Mindfulness meditation helps reduce stress

Each and every one of us deals with stress from time to time – whether it’s a minor agitation like running late for your train or a more serious emotional concern that you’re dealing with. One thing is for sure, though, we all want it gone as quickly as possible.

Now, a new study examining the effects of stress may help you with just that.

Psychiatrists from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA have found that the practise of mindfulness may help to reduce levels of stress and the markers of inflammation during stressful events.

The researchers assigned 89 participants who had previously been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) to either an eight week course of mindfulness meditation or a stress-management education course of the same length.

Before and after each course, the participants had to undertake a simulated ‘stress’ exercise. They had to present a speech in front of white-coated evaluators after only very limited time to prepare, then followed by a mental arithmetic test. Blood samples were taken before and after the test to determine several biomarkers of stress, notably the stress hormone adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and markers of inflammation IL-6 and TNF-alpha.

Following the eight-week course of mindfulness meditation, the participants had a reduction in all markers of stress when taking the stress test for a second time. The participants enrolled in the education course faired much worse, however… in fact, the results indicate they were even more anxious on the second taking of the test.

Commenting on the findings, lead researcher and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge said: “Mindfulness meditation training is a relatively inexpensive and low-stigma treatment approach, and these findings strengthen the case that it can improve resilience to stress.”

It’s true – mindfulness is something you can easily implement into your life. For now, pick a regular time, like your journey to work, to notice the events around you or how about during a walk at lunchtime, try exploring a new area and the sensations this brings up.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dominic Rees
Editorial Health Researcher