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Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

Study: Regular Meditation Relieves Stress In People Like You!

By January 26, 2011

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Research has shown that there are many benefits to meditation, both in the short term and in the long run. (Read about some of the benefits of meditation here.) One study examined the brains patterns of buddhist monks, regular meditators if there ever were any, and found that there were actual observable differences with how their brains functioned: they were much less reactive to stress. Pretty amazing stuff.

"But what about those of us who can't meditate as much as that?" I wondered, when I read about that research. Thinking of my own life as well as the lifestyles of most of my readers, we may get to a point (or have been there for a while) where we meditate regularly, but we may never reach buddhist monk-caliber meditation practices. I started wondering about "people like us."

And so, apparently, did Dr. Kristina Zaleski, of Northcentral University. She in fact studied people a lot like you and me: people who visited online websites (hello!) and meditated regularly--or didn't. Here are the specifics of the study:

  • This study surveyed 118 participants in healthy populations (those without self-reported psychopathology), and examined differences between those who meditated regularly and those who did not. Each of the 59 regular meditators and the 59 non-meditators completed three online surveys: the Satisfaction With Life Scale, The Compassion Love for Humanity Scale, and the Perceived Stress Scale. Results showed that those who meditate regularly were significantly more satisfied with life than those who didn't, as well as more compassionate and less stressed.
I like this research because it's simple: it may not examine brain structures and thought patterns as they occur, but it shows the real-world benefits you may find with regular meditation: greater satisfaction with life, a greater level of compassion (which must help with strengthening relationships, but that's a different blog post), and decreased levels of stress. (And that's what we're all here for, right?) This adds evidence to support the assertion that regular meditation has beneficial stress relief effects (as well as effects that could affect stressors in our lives) that last beyond the meditation sessions themselves. And that makes meditation worth your time, even if you are stressed and busy like...well, most of the people reading this.

If this inspires you to get started with meditation, here are some resources to help you do so:

Do you have any experience with meditation? What's helped you to get started? Share your thoughts in the comments section, if you'd like, and feel free to visit the Facebook Page About Stress Management for more discussions and regular information on stress management.

Source:
Zaleski, Katrina, Ph.D. (2010). Examining the effectiveness of meditation on well being in subjects without any self-reported psychopathology. Proquest. (UMI No. AAT: 3436602) Retrieved January 22, 2011, from Proquest.

Comments
January 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm
(1) Aaron says:

Thank you for pointing out this research. I found this article when I was looking for some research into the benefits of meditation. There is no doubt that stress relief has powerful health benefits. However, the question that is always unanswered by meditation research is whether the benefits are just due to stress relief or if meditation in and of itself has benefits beyond any other method of stress relief. I am curious to learn more about that. Nevertheless, I find meditation to be a great option to relax a little bit if I only have 10 or 15 minutes of dead time. It doesn’t require any fancy equipment, anyone in any physical condition can do it, and you don’t need to shower afterward (like with exercise). My daily meditation is one of the highlights of my day.

Cheers,
Aaron

January 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm
(2) Helen says:

I found that I was always too impatient to meditate until I tried a system called ‘heartmath’ which uses focused, relaxed breathing and positive visualisation, along with biofeedback. The biofeedback is a heart-rate monitor that lets you see your heartrate variability – a strong heart changes tempo in response to stress, and when you are calm, it changes in a regular way that makes a sine-wave pattern.

Having practiced with the HRM, I can now recognize the physical response to relaxation and know that I’m in a more ‘coherent’ state. Very useful when tackling stressful situations like exams! It also helps to dispel the tension in daily life, when driving for instance.

I like that the Heartmath system uses what I recognize as Buddhist meditation principles but looks at the science behind them and drops the esoteric language. I still don’t do sustained mediation, but use it more as a quick stress ‘reset’.

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