UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experience of university students in cultivating mindfulness : what helps and hinders Mills, Lauri


This study explored the experience of university students in cultivating mindfulness. University students face many unique academic, financial, social, and personal stressors in the pursuit of their educational goals. The literature suggests that the nature of mental health is changing for today’s students, with increasing prevalence, chronicity, complexity, and severity of psychological issues. University counselling centres serve a growing number of students with severe psychological problems, many presenting in crisis and requiring immediate response. This consistent rise in clients seen by centres, compounded with stretched resources and budgetary concerns, is causing many centres to incorporate different treatment modalities to address these challenges. Outcome research suggests that mindfulness is a beneficial intervention with university students, especially in reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. However, there is limited qualitative research on the experience of university students in cultivating mindfulness, and no known published research on what facilitates and challenges students who participate in a mindfulness-based intervention as part of treatment at a university counselling centre. Fourteen participants were interviewed about what helps and hinders their cultivation of mindfulness. All participants had completed a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction group as part of treatment through their university counselling centre. The Enhanced Critical Incident Technique was used to analyze the interviews, which produced 390 total incidents, with 195 helping incidents, 130 hindering incidents, and 65 wish list items. These incidents and wish list items were grouped into 19 categories. The 11 helping categories are Mindfulness Practice, Mindfulness Group, External Environment, Personal Strategies, Benefits of Mindfulness, Routine, Mindfulness Concept, Social Support, External Reminders, Inspirational Others, and Stress. The five hindering categories are Disruptions, Time, Tired, Emotion and Anxiety, and Interpersonal Relationships. The three wish list categories are Space, Resources, and Cultural Shift. The findings suggest that mindfulness practice and the influence of the mindfulness group are important factors for students’ cultivation of mindfulness, as well as external context, personal factors, and the influence of others outside of the mindfulness group.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International