Frequently Asked Questions - Stress Free UC Study

General Participation

Am I eligible?

Employees of UCSF, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside and UC Irvine with access to a computer or smartphone, age 18 years or older may be eligible to participate in this study. Find out if you're eligible by going to the home page of your university and taking the eligibility screener.

How much time will my participation take?

For UCSF, UCLA, UCI, and UCR employees: Meditation group: Meditation: 10 minutes a day for 8 weeks Surveys (x5): 5-20 minutes each Waitlist group: Surveys (x4): 5-20 minutes each For UCM employees: All participants: Surveys (x5): 20-30 minutes each. The surveys will be administered at the following timepoints: the beginning of the study, +4 weeks, +8 weeks, +4 months, and +12 months. App questions (x16): 5-10 minutes each. The app questions will be administered Wednesday through Saturday at the following timepoints: the beginning of the study, +2 weeks, +5 weeks, and +8 weeks. Meditation group: In addition to the above time commitments, the meditation group will be asked to interact with the Headspace app 10 minutes a day for 8 weeks.

Does it cost to participate in this study?

No costs are associated with your participation in this study.

Will I be paid to participate in this study?

You will not be paid for your participation in this study. However, you will get a free 1 year subscription to Headspace. UCSF: You will be entered into a drawing to win a full expense paid trip to a Napa Valley getaway. UCR: You will be entered into raffles to win gift cards to local restaurants and the UCR bookstore, as well as other prizes. UCI: You will be entered into a raffle to win a $500 Visa Gift Card. UCLA: You will be entered into a raffle for a two-night stay at the Malibu Beach Inn and a $500 cash prize. Ten winners will receive $100 cash prizes each. UCM: You may receive up to four forms of payment.

  1. You will receive free one-year access to the digital mindfulness program (Headspace) which has a retail cost of about $150.
  2. For each online survey you complete, you will be entered into a drawing to win one of five $100 Amazon gift cards (up to 5).*
  3. For each week you complete mobile app surveys on your phone, you will receive $15 (up to 4).
  4. You will also receive a bonus $20 for 80% completion rate across the study: $10 for completing 80% of the app questions and $10 for wearing the FitBit 80% of days. For the mobile app surveys and Fitbit, you can be compensated up to $80 for the study.”
*If you do not wish to participate in the study, but would like to be entered into a drawing, contact researchers at

What will I do in this study?

If you enroll, you will be asked complete online questionnaires about your health, lifestyle, and feelings. This will take between 5-30 minutes each time and will happen at: The beginning of the study + 4-weeks + 8-weeks + 4-months + 12-months You will be randomly selected to either the: ​ MEDITATION GROUP
If you're in this group, you will use a meditation program called HeadspaceTM, available over the computer or on your smartphone, for 10 minutes each day for 8-weeks. We ask that you start with "Basics" #1-3 and then "Letting go of Stress." ​ WAITLIST CONTROL If you're in this group, you will continue life as you normally do, without beginning a new meditation practice for the duration of the study. After 4 months, you will be given a one-year subscription to the HeadspaceTM application too! If you are a UCSF employee, you will be asked for access to your medical and employment records so researchers can better understand how stress and stress-improvement is related to health, doctor visits, number of work absences, and more. If you are a UCM employee, you will download and use a free mobile app that will ask about your daily experiences such as mood, stress, and interactions with others. The surveys will be prompted five times per day (Wednesday through Saturday) at the following timepoints: the beginning of the study, +2 weeks, +5 weeks, and +8 weeks. The surveys should take between 1-2 minutes each time, or up to 5-10 minutes per day. You will also wear a fitness watch to measure heart rate, sleep, and activity levels. You will be asked to participate in a 60-minute orientation session where you will receive the watch and training on the mobile app. You will need to charge the watch and sync your data periodically.

Can I change the condition I am assigned to?

No, you may not change the condition. The group you are “assigned to” is completely random. Before you participate in the study, please make sure you are okay with being a part of either the Headspace intervention, or in the waitlist control group. Keep in mind that you will get a free access code to Headspace in either condition!

