We examined 3-month effects of a mindfulness-based intervention with first-year college students. First, we evaluated the intervention effects on measures of life satisfaction and distress. Second, we examined the potential mediators of these effects, in particular a change in mindfulness states and the use of mindfulness practice after the intervention was completed.
The study recruited 109 first-year undergraduates at a large, public university living in the residential halls (M age = 18.2 years, SD = 0.4, 66% females). The sample was randomized to an intervention and control group and 3 months after the end of the intervention both groups completed follow-up.
We found intervention effects on distress and life satisfaction at the 3-month follow-up, controlling for gender and attendance of therapy before college (distress: Beta = − 0.177, SE = 0.092, p = 0.055, life satisfaction: Beta = 0.186, SE = 0.075, p = 0.014). Furthermore, we found that the growth in self-reported mindfulness mediated the effects of the intervention at the 3-month follow-up on distress (Beta = − 0.452, SE = 0.089, p = 0.000), but not on life satisfaction (Beta = 0.081, SE = 0.096, p = 0.394). The use of mindfulness practices after the intervention (between post-test and follow-up) mediated the intervention effects on both distress and life satisfaction at follow-up (distress: Beta = − 0.231, SE = 0.097, p = 0.018, life satisfaction: Beta = 0.219, SE = 0.074, p = 0.003).
These findings support the notion that self-reported mindfulness can be increased and this shift may mediate the longer term outcomes of mindfulness interventions.