Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Houghton, MI, United States (4E) – Even a single session of meditation can have cardiovascular and psychological benefits for adults with mild to moderate anxiety, said a preliminary study from Michigan Technological University presented at the ongoing 2018 Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, California.
The study titled “Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Aortic Pulsatile Load and Anxiety in Mild to Moderately Anxious Adults,” involved 14 participants. It found out that 60 minutes after meditating, the 14 study participants showed lower resting heart rates and a reduction in aortic pulsatile load, or the amount of change in blood pressure between diastole and systole of each heartbeat multiplied by heart rate. Additionally, participants reported anxiety levels were lower than pre-meditation levels shortly after meditating, and even one week later.
“Even a single hour of meditation appears to reduce anxiety and some of the markers for cardiovascular risk,” said John Durocher, assistant professor of biological sciences. Durocher conducted the study along with fellow researchers Hannah Marti, a recent Michigan Tech graduate, Brigitte Morin, lecturer in biological science and Travis Wakeham, a graduate student.
There have been few comprehensive research studies on the benefits of a single meditation session. Durocher’s team wanted to understand the effect of acute mindfulness on cognition and the cardiovascular system to improve how anti-anxiety therapies and interventions are designed.
Durocher said the study hinged on a research design proposed by Marti, who graduated from Michigan Tech with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. Marti designed the mindfulness study to include three sessions: an orientation session; a meditation session and a post-meditation anxiety test one week later.
During a body scan, a 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 Marti.
One participant commented that following the session, they were the least stressed they’d been in a decade. The single session mindfulness meditation study and an upcoming NIH-funded study are excellent examples of the emphasis on student participation in research at Michigan’s northern-most public university.
“In Michigan Tech’s health science research programs, I want our students to get hands-on experience that they can carry into their futures, gaining experiences to advance their educational careers or their professional careers,” said Durocher. “When they go for an interview, they have something real to talk about, there’s substance.”
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