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Anyone Can Benefit From Meditation

Got half an hour? Great!

A small study shows that just 25 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation can help you feel less stressed in an anxiety-inducing situation. And the best part: This effect was shown in people who had not spent months or even weeks, but merely days training in mindfulness meditation.

For the study, which is published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers had 31 young adults undergo three days of a brief, 25-minute mindfulness meditation training. During the training, the participants learned how to monitor their breathing, and also be more aware of being in the present moment. Meanwhile, 35 other young adults were assigned to do a three-day cognitive training program, which involved analyzing poetry for purposes of boosting problem-solving skills.

Then, at the end of the three days, all the study participants were put in a stressful situation: They had to do math- and speech-related tasks as stern evaluators looked on. The researchers had them report how stressed they felt from this experience, and they also asked them to provide saliva samples so that researchers could measure the participants’ levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The people who were assigned to the mindfulness meditation reported less stress during the task than people who were assigned to the cognitive training program. However, the meditation group also showed higher cortisol levels. Study researcher J. David Creswell, an associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, explained in a statement that this seemingly oxymoronic finding could be because a new practitioner of mindfulness may need “to cognitively work at it — especially during a stressful task.”

So, “these active cognitive efforts may result in the task feeling less stressful, but they may also have physiological costs with higher cortisol production,” Creswell explained in the statement.

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