Researchers say people do not have to practice meditation for months or years at a time to get the benefits, including reduction of stress and improved concentration. Investigators have discovered that with training, it is possible to derive the same improvements in overall well-being in as little as one week. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.
Recent studies have shown that intensive meditation over long periods of time can improve attention, reduce stress and make it easier to deal with difficult tasks.
But scientists have discovered that people can realize the same benefits in five days using a special technique called integrative mind-body meditation.
The technique incorporates body relaxation, breathing regulation, mental imagery and mindfulness training which, in previous studies, has been shown to improve attention, emotion, and social behaviors.
Researchers at the University of Oregon, who developed the training, taught it to 40 undergraduate students in China. They compared the results of integrative mind-body training to the results of deep relaxation practiced by another group of students.
Investigators found that on several measures, including attention and mood, the students in the integrative meditation group performed better than students in the relaxation group.
Researchers also measured the amount of the stress hormone, cortisol, and found the levels were significantly lower in the integrative mediation group compared to the relaxation group.
Michael Posner is an expert on attention at the University of Oregon and co-author of the study conducted by Yi-Yuan Tang.
Posner says he was surprised by the findings, and thought the results might have to do with where the study was conducted.
"I said maybe the Chinese people were already believers in this kind of thing,"said Michael Posner. "But he said that the Chinese undergraduates these days were very skeptical of traditional Chinese medicine. So, perhaps it will work fine in the West. We will have to determine that."
The study on the benefits of short-term meditation training are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.