Although stress can be an inevitable part of modern life, it is crucial that one is able to cope up and respond to stress well as too much stress can lead to a number of unwanted and sometimes life-threatening conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and heart disease.
Fortunately, all you need is less than half an hour a day to help you lower your stress amidst demanding tasks. Findings of a new study suggest that spending 25 minutes a day on mindfulness meditation is enough to allow you to respond more positively to stress-inducing situations.
Mindfulness meditation involves sensing what is in the present moment instead of what is in the past or in the future. Its concept is about acceptance as one has to focus on thoughts and feelings sensed at the moment without being judgmental on the wrongfulness or rightfulness of these thoughts and feelings.
For the study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, J. David Creswell, from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and colleagues recruited 66 adults between 18 and 30 years old for a three-day experiment on mindfulness meditation training.
The participants were randomly chosen to either go through a brief mindfulness meditation training program for 25 minutes a day for three days, or a three day cognitive training program. Participants in the mindfulness meditation group were taught how to monitor their breathing and to be more aware of being in the present moment. The participants in the cognitive training group, on the other hand, analyzed poetry to boost their problem-solving skills.
After the training period, the participants completed stressful speech and math tasks in the presence of stern-faced evaluators and each reported their stress level in response to the tasks. The participants also provided saliva samples that the researchers used to measure their stress hormone cortisol.
Creswell and colleagues found that compared with the participants who received cognitive training, those who were given mindfulness meditation training reported lower stress perceptions to the stressful math and speech tasks which suggests that the mindfulness meditation has helped induce their resilience to psychological stress. They also exhibited greater cortisol reactivity.
"The present study provides an initial indication that brief mindfulness meditation training buffers self-reported psychological stress reactivity, but also increases cortisol reactivity to social evaluative stress," the researchers wrote. "This pattern may indicate that initially brief mindfulness meditation training fosters greater active coping efforts, resulting in reduced psychological stress appraisals and greater cortisol reactivity during social evaluative stressors."