09 October 2007

Meditation helps beat stress

Recent studies have suggested that months to years of intensive meditation can improve attention and lower stress.

Recent studies have suggested that months to years of intensive meditation can improve attention and lower stress.

Researchers now believe that less than one week of meditation practice with the integrative body-mind meditation training method can produce noteworthy improvement in attention and ones' state of mind.

A study of 40 Chinese undergraduates found that participation in a 20 minute integrative meditation sessions over five days showed greater improvement in attention and overall mood while also lowering levels of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue.

This was compared with students in a control group who participated in relaxation training.

Dr Yi-Yuan Tang from University of Oregon in Eugene and colleagues report their research in today's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Combination of elements is best
They say that integrative meditation "incorporates several key component body and mind techniques including body relaxation, breathing adjustment, mental imagery, and mindfulness training, which have shown broad positive effects on attention, emotions, and social behaviours in previous studies.

“This combination may amplify the training effect over the use of only one of these components."

After just five days, students in the integrative meditation group showed significantly greater improvement on tests of attention and mood than did the relaxation control group.

Their reaction to a mental stressor was also significantly improved, as evidenced by a significant decrease in stress-related cortisol levels.

The outcome of the study
These outcomes "open a door" for simple and effective studies looking at the benefits of meditation.

The findings in this study highlight the potential value of integrative meditation for stress management, body-mind health, and improvement in cognitive performance and self-regulation," Tang's team notes.

"Our study is consistent with the idea that attention, affective processes and the quality of moment-to-moment awareness are flexible skills that can be trained," they said. - (Reuters Health)

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