Do I have to answer ALL of the questions in the survey?

We would ideally like you to answer all the questions because it helps us get best data possible, allowing us to determine for whom the intervention works best and why. If certain questions make you very uncomfortable, we ask that you pause the survey and return back to it after a certain period away (you have one week to finish the survey after starting it). If, upon returning, you still cannot answer the question(s), then you may omit it.

What if I want to end my participation in the study?

It is essential that you carefully weigh your decision before joining this study. In consenting to participate, you have made a commitment both to yourself and to the scientific quality of the research. In these trials, it is very important that we minimize the amount of people who drop out of the study and avoid the possibility that our research finds that meditation is more or less effective than it truly may be.

If participants ask to end their role after being assigned to a group in the study, we ask that they consider answering the follow up questionnaires, whether they continue to use the app or not. However, if they choose to end all study contact, we will refrain from any further communication.

While we will honor your right to drop out of the study at any time, we appreciate you considering this decision and the scientific integrity of this study. No matter what decision you make, there will be no penalty to you in any way.

Are my answers saved if I exit and then return to the survey?

We suggest that you complete all surveys in one sitting, but if you happen to exit out, then you may return to your survey where you left off. As long as you return on the same device (your computer or smartphone), then your answers will be saved.


What is the meditation experience with Headspace like?

The Headspace “Basics" pack is designed as an introduction to mindfulness meditation and can be used as an opportunity for you to get familiar with the Headspace teaching style. It presents the concept of mindfulness and encourages you to pay attention to your breathing and notice patterns of mind-wandering and thoughts.

The “Letting go of Stress" pack is more specialized, and combines visualization and body scanning to help users learn to accept their emotions and pay close attention to the present moment. The more lessons you complete, meditations become less and less guided and allow for more freedom in the meditation style.

Practicing mindfulness is like any skill, and takes time to develop, so we suggest that you stick with it and find the time and practice that works best for you.

Curious about what else the Headspace team is up to? See our study and similar research projects featured in the Wall Street Journal here!

When should I meditate?

The benefit of a digitally-based mindfulness program is that you can do it from practically anywhere! As long as you can find a relatively quiet location where you will be undisturbed for 10 minutes, you can meditate at any time. We encourage you to try out different locations and times of day to figure out where you can get the most out of your meditation practice.

One Headspace instructor recommends meditating in the early morning as a great way to start the day. See one meditation instructor's tips in the video below:

How often do I have to meditate? What if I skip a day or two?

We recommend that you try your very best to use Headspace every day. Of course, we understand that life happens, and if you don’t get around to meditating for a day, that’s ok! We will reach out to you once a week to remind you to meditate over text and email. If you don’t meditate for 2 weeks, we will give you a call to check in.

How do I find the time to meditate?

As a hardworking UC employee, you are likely busy most of the day. While it is always a bit difficult to change your routine, the benefit of this intervention is that it only takes up less than 1% of your entire day. You may find that this short amount of time can shift how you experience the rest of your day. Forming a habit may be tricky in the beginning, but the more you practice, the easier it likely will be to find the time.

Why am I not seeing any improvements?

Learning to meditate takes time, and like any other skill, it takes practice. Try to be patient with yourself and avoid seeking perfection, because everybody is different in their meditation style. If you come into the practice with high expectations, it may be harder to become satisfied in your practice. Instead, try taking it one day at a time and most importantly, avoid judgement and practice self-kindness.

For more tips, watch this short video:

What do I do when I encounter distractions during meditation?

You may notice distractions and experience some frustration during your meditation practice, especially when you are first beginning the journey. That is ok! Feel the frustration, watch it pass and come back to the breath. If the distraction continues, rather than fighting with it and struggling to come back to the breath, give the disturbance your full attention, whether it’s a sound, smell, sensation or whatever else. By making it your new point of focus, you make use of it and it ceases to become a disturbance. You may well still experience some frustration, but allow that to happen, see it clearly, look into it and understand from where that frustration arises. This way, we are able to bring everything into our meditation practice.

