Mental Health

Hour-Long Meditation Reduces Anxiety, Risk Of Heart Complications

Sure, meditation does not seem to be everyone's cup of tea. But if you are prone to anxiety or at risk of heart problems, you may want to close your eyes and give it just one try before you make up your mind. 

A student-led study from Michigan Technological University (MTU) examined the effects of mindfulness meditation on 14 participants. A single, one-hour session was all it took for the benefits to come to life as both cardiovascular and psychological benefits were observed in the group. 

So what sets this study apart from all the endless research on how meditation can provide benefits for both physical and mental health?

While most studies have proven that meditation habits over a period can reduce anxiety and restlessness, the new study attempted to understand the immediate impact after just one session. That would be a mere 60 minutes of mediation-related activities. "Even a single hour of meditation appears to reduce anxiety and some of the markers for cardiovascular risk," said lead researcher John Durocher, assistant professor of biological sciences at the university.

Hannah Marti, who recently graduated from MTU with a bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering, proposed the design which was used in the study. Her design included three sessions in total: 

First, an orientation session where anxiety was measured and heart health markers were tested. The former was measured using the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) while cardiovascular health was tested using measures of heart rate variability, blood pressure, and pulse wave analysis.

Second, a session based on mindfulness meditation, including a repetition of the cardiovascular testing. The one hour comprised of 20 minutes for introductory meditation, 30 minutes for a body scan, and 10 minutes for self-guided meditation.

"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," explained Marti. "You can learn to focus on one part of it rather than stressing about everything else in your life."

Last but not the least, the third and final session was a post-meditation anxiety test which took place after a week. The effects of the sessions were largely positive.

The participants showed lower resting heart rates and beneficial changes relating to blood pressure. Anxiety levels were shown to be much lower than what they were before the session, and this persisted shortly after meditating, and even one week later. One participant even stated that their stress levels were the lowest they had ever been in a decade after the session.

The findings of the study titled "Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Aortic Pulsatile Load and Anxiety in Mild to Moderately Anxious Adults" will be presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego on April 23.