Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry worked with 89 patients diagnosed with anxiety disorders to measure how their stress-hormone and inflammatory responses were affected by mindfulness meditation classes. According to a press release from Georgetown, half of the participants took an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course, while the other half attended classes on stress management for the same amount of time.
Before and after the courses, all participants took a standard experimental test for inducing a stress response. Throughout these evaluations, researchers monitored blood-based markers that show a patient’s stress levels. They found that the meditation class participants experienced significantly reduced stress responses, while people who took the education class has a worse response. Results of the trial were published in Psychiatry Research.
Testing and scientifically proving the reported benefits of mindfulness meditation, including longer attention span, pain management, support overcoming addiction, and lowered blood pressure, has been a challenge, even though people have been practicing the technique for thousands of years.
“Many prior tests of meditation-based therapies have compared a meditation group to an untreated control group. Because participants in such studies are not ‘blinded’—they know if they are getting treatment or not—they are likely to be influenced by the placebo effect and other forms of expectancy bias,” the release notes. Researchers said the way the study was designed eliminates any participant bias toward a particular treatment being tested.
A person who suffers from anxiety will often focus on future prospects and become overwhelmed with fear that everything will turn out badly. These feelings can restrict a person’s ability to work, maintain relationships, or leave the house. The condition also may come with side effects that resemble health disorders, such as sweating, shaking, increased heart rate, bowel issues, and hyperventilation.
“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, according to the press release.
This study focused on mindfulness meditation, which is just one of many different schools of practice. Other schools vary slightly and include transcendental meditation (™), guided visualization, kundalini, and more.