With the convenience and safety afforded us through virtual meetings, this seemed like a natural shift when the pandemic was first ramping up. Even so, pivoting to online programming was not an easy decision for Calmer Choice…
There were many skeptics who questioned if something as deeply personal and connection-based as mindfulness could be taught over a platform like Zoom. Even with these doubts looming, Calmer Choice carried on and continued to develop its online programming. While there wasn’t really much of a choice, with the COVID-19 restrictions in place, community members needed their help and Calmer Choice was going to meet that need.
A year and a half later, we can say with certainty this online program has helped many people.
As a researcher who just spent the last year evaluating Calmer Choice’s online programming, I’m excited to tell you all about what I learned. But first, let me introduce myself.
My name is Katelyn Loring and I’m a third-year occupational therapy doctorate student at Tufts University. For over a year, I’ve been partnering with Calmer Choice to complete my doctoral capstone. I spent the summer working at the Calmer Choice office in Yarmouth, getting to know Calmer Choice and making sense of what this research really means.
Let me break it down for you.
I was interested in learning about the effectiveness of Calmer Choice’s eight-week adult mindfulness program. I wanted to know if participants could still be impacted by this program, even if they took it online. Since this was the first time Calmer Choice had ever studied their adult programs, we approached it as a pilot study.
With the help of Calmer Choice and their stakeholders, we decided to focus on four primary outcomes; mindfulness, well-being, stress, and resilience. To study these outcomes, I chose four valid and reliable measures from sources like the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Heath Toolbox:
Over the summer, we piloted the use of these measures during one of Calmer Choice’s eight-week adult online mindfulness courses. We successfully followed six participants across the eight weeks using an online pre and post-survey format using the questions from these tools, amongst others. While this summer may not have been the best time to study this program with the lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions, even with our small sample we found big results.
In our pre-survey before the course began, participants reported practicing mindfulness less than once per week, on average.
By the end of the course, participants were practicing mindfulness an average of four to six times per week!
By analyzing the data using the Friedman statistical test and Kendall’s W coefficient, we found these results to be statistically significant (χ2(1) = 5.00, p = 0.025) with a large effect size (W = 0.833).
We also saw important changes in the four outcomes of interest I mentioned earlier.
Participants experienced improvements in all four outcomes measured after the eight-week course. Most notable were improvements in well-being and resilience. Before the course began, the average participant scored below a given threshold indicative of poor well-being.
At the end of eight weeks, all participants were well above this threshold, with an average increase of 20%!
That’s more than double what the measure considers as a significant change. Further analysis using the Friedman test and Kendall’s W also revealed this be statistically significant (χ2(1) = 5.00, p = 0.025) with a large effect size (W = 0.833). In addition, we found a statistically significant improvement in resilience χ2(1) = 5.00, p = 0.046 with a medium effect size (W = 0.667).
These findings validate Calmer Choice’s “8-Week Mindfulness Course: Cultivating Resilience & Well-Being” and support its impact on improving participants’ resilience and well-being!
While there was a lot happening in the world that may have influenced these outcomes, participants’ comments on the post-survey confirmed these findings. All participants indicated this online program had an impact on their overall well-being. They also all plan to continue practicing mindfulness, even now that the course is over.
Though this was a pilot study, it suggests that mindfulness, even when taught online, can make a real difference in people’s lives. Stay tuned for updates on professional venues where these results will be discussed further.
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Smith, B. W., Dalen, J., Wiggins, K., Tooley, E., Christopher, P., & Bernard, J. (2008). The Brief Resilience Scale: Assessing the ability to bounce back. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 15, 194–200.