students: A pilot study examining effects on mindfulness, self-regulation, and executive function

Megan M Short, Dwight Mazmanian, Lana J Ozen, Michel Bédard


Self-regulation facilitates coping with academic stress and demands. This pilot study examined the effects of four consecutive mindfulness meditation classes on self-regulation and executive function in graduate students. Self-report measures of mindfulness, self-regulation, and executive functions were completed before and after the mindfulness classes. Paired t-tests compared pre-post training scores and effect sizes were calculated using Cohen’s d. A sample of 8 psychology graduate students (7 female) volunteered to participate in the mindfulness training. The group classes were modeled after meditation practices in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Each class involved a specific theme: (1) Stepping Out of Automatic Pilot, (2) Awareness of the Breath, Body, Sounds, and Thoughts, (3) Mindful Movement, and (4) Working with Difficulty. Students significantly improved in mindfulness and self-regulation skills. Large effects were obtained for increases in total mindfulness, and the mindfulness facets of acting with awareness and non-reactivity to inner experiences. Additionally, large effects were calculated for total self-regulation and the self-regulatory facet of self-reinforcement. The current pilot study provides preliminary support for cultivating mindfulness skills and enhancing self-regulatory capacity in graduate students through four consecutive days of mindfulness training.


Mindfulness; Meditation; Self-Regulation; Executive Function; Higher Education

Full Text:



Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13, 27-45. doi:10.1177/1073191105283504

Blecharz, J., Luszczynska, A., Scholz, U., Schwarzer, R., Siekanska, M., & Cieslak, R. (2014). Predicting performance and performance satisfaction: Mindfulness and beliefs about the ability to deal with social barriers in sport. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 27, 1-18. doi:10.1080/10615806.2013.839989

Bowen, W. G. & Rudenstine, N. L. (1992). In pursuit of the Ph.D. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Chiesa, A., Calati, R., & Serretti, A. (2011). Does mindfulness training improve cognitive abilities? A systematic review of neuropsychological findings. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 449-464. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.11.003

de Vibe, M., Solhaug, I., Tyssen, R., Friborg, O., Rosenvinge, J. H., Sørlie, T., & Bjørndal, A. (2013). Mindfulness training for stress management: A randomised controlled study of medical and psychology students. BMC Medical Education, 13, 107. doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-107

Howell, A. J., & Buro, K. (2011). Relations among mindfulness, achievement-related self-regulation, and achievement emotions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12, 1007-1022. doi:10.1007/s10902-010-9241-7

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Mindfulness meditation for everyday life. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Kanfer, F. H. (1970). Self-regulation: Research, issues, and speculations. In C. Neuringer & J. L. Michael (Eds.), Behavior modification in clinical psychology (pp. 178–220). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Mason, M. M. (2012). Motivation, satisfaction, and innate psychological needs. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 7, 259-277. Retrieved from

Mezo, P. G. (2009). The Self-Control and Self-Management Scales (SCMS): Development of an adaptive self-regulatory coping skills instrument. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 31, 83-93. doi:10.1007/s10862-008-9104-2

Mezo, P. G., & Short, M. M. (2012). Construct validity and confirmatory factor analysis of the Self-Control and Self-Management Scale. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 44, 1-8. doi:10.1037/a0024414

Nerad, M., & Miller, D. S. (1996). Increasing student retention in graduate and professional programs. New Directions for Institutional Research, 1996, 61-76. doi:10.1002/ir.37019969207

Nunnally, J. C. (1978). Psychometric Theory. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Nyklicek, I., & Kuijpers, K. F. (2008). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention on psychological well-being and quality of life: Is increased mindfulness indeed the mechanism? Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 35, 331–340. doi:10.1007/s12160-008-9030-2

Park, T., Reilly-Spong, M., & Gross, C. R. (2013). Mindfulness: A systematic review of instruments to measure an emergent patient-reported outcome (PRO). Quality of Life Research, 22, 2639-2659. doi:10.1007/s11136-013-0395-8

Paulhus, D. L., & Vazire, S. (2007). The self-report method. In R. W. Robins, R. Fraley, & R. F. Krueger (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in personality psychology (pp.224-239). New York, NY: Guilford.

Powers, T. A., Koestner, R., Zuroff, D. C., Milyavskaya, M., & Gorin, A. A. (2011). The effects of self-criticism and self-oriented perfectionism on goal pursuit. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 964-975. doi:10.1177/0146167211410246

Rabin, L. A., Fogel, J., & Nutter-Upham, K. E. (2011). Academic procrastination in college students: The role of self-reported executive function. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 33, 344-357. doi:10.1080/13803395.2010.518597

Roth, R. M., Isquith, P. K., & Gioia, G. A. (2005). Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function –Adult Version. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.

Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2012). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Astin, J. A. (2011). Toward the integration of meditation into higher education: A review of research evidence. Teachers College Record, 113, 493-528. Retrieved from

Shapiro, S. L., & Schwartz, G. E. R. (2000). Intentional systemic mindfulness: An integrative model for self-regulation and health. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 16, 128–135. Retrieved from

Short, M. M., & Mazmanian, D. (2013). Perfectionism and negative repetitive thoughts: Examining a multiple mediator model in relation to mindfulness. Personality and Individual Differences, 55, 716-722. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2013.05.026

Sitzmann, T., & Ely, K. (2011). A meta-analysis of self-regulated learning in work-related training and educational attainment: What we know and where we need to go. Psychological Bulletin, 137, 421-442. doi:10.1037/a0022777

Sowell, R. (2008). PhD completion and attrition: Analysis of baseline data. Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools.

Wingo, J., Kalkut, E., Tuminello, E., Asconape, J., & Han, S. D. (2013). Executive functions, depressive symptoms, and college adjustment in women. Applied Neuropsychology: Adult, 20, 136-144. doi:10.1080/09084282.2012.670154

Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition, 19, 597-605. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.03.014


  • There are currently no refbacks.