(NaturalNews) So-called "mindfulness meditation" has become increasingly popular as a method of improving your mental and physical health, but most of the research that supports or substantiates its benefits has primarily focused on lengthy, weeks-long training programs.
However, new research from Carnegie Mellon University has become the first body of work to demonstrate that even brief mindfulness mediation practice - just 25 minutes a day for three consecutive days - can mitigate psychological stressors.
The research, which was published in the journal Psychoneuroenocrinology, examined how mindfulness medication can affect people's ability to be resilient under stress.
"More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits," said lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Shorter meditation times equal good results too
To conduct the study, Creswell and his team of researchers had 66 healthy subjects ranging in age from 18 to 30 participate in a three-day experiment. Some of the participants underwent a brief mindfulness mediation training program. Then, for three consecutive days, for 25 minutes at a stretch, participants were given breathing exercises that helped them monitor their breath and pay closer attention to their present moment experiences.
A second group of participants completed a matched three-day cognitive training program in which they were asked to critically analyze poetry in an effort to enhance problem-solving skills, said a press release from the university.
After the final training activity, all of the study's participants were asked to complete stressful math and speech tasks in front of evaluators who remained stern-faced. Each of the participants reported their stress levels in response to the stressful tasks, and they also provided saliva samples for measurement of cortisol, which is most commonly referred to as the body's stress hormone.
As noted in the press release:
The participants who received the brief mindfulness meditation training reported reduced stress perceptions to the speech and math tasks, indicating that the mindfulness meditation fostered psychological stress resilience. More interestingly, on the biological side, the mindfulness meditation participants showed greater cortisol reactivity.
"When you initially learn mindfulness mediation practices, you have to cognitively work at it - especially during a stressful task," said Creswell. "And, these active cognitive efforts may result in the task feeling less stressful, but they may also have physiological costs with higher cortisol production."
Meditation over medication
Creswell's research group is currently testing the possibility that mindfulness can become much more automatic and thus easier to use with long-term mindfulness meditation training, which could then result in reduced cortisol reactivity.
In addition to Creswell, the research team consisted of Carnegie Mellon's Laura E. Pacilio and Emily K. Lindsay and Virginia Commonwealth University's Kirk Warren Brown, the university announced, adding that the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse Opportunity Fund supported the research.
Writing in EmaxHealth, Lana Bandoim said that researchers will be further studying the long-term effects and benefits in more detail, but already experts are recommending that more people consider meditation (over medication) as a way of reducing stress:
Data from the American Psychological Association reveal that 77 percent of the people in the United States report feeling stressed. Money and work get most of the blame for creating stress in their daily lives, and 48 percent admit that it influences their life in a noticeably negative way. Meditation may not work for every person experiencing stress, but experts suggest it should be considered as an option.