Students, take note: self-compassion may be the key to making it through your first year in college

I just finished correcting the different exams by my students and I’ve noticed already some names have disappeared from my list. Fresh men who found out that becoming a teacher maybe isn’t the right path for them. It’s worse if they dropped out because being stressed out. Well, stressed out university students, take note: self-compassion may be the key to making it through your first year, according to this newstudy from the University of British Columbia.

In brief:

 

  • First year university students were examined at two time points.
  • Change in self-compassion positively related to change in well-being
  • Change in psychological need satisfaction mediated the relationship.

 

From the press release:

Researchers from the faculty of education’s school of kinesiology found students who reported higher levels of self-compassion felt more energetic, alive and optimistic during their first semester of university. When the students’ sense of self-compassion levels rose, so too did their engagement and motivation with life.

“Our study suggests the psychological stress students may experience during the transition between high school and university can be mitigated with self-compassion because it enhances the psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, which in turn, enriches well-being,” said Katie Gunnell, the study’s lead author and a junior research scientist at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa. The study was part of Gunnell’s PhD work at UBC.

Self-compassion interventions can involve exercises to avoid negative self-judgment or feelings of inadequacy. One example involves writing self-compassionately about a negative experience. Self-compassion emphasizes self-kindness, which means to not be overly critical of oneself; common humanity, which means to recognize failure is universal; and mindfulness, which means being present and calm in the moment.

“Research shows first-year university is stressful,” said co-author and UBC kinesiology professor Peter Crocker. “Students who are used to getting high grades may be shocked to not do as well in university, feel challenged living away from home, and are often missing important social support they had in high school. Self-compassion appears to be an effective strategy or resource to cope with these types of issues.”

Crocker said his research group has previously shown that self-compassion interventions lower self-criticism and negative ruminations in high performance female athletes.

The researchers said their findings highlight the potential for colleges and universities to enhance self-compassion for first-year students through the development of workshops or campaigns.

Abstract of the study:

Introduction

Well-being declines during the first year of university. We examined if change in self-compassion was indirectly related to change in well-being through change in psychological need satisfaction during the first year of university.

Methods

First year university students (N = 189, 77.2% female) completed self-report questionnaires at the beginning of the first semester and approximately five months later. Path analysis and bootstrapping procedures were used to examine residualized change scores.

Results

Change in self-compassion was positively related to (ps < 0.05) change in psychological need satisfaction (β = 0.49) and negatively related to change in negative affect (β = − 0.24). Change in psychological need satisfaction was positively associated (ps < 0.05) with change in vitality (β = 0.58) and change in positive affect (β = 0.52) and negatively associated with change in negative affect (β = − 0.29). Change in self-compassion was indirectly related to change in vitality (b = 0.56, 95% bootstrapped bias corrected confidence interval (BcCI)[0.38, 0.77]), positive affect (b = 0.41, 95%BcCI [0.27, 0.58]), and negative affect (b = − 0.26, 95%BcCI[− 0.41, − 0.13]) through change in psychological need satisfaction.

Conclusions

During the first year of university, change in self-compassion was associated with change in well-being because self-compassion enhanced psychological need satisfaction. Results highlight the potential of enhancing self-compassion during first year university to help mitigate student declines in well-being.

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