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Student Life

Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Helen MacDonald’s research focuses on the relationships between mindfulness, mental health, academic functioning, and belongingness among college students. 

“Mindfulness programs represent one compelling strategy for reducing stress and risk for mental health problems in college students,” MacDonald said. “My research finds that college students who report greater mindfulness skills are less depressed, stressed, and anxious. Students who are more mindful are also better able to control their emotional responses, instead of reacting impulsively. They demonstrate greater empathy, defined by a better ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and imagine what someone is going through from that person’s own perspective.”

During the Fall 2022 semester, MacDonald and her research team of psychology majors Madeline Bradley ’23 and Matthew Lemansky ’23 (pictured) investigated the lived experiences of participants in an 8-week mindfulness training program. The research team is working to analyze data and draft a manuscript from this qualitative study conducted with a sample of Emmanuel College students during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the project progresses, MacDonald’s research lab plans to submit this manuscript for publication.

With funding from the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation, MacDonald has also worked to expand the Program for Mindfulness and Contemplative Learning at the College, developing a series of interrelated and applied mindfulness programs.

“I like the idea that through mindfulness practice, training our attention on the present without judgement, we may work towards being more connected and becoming our best selves.”

Dr. Helen MacDonald