Meditation Helps Significantly Reduce Symptoms of Stress

First Posted: Jul 02, 2014 09:29 PM EDT

Overwhelmed by stress? A little meditation may be all you really need.

A recent study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology found that three days a week of 25 minute-long mindfulness medication could help to significantly reduce symptoms of certain psychological woes.

"More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits," said lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, in a news release.

For the study, researchers examined a team of 66 healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 30. All were required to participate in a three-day experiment that involved a brief mindfulness meditation-training program. More specifically, for 25 minutes for three consecutive days, one group of individuals were asked to monitor their breathing and pay close attention to present moment experiences. Another group was asked to complete a matched three-day cognitive training program in which they were asked to critically analyze poetry in an effort to enhance problem-solving skills.

After the final training activity, groups were asked to complete stressful speech and math tasks in front of stern-faced evaluators who reported their stress levels in response to stressful speech and math performance stress tasks. They were asked to provide saliva samples to better measure cortisol levels, as well.

Researchers found that people in the mindfulness meditation group said they felt less stress than those who performed speech and math tasks. However, participants also showed greater cortisol reactivity in saliva samples.

"When you initially learn mindfulness mediation practices, you have to cognitively work at it - especially during a stressful task," Creswell added. "And, these active cognitive efforts may result in the task feeling less stressful, but they may also have physiological costs with higher cortisol production."

Creswell's group is now testing the possibility that mindfulness can become more automatic and easy to use with long-term mindfulness meditation training, which may result in reduced cortisol reactivity.

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