Be REAL Youth Program

Promoting the well-being of college students

What’s Be REAL?

Be REAL (REsilient Attitudes and Living) is a six-week program that promotes college students’ well-being. It equips students with cognitive behavior skills to manage emotions and cope with challenging situations, mindfulness skills to strengthen self-awareness, and practices that promote compassion for themselves and others. Each weekly Be REAL session is 90 minutes and includes group discussions, partner activities, and guided contemplative practices.

Learn about Be REAL in this 3-minute video:

What We’re Studying

The transition to college presents significant challenges as late adolescents are often living away from home for the first time, navigating a new campus, course schedules and demands, and academic pressures. High rates of anxiety and depression are reported on college campuses. Our goal is to learn the best ways to adapt the program to support students’ well-being.

Be REAL is assessing key well-being measures for students, including executive function, coping skills, emotion regulation, perceived stress, resilience, flourishing, mindfulness, social connectedness, and self-compassion. The current campus evaluation is also assessing the programs impact on depression and anxiety symptoms.

Hear From Participants

“Connecting with other students made me feel much less self-conscious about my own efforts and I feel the practices were genuinely helpful and empowering in my own life.”

“I started to fall really low winter quarter and I began to feel like UW wasn’t where I belonged. I started meditating for 10 min as a study break and used the anchor phrase ‘I belong here’.”

“After using these methods, I treat myself better and tried not to put too much pressure on myself. When I’m tired or felt pain, I will leave myself enough time to relax and recover.”

What We’re Learning

In 2017 and 2018, we conducted an evaluation of Be REAL in the UW residential halls. More than 200 students enrolled in the study. Results from this study showed that, compared to students who had not yet received the program (e.g., the waitlist control), students who participated in Be REAL improved significantly on a number of well-being measures, including:

  • Enhanced attention focusing and  inhibitory control (executive function)
  • More effective coping, using more active coping, acceptance and reframing
  • Increased self-compassion, mindfulness, resilience, and flourishing
  • Greater social connectedness
  • Lower perceptions of the stress

These positive changes were maintained three months after the program ended. Also, students were highly satisfied with the program: 98% of the students said the program was helpful to their well-being. 

Offering well-being and prevention programs to students may help reduce the stress and mental health challenges that can arise during college. Programs combining mindfulness and self-compassion with cognitive-behavior skills may increase their resilience by strengthening key protective factors, such as executive function, effective coping, perception of stress and self-kindness.



Long, R,. Kennedy, M., Malloy Spink, K., Lengua, L. J. (2023). Promoting College Student and Staff Well-being Through a Mindfulness-based Coping Program. OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine; 8(3): 034.
Long, R., Halvorson, M., & Lengua, L. J. (2021). A mindfulness-based promotive coping program improves well-being in college undergraduates. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 1-14.
Long, R., Kennedy, M., Spink, K. M., & Lengua, L. J. (2021). Evaluation of the Implementation of a Well-being Promotion Program for College Students. Frontiers in Psychiatry12.

What’s Next

We are currently evaluating the implementation of Be REAL in a variety of campus settings. This includes being integrated into mandatory undergraduate seminars led by academic advisors, a course for credit, a course for students of color led by academic advisors, and through campus mental health clinics. 


Get Involved

Interested in trying guided mindfulness practices? Check out our audio library.

Interested in bringing Be REAL to your students? Contact Sara McDermott,