Washington: Scientists have found that brief mindfulness meditation practice – 25 minutes for three consecutive days – alleviates psychological stress.
Mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly popular way for people to improve their mental and physical health, yet most research supporting its benefits has focused on lengthy, weeks-long training programmes.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University are the first to show that brief mindfulness meditation practice can alleviate psychological stress.
Lead author J David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and his research team had 66 healthy individuals aged 18-30 years old participate in a three-day experiment.
Some participants went through a brief mindfulness meditation training programme; for 25 minutes for three consecutive days, the individuals were given breathing exercises to help them monitor their breath and pay attention to their present moment experiences.
A second group of participants completed a matched three-day cognitive training programme in which they were asked to critically analyse poetry in an effort to enhance problem-solving skills.
Following the final training activity, all participants were asked to complete stressful speech and math tasks in front of stern-faced evaluators.
Each individual reported their stress levels in response to stressful speech and math performance stress tasks, and provided saliva samples for measurement of cortisol, commonly referred to as the stress hormone.
The participants who received the brief mindfulness meditation training reported reduced stress perceptions to the speech and math tasks, indicating that the mindfulness meditation fostered psychological stress resilience.
More interestingly, on the biological side, the mindfulness mediation participants showed greater cortisol reactivity.
“When you initially learn mindfulness mediation practices, you have to cognitively work at it – especially during a stressful task,” said Creswell.
“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 added.
The research was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.