Effects of a Meditation and Contemplative Practice Course on College Students’ Mindfulness, Self-Compassion, and Mental Health


  • Miriam Liss University of Mary Washington
  • Mindy J. Erchull University of Mary Washington
  • Daniel A. Hirshberg University of Mary Washington
  • Angela L. Pitts University of Mary Washington
  • David Ambuel University of Mary Washington


anxiety, contemplative practices, college students, depression, meditation, mindfulness, self-compassion


Objectives: Mindfulness-based practices have been shown to be effective in reducing depression and anxiety among college students. Less is known about whether coursework incorporating contemplative practices has similar beneficial effects. This study sought to investigate the benefits of a course focusing on contemplative practices that included mindfulness-based practice inside and outside the classroom. Methods: In Study 1, 42 students enrolled in Meditation and Contemplative Practice, a course taught through the Department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion, completed measures of mindfulness, self-compassion, depression, and anxiety at the beginning and end of the semester. In Study 2, 43 students in this course, and 65 students in an Introduction to World Religions course completed the same measures at the beginning and end of the semester. In Study 3, 15 students enrolled in the contemplative practices course completed a pre-test, a post-test, and a follow-up assessment six weeks later. Results: Across all three studies mindfulness and self-compassion rose over the course of the semester. In Study 1, anxiety significantly decreased. In Study 2, those in the religious studies course did not experience increased mindfulness or self-compassion over the course of the semester. Furthermore, there were significant interactions indicating that the religion students increased in depression and anxiety over the course of the semester while those in the contemplative practices class decreased. Study 3 indicated that the gains made during the semester continued after the course was over.  Conclusions: Results indicate that coursework on contemplative practices is beneficial to the mental health of college students.


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