With the U.S. education system currently in utter disarray due to COVID-19, a new study from Yale, Stanford and Harvard reveal that a specific breathing program – SKY Breath Meditation – is the best approach for students to reduce stress and anxiety and manage disconnect from their peers.
This groundbreaking research shows that this breathing program reduces feelings of stress, depression, and sleep, and improves students’ mental health, positive emotion, self-esteem, and mindfulness. The study found that this approach is more effective than traditional mindfulness and cognitive treatments in treating college students suffering from anxiety and increased stress due to COVID-19.
Improvements in social connectedness were also found to be a key outcome: cultivating belonging is key in these times of pandemic-induced isolation, social disparities, and racial injustice. Social connectedness is also one of the greatest predictors of mental health, well-being, immunity, and longevity.
The Yale/Stanford study assigned college students to one of three well-being groups (SKY Campus Happiness, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and Emotional Intelligence) or a control group. Students partook in the classes for 8 weeks during the course of a regular semester. At the end of the semester, student mental health and well-being in each of the active groups was compared to that of the control group.
The SKY Campus Happiness Program, a holistic well-being program that teaches SKY Breath Meditation and social connection, was the only program to show statistically significant improvements in 6 measures of student well-being: stress, depression, mental health, social connectedness, positive emotion and mindfulness. It also significantly outperformed a matched, cognitively-based comparison group in improving stress, sleep, social connectedness, anxiety, depression, distress, self-esteem, life satisfaction and conscientiousness.
At the 3 month follow-up, the improvements in the SKY group were even stronger. In addition, the SKY intervention buffered breathing and heart rate indicators of stress in a controlled laboratory condition.
The SKY Campus Happiness Program is tailored for university populations and currently offered in over 55 USA campuses. Its curriculum includes training in specific breathwork exercises, meditation, emotional intelligence training, service, leadership, and immersive activities to build social connections. SKY Campus Happiness is offered by the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) in collaboration with the Art of Living Foundation.
Interventions such as SKY are easily implementable by universities and can be taught online. A cost-benefit analysis shows that hiring lecturers to implement resilience-building programs like SKY Campus Happiness is more economical for universities than adding staff to overburdened counseling and psychiatric services.