Can I still meditate offline, if I don't have internet connection

Yes, you can still use Headspace without any internet connection! Using the mobile app, follow the steps below: 1. Tap Discover on the bottom of the screen 2. Tap the pack you want to listen to offline, and tap "+ ADD TO MY PACKS" 3. Tap your first name at the bottom right corner then select the ‘Settings’ icon at the top 4. Toggle the switch to green to begin download on your current packs 5. Visit the "Discover" or "Home" screens to play your downloaded sessions

UCSF: Medical Records

Why do you want permission to use my personal health information for research?

UCSF will ask for your permission to access your medical and employment records for the study so we can better understand how meditation might be related to employee health (i.e. the number of sick days you take or visits to the doctor).

Giving us permission will not affect your employment at UCSF, nor will it affect the health care you receive. All information that you provide will be de-identified, that is none of your records will be associated with your name.

Giving us permission is optional. You may still participate in the study if you choose not to give us access to your medical or employment records. If you agree to letting us access this information, you may also change your mind at any time by emailing the study staff at

*UCSF participants only (not UCR, UCI, UCM or UCLA)

Do I need to allow access to my employment and/or medical records?

Giving us permission is optional. You may still participate in the study if you choose not to give us access to your medical or employment records. If you agree to letting us access this information, you may also change your mind at any time by emailing the study staff at your university.

What if I seek health care outside of the university?

We will only look at health information for those who seek health care at UCSF.

What kind of health data do you look at?

We are interested in looking at the health care you receive such as medications you are prescribed, illnesses you are diagnosed with and number of times you go to the doctor.

UC Merced: Mobile App/Fitness Watch

When will I be receiving prompts on my phone?

The surveys will be prompted on your phone five times per day for four days (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) at the following time points:

  • Beginning of the study

  • +2 weeks

  • +5 weeks

  • +8 weeks

The surveys will be prompted randomly throughout the day between the hours of 8:00 am and 8:00 pm.

How long will it take to fill out the surveys on my phone?

The surveys should take between 1-2 minutes each. This will take up to about 5-10 minutes per day in total.

Can I skip some of the mobile app questions?

We would ideally like you to answer all the questions, and we encourage participants to engage with each survey as much as possible. This will help us to get more reliable data. If certain questions make you very uncomfortable, you can skip the question.

Can I turn off notifications for the mobile app prompts?

Notifications allow you to see when there are surveys to be completed. If you turn notifications off, you won’t know when to fill out the surveys.

All participants are expected to fill out surveys on their mobile device. However, we understand that, in some situations, receiving ringtone alerts may not be convenient. In this case, we encourage you to change the notification settings to vibrate. We will show you how to do this at the in-person orientation session.

Or, you can do it right now if you have the app downloaded by changing the notification settings specifically for the RealLifeExp app in the way you do for other smartphone apps (depending on your phone; generally, under “Settings”). Also, you can do so by changing the notification settings for your phone as a whole (under "Settings", then "Notifications).

What do I have to do with the fitness watch?

We would like for you to wear the fitness watch for the duration of the study. You will need to charge it once a week, and we will send reminders for you to do so. You will also need to return the fitness watch to the UCM researchers when alerted (after 8 weeks).

Can I ever take the fitness watch off?

Ideally, we would like you to wear the fitness watch the entire time. This will help us get more reliable data. However, the device is not swim proof or shower proof, and we ask you to remove it when you shower or swim. With any wearable device, it’s best for your skin if the band stays dry and clean. Note that you can remove the watch at any moment that you wish; we would just ask that you put the watch back on as soon as possible. If the watch is causing discomfort, please remove it immediately and let researchers know.

Contact us!

3333 California Street

San Francisco, CA 94118

1 (415) 502-4857

900 University Ave

Riverside, CA 92521

1 (951) 827-7165​

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway

Irvine, CA 92697


1 (657) 229-3138

500 N. Lake Road

Merced, CA 95343


(209) 228-4787

A461 Franz Hall

502 Portola Plaza 
Los Angeles, CA


1 (626) 991 3075

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