Mindfulness meditation may help adults cope with psychological health issues such as anxiety and depression but most people are not aware of it, according to a new study.
Researchers assessed how mindfulness meditation affects a person’s stress levels, whether they were helped by different forms of meditation and whether the effects of meditation on stress were most likely to be positive or negative.
More than 100 adults agreed to take part in a meditation program over three months and fill in questionnaires at the beginning of the study, and again six weeks later.
At the start of the study, 40 of the participants were meditating for less than 30 minutes per day. Those who were not meditating were given a control group and a group of people were randomly assigned to a “greater mindfulness” meditation group.
Mindfulness meditation involved a bit of relaxation followed by a deep breathing exercise. The participants were introduced to mindfulness meditation after a conversation with the meditation instructors, during which the instructors made the point that mindfulness is about increasing “attention.” To this point, the intention of the meditation was to promote concentration without losing control.
“Greater mindfulness” meditation received mixed results. Only half of the participants found it helpful for coping with stress in general, or dealing with stressful situations, and 19 percent found it helpful for dealing with stress during long-term job tasks and interpersonal relationships.
This might be because some participants found meditation difficult because they found it painful. Of those who struggled with the meditation experience, 8 percent said they felt distressed or anxious by the experience, compared with just one percent of those who were not struggling. But regardless of how the participant experienced the meditation, almost half of the participants reported they were helping themselves to focus and to adapt their minds to the practice.
Other meditation forms were also found to have a positive effect on stress reduction. In general, listening to music during meditation was found to have the greatest influence on individuals’ stress levels. The findings also suggest that meditation may help people to regulate their emotions and this may be important for people with anxiety disorders.
More details about the study will be presented during a scientific meeting this week in Britain.
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