Reducing Stress in College Students Through Acute Mindfulness and Breathing Practices

Dr. Amy Welch and AnnaLeigh Runion, Department of Health and Human Performance, Norwich University, 158 Harmon Drive, Northfield, VT 05663

Diaphragmatic breathing and mindfulness practices have peaked researchers’ interest as acute methods to help reduce stress levels. Current research points to heart rate variability (HRV) as a measurement of the body’s reactivity to and recovery from stress. There is evidence to show that HRV indicates autonomic nervous system function and can be a predictor of physical and mental wellness, where increased HRV signifies increased parasympathetic activity. While research shows that both diaphragmatic breathing and mindfulness can help reduce stress, this study seeks to address the usefulness of short interventions on stress levels and assess which of the two interventions is the most effective. It is anticipated that there will be 40 participants between the ages of 18-30 who are students at Norwich University in order to provide a population sample with homogenous lifestyles. Wearing a 3-lead ECG, each participant will undergo three conditions, a control condition and the two 6-minute experimental interventions that will be randomized. HRV data will be calculated using ECG data from the last 5 minutes. It is hypothesized that both acute interventions will increase participants' HRV compared to the control, potentially indicating that sympathetic nervous system activity can be reduced, thus activating a relaxation response, with a short mindfulness or breathing intervention. Effect size calculations will be used to compare HRV data of the interventions to determine which of the two is most effective. Pilot testing has been completed, and data collection will begin at the start of the Spring 2021 semester, and preliminary results will be presented at the conference. The results of this study can provide information about easily accessible and replicable methods for college-aged students who deal with stress regularly.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: AnnaLeigh Runion

Institution: Norwich University

Type: Poster

Subject: Exercise Science & Nutrition

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 7
Date/Time: Tue 3:30pm-4:30pm
Session Number: 5045