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Does an online meditation programme have a positive effect on students' stress levels and mindfulness?

Frank Aschoff
Meditation teacher, journalist and Cochrane member with a focus on evidence-based naturopathy

Young adults face many stressors in higher education - from academic rigour to limited financial resources. In the US, according to Dorais and Gutierrez (2021), mental health problems in higher education are also on the rise - and universities do not have the human and financial resources to meet the overwhelming need of students seeking counselling services. Counsellors usually have to put students on waiting lists or refer them to external services. But university counsellors have worked during the COVID 19 pandemic to provide additional services to students through online formats. Even as students return to universities, online services now remain a popular option. Online and evidence-based interventions offer university counsellors a good opportunity to work effectively.

One of the best-researched measures from complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is meditation. It has already been shown many times in studies that it also has good effectiveness via online offers. Now, researchers Dorais and Gutierrez (2021) have tried to expand the knowledge of mindfulness interventions via online formats for students. In the randomised controlled trial (RCT) currently published in Frontiers in Psychology, they assume that students' interest in spirituality has increased compared to previous generations ("millennial spirituality").

The so-called "Centring Meditation" used as an intervention is based on a practice of the early Christian mystics, the "Centring Prayer". In its basic form, it was developed by the so-called Desert Fathers and Mothers in the 3rd century AD: Practitioners choose a word, such as "peace" or "hope" and use this to bring their mind back from distractions and re-centre it: The practitioner sits down, closes his eyes and repeats the word inwardly. When his thoughts wander away, he draws his attention back to the chosen word.

Studierende in Meditation

Similar practices can be found in many religious contexts (mantra, etc.). The authors presented the method to the participants as a spiritual practice for people from different religious faiths or even people without any "faith" or religiousness. Some pilot studies have already shown the effect of this practice in reducing depression, anxiety and stress.


The question of the RCT was: Is there a statistically significant difference in terms of perceived stress level and mindfulness between students who participate in a centring meditation 2 times a day and students in a control group who are on a waiting list?


In the randomised controlled trial, the treatment group took part in a 4-week programme with centring meditation for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. Dorais and Gutierrez (2021) then measured stress and mindfulness in both groups using the Perceived Stress Scale and Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale-Revised at baseline, after 2 weeks and after 4 weeks.


They came to the following results: The average participant in the treatment group attended 36 out of a total of 56 meditation sessions over 4 weeks, which corresponds to an adherence rate of 64%. The centring meditation had a statistically significant, positive impact on stress and mindfulness compared to the control group.

Original work

Dorais S, Gutierrez D. The Effectiveness of a Centering Meditation Intervention on College Stress and Mindfulness: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Front Psychol. 2021 Oct 21;12: 720824. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.720824 . PMID: 34744885 ; PMCID: PMC8567013.

Read the full original study here.


If you would like to try out a meditation yourself, we welcome you to our Online Meditation Studio From the comfort of your own home, you can take part in one of our many expert-led meditation sessions.

The author of this article, Frank Aschoff, also offers his own meditation: The "Nur Sitzen" Meditation findet jeden Tuesday at 7:00 a.m.

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