A Yale Study Found That Breathing Techniques Can Improve College Students' Mental Health

Some of your greatest memories and experiences will happen in college, and so will some of your more stressful moments. Getting used to a new schedule, trying to land internships, and figuring out how to balance having fun with passing your classes can be a lot! The good news is, there are techniques, such as breathwork and yoga, that have been found to manage stress and anxiety and improve your well-being and mental health, according to a 2020 Yale study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

"Mental health in college and university students in the United States has declined over the last decade," the researchers explained, with those ages 18 to 25 being at the greatest risk for mental illness and with the highest prevalence of any mental illness. Anxiety, depression, and stress were the most commonly self-reported concerns by students who saw counselors in 2017 and 2018, the researchers reported.

Addressing the mental health decline on US college campuses, Yale researchers conducted a randomized control trial of three well-being interventions. One-hundred and thirty-one students were placed in a nonintervention control group or one of three 30-hour, eight-week-long well-being programs: SKY Campus Happiness, Foundations of Emotional Intelligence, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

The SKY Campus Happiness program, which incorporated practicing yoga postures, breathing exercises, breath-based meditations, and positive psychology skills, had the greatest impact, improving depression, stress, mental health, mindfulness, positive affect, and social connectedness. The emotional-intelligence group focused on teaching knowledge of emotions and emotional regulation benefited students' mindfulness. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction group utilized a mindfulness meditation program created for "progressive acquisition of mindful awareness, of mindfulness" and showed no changes on students' well-being and mental health.

The researchers are well-aware of the barriers people face when seeking mental health support, such as stigma and financial hardships, and believe providing students with access to programs such as SKY Campus Happiness can help circumvent these barriers, in addition to being a proactive way to treat potential mental health conditions, enabling students to thrive psychologically.

If you're looking for ways to improve your mental health, check out the following yoga, meditation, breathwork, and journaling tips and resources: