Daily meditation decreases anxiety and improves cognitive functioning in new meditators after 8 weeks – PsyPost

Posted: March 23, 2020 at 2:52 pm


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Only 8 weeks of daily meditation can decrease negative mood and anxiety and improve attention, working memory, and recognition memory in non-experienced meditators. These findings come from a recent study published in Behavioural Brain Research.

Meditation is a mental exercise that uses mindfulness techniques to work on attention and awareness with the goal of achieving a calmer state of mind. The practice of meditation is said to foster greater self-awareness, enhance emotional regulation, improve focus, and alleviate stress. But little is known about whether short, practical meditation sessions provide cognitive benefits for inexperienced meditators.

The study included a total of 42 non-experienced meditators between the ages of 18 and 45 who were split into two randomized groups. One group practiced 13 minutes of daily guided meditation over an 8-week period. The second group (the control group) listened to 13 minutes of a podcast every day for 8 weeks. Researchers compared the results between the two groups to see how meditation might improve cognition when compared to podcast listening.

Throughout the study, researchers had participants complete neuropsychological tasks to test their cognitive functioning and answer self-reported questionnaires to assess their mood state. To assess participants stress levels at the physiological level, saliva cortisol samples were also taken. All data was collected at the start of the study, again at the 4-week period, and finally at the 8-week period when the study ended.

At the end of the study, participants completed the Trier Social Stress Test, a test designed to elicit social stress. Researchers administered the state anxiety portion of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory right before the social stress test, immediately after the test, and 10, 20 and 30 minutes after the test to measure participants acute response to stress.

Results showed no significant difference in cognitive function, mood, or cortisol levels between the meditation and podcast groups at the 4-week point. However, results at the 8-week mark were a different story. When compared to the podcast listening group, participants in the meditation group showed decreased mood disturbance, anxiety, and fatigue scores. They also showed improved attention, working memory and recognition memory and a decrease in the behavioral anxiety response to the Trier Social Stress Test.

Although cognitive benefits related to meditation practice have been demonstrated before, this study was the first to show them for novice meditators. Mindfulness research is relatively new and much needs to be explored with regards to specific mechanisms in the brain that are involved in meditation. The current study suggests that daily meditation has significant benefits to practitioners, even those who are new to meditation and only practicing in brief sessions.

The study, Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators, was authored by Julia C. Basso, Alexandra McHale, Victoria Ende, Douglas J. Oberlin, and Wendy A. Suzuki.

(Photo credit: Stephen McCarthy/Collision)

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Daily meditation decreases anxiety and improves cognitive functioning in new meditators after 8 weeks - PsyPost

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March 23rd, 2020 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Meditation