Technology & Science

Meditation technique helps cope with stress: study

A specific form of meditation could be beneficial in improving a person's response to stress, finds a small study.

A specific form of meditation could be beneficial in improving a person's response to stress, finds a small study.

The findings are published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Chinese researchers along with scientists at the University of Oregon divided 80 Chinese undergraduate students into two groups of 40 participants.

One group received five days of meditation training using a technique called integrative body-mind training, which comes from traditional Chinese medicine.

According to the study, the technique avoids struggles to control thought, relying instead on a state of restful alertness, allowing for a high degree of body-mind awareness while receiving instructions from an instructor, who provides breath-adjustment guidance while soothing music plays in the background.

Thought control is achieved through posture, relaxation, body-mind harmony and balanced breathing.

The control group got five days of basic relaxation training.

The groups were tested before and after on their ability to pay attention and reactions to mental stress. The participants in both groups were found to be similar in terms of alertness and attention-span prior to the training.

After the training, the experimental group showed lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue than the control group.Participants in this groupalso released less of the stress hormone cortisol, showing they had better stress control.

"This study improves the prospect for examining brain mechanisms involved in the changes in attention and self-regulation that occur following meditation training," said co-author Michael Posner, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Oregon.

"The study took only five days, so it was possible to randomly assign the subjects and do a thorough before-and-after analysis of the training effects."

The study suggests that people could achieve a measure of stress control and mood improvement through body-mind meditation, especially involving an effective training regimen, say the authors.