Mindfulness meditation, the practice to trying to be 'in the moment,' appears to fight anxiety, according to a new study.
Writing in the journal Psychiatry Research, Georgetown University Medical Center researchers say people who practiced mindfulness meditation had “sharply reduced stress-hormone and inflammatory responses to a stressful situation,” while those who took a non-meditation stress management course had poor responses.
“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,” said lead author Elizabeth A. Hoge, MD, associate professor in Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry.
Generalized anxiety disorder, or chronic and excessive worrying, affects about 7 million Americans annually, according to a news release.
For the study, researchers looked at 89 patients with the disorder. They were divided into two groups: One took a mindfulness meditation stress management course, while the other group took a stress reduction course focused on good sleeping and eating habits and other tips. Participants were not told what the study was investigating.
Participants from both groups were asked to give a short speech in front of an audience as a way to induce stress. This was done before and after the stress management courses.
“We were testing the patients’ resilience,” Hoge explained, “because that’s really the ultimate question—can we make people handle stress better?”
During the stress tests, researchers kept track of participants’ stress responses by monitoring levels of the stress hormone ACTH and the inflammatory proteins IL-6 and TNF-α.
The control group, researchers said, “showed modest rises on the second test compared to the first, suggesting a worsening of their anxiety from having to endure the test again.”
Those who practiced meditation showed big drops in these markers on the second test, suggesting mediation worked to reduce stress.
Furthermore, researchers said the participants in the meditation course “experienced significantly greater reductions in self-reported measures of stress after their course.”