Mindfulness meditation helps to decrease anxiety, according to the latest physiological evidence.
Meditation reduces the body’s inflammatory response as well as causing a striking reduction in levels of stress hormones, new research finds.
In comparison, people who took a stress management course actually saw an increased response to stress.
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Dr Elizabeth A. Hoge, the study’s first author, 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.”
The research included 89 people who had been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder.
Half were given an 8-week mindfulness meditation course, the other half a stress management course.
Because the courses were very similar in most respects, the participants were not aware what the researchers were hoping would work.
This helps reduce a well-known effect in psychological research called the ‘expectancy bias’.
This is the idea that when people expect to get better, they magically do.
It is akin to the placebo effect.
Before and after the two different courses, participants were given a stress test.
This involved giving a short speech to an audience.
Dr Hoge explained:
“We were testing the patients’ resilience,because that’s really the ultimate question—can we make people handle stress better?”
The researchers monitored key markers of the stress response in the blood.
They found that those who had taken the stress management course saw a slight rise in physiological stress levels in the second test.
In the meditation group, though, participants showed large drops in the stress response at the second test.
Not only that, but people reported feeling much less stressed after the meditation course.
The study was published in the journal Psychiatry Research (Hoge et al., 2016).
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