Meditation may lower anxiety, boost heart health
Just a single session of meditation can alleviate anxiety and boost heart health, a study has found.
Researchers from Michigan Technological University in the US found that that 60 minutes after meditating the 14 study participants showed lower resting heart rates and reduction in aortic pulsatile load - the amount of change in blood pressure between diastole and systole of each heartbeat multiplied by heart rate.
Additionally, shortly after meditating, and even one week later, the group reported anxiety levels were lower than pre-meditation levels.
It sounds like a late-night commercial: In just one hour you can reduce your anxiety levels and some heart health risk factors. But a recent study with 14 participants shows preliminary data that even a single session of meditation can have cardiovascular and psychological benefits for adults with mild to moderate anxiety.
"Even a single hour of meditation appears to reduce anxiety and some of the markers for cardiovascular risk," said John Durocher, assistant professor at Michigan Technological University.
While it's well-documented that meditation over the course of several weeks reduces anxiety, there have been few comprehensive research studies on the benefits of a single meditation session.
Researchers wanted to understand the effect of acute mindfulness on cognition and the cardiovascular system to improve how anti-anxiety therapies and interventions are designed. They designed the mindfulness study to include three sessions. First, in an orientation session researchers measured anxiety and conducted cardiovascular testing by measuring heart rate variability, resting blood pressure and pulse wave analysis.
Then there was meditation session that included repetition of the cardiovascular testing plus the mindfulness meditation - 20 minutes introductory meditation, 30 minutes body scan and 10 minutes self-guided meditation - as well as repeating cardiovascular measurements immediately following meditation and 60 minutes after. This was followed by a post-meditation anxiety test a week later.
During a body scan, the participant is asked to focus intensely on one part of the body at a time, beginning with the toes. By focusing on individual parts of the body, a person can train his or her mind to pivot from detailed attention to a wider awareness from one moment to the next.
"The point of a body scan is that if you can focus on one single part of your body, just your big toe, it can make it much easier for you to deal with something stressful in your life. You can learn to focus on one part of it rather than stressing about everything else in your life," said Hannah Marti, a recent Michigan Tech graduate.