A new study took a rigorous look at how the mindfulness meditation practice affects people’s physiology when they are under pressure. Scientists found that mindfulness meditation practice lowers biomarkers of stress response in anxiety disorder.
Mindfulness worked better in a trial of 89 people than conventional stress-busting tactics, which include time management, eating better and exercising more.
“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,” said lead author Elizabeth A. Hoge, MD, associate professor in Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry.
One previous study showed that mindfulness meditation training may cut the risk of relapsing into depression.
Dr Elizabeth Hoge, said: “This is not just a fad, it has been around for thousands of years in Buddhist countries, and we have found it helps people in a very practical sense.”
‘We think it works because it helps people create a little bit of distance between their thoughts and themselves, seeing that their worries will pass.’
The research included 89 patients with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition of chronic and excessive worrying. They were randomly divided, with half taking an eight-week mindfulness course.
Before and after the courses, blood samples were collected and participants underwent a laboratory test designed to make people feel stressed. After the course, participants in the meditation group showed reductions in their levels of stress hormone adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), IL-6 and TNF-alpha (biological markers of inflammation) during the stress test, compared with their levels before they took the course.
The findings avoided having a placebo effect, as both groups of people were given stress management courses and did not know which were of interest to the authors. They were also measured for stress before the interventions.
The findings suggest that mindfulness meditation “may be a helpful strategy to decrease biological stress reactivity” in people with anxiety disorder, the researchers wrote in article.
The study was published in the journal Psychiatry Research.