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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mindfulness meditation helps you handle stress better, scientists say

Mindfulness meditation has seen its fair share of sceptics. After all, testing its effectiveness in a convincing way has proven surprisingly difficult.

But now, scientists may have found a way to study our responses to stressful situations and they believe there may be a link after all.
Researchers leading a clinical trial at Georgetown University Medical Centre say they may have found “objective physiological evidence” that “mindfulness meditation training lowers biomarkers of stress response in anxiety disorder”.
Their study, which was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health in the US and involved 89 participants, showed that a mindfulness meditation course is more effective than a stress management course among anxiety disorder patients.

Researchers found that meditation significantly reduced stress hormones and inflammatory responses to a stressful situation.

Study author Elizabeth A Hoge, of Georgetown University Medical Centre’s Department of Psychiatry,  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.”
Scientists divided the patients taking part in the study into two separate groups.
The first group attended an eight-week, mindfulness-based stress reduction course while the second took an eight-week course on stress management education.
Both courses had similar formats, but only the first included training in meditative techniques.
The participants underwent the Trier Social Stress (TSS) Test – which is a standard technique for inducing a stress response where patients are asked to give a speech before an audience at short notice – before and after the training course.
The team monitored the levels of the stress hormone ACTH and the inflammatory proteins IL-6 and TNF-a. They found that the levels of the proteins increased during stressful situations.
Hoge said: “We were testing the patients’ resilience, because that’s really the ultimate question, can we make people handle stress better?”

Researchers found that the meditation group patients “experienced significantly greater reductions in self-reported measures of stress after their course” compared to the control group.
Based on the results of their study, scientists believe mindfulness-related treatments could be used to help people with psychiatric conditions in the future.
They hope to compare the results of meditation-based treatments with standard psychiatric drug therapies.

Study author Elizabeth A Hoge, Department of Psychiatry