Reduce Physiological Indicators of Stress with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Learning how to accept your present-moment experience is really important for reducing stress,” – Emily Lindsay
Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. One reason for these benefits is that mindfulness training improves the individual’s physical and psychological reactions to stress. Stress is an integral part of life, that is actually essential to the health of the body. In moderation, it is healthful, strengthening, and provides interest and fun to life. If stress, is high or is prolonged, however, it can be problematic. It can significantly damage our physical and mental health and even reduce our longevity, leading to premature deaths.
It is important that we develop methods to either reduce or control high or prolonged stress or reduce our responses to it. Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. and this appears to be important for health. So, it is important to study the mechanisms by which mindfulness reduces stress.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Student Training Leads to a Reduction in Physiological Evaluated Stress.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00645/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1332835_69_Psycho_20200519_arts_A), Voss and colleagues recruited university students and randomly assigned them to receive either no-treatment or a once a week for 90 minutes, 8-week mindfulness training program based upon Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The program contained meditation, body scan, yoga, and discussion and daily 20-min home practice. They were measured before and after training with physiological indicators of autonomic nervous system activity with electrocardiogram (ECG), finger-pulse plethysmography, and respiration.
They found that in comparison to the baseline and the no-treatment control participants the participants who received mindfulness training had significantly lower blood pressure pulse wave variability in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressures. These results suggest that mindfulness training resulted in improved regulation of the autonomic nervous system suggesting lower physiological arousal and greater peripheral physiological relaxation. This normally suggests a dominance of the parasympathetic (relaxation) component of the system as opposed to the sympathetic (arousal) component. The study suggests that the mindfulness training produced lower levels of physiological indicators of stress.
Prior research has established the mindfulness training produces lower psychological responses to stress. It has also shown that mindfulness training produces higher levels of heart rate variability, another measure of parasympathetic predominance and improved autonomic regulation. So, the present study, using different physiological measures, also showed that mindfulness training improves autonomic regulation suggestive of greater ability to respond to stress with lower physiological reactivity.
The importance of the observed improvements in autonomic regulation should not be underestimated. The greater ability to respond adaptively to stress is thought to underlie many of the improvements in mental and physical health produced by mindfulness training. In other words, the physiological indicators of reduced stress responsivity observed here, are indicators of the improvements in the individual’s ability to withstand stress and thereby maintain their health and well-being
So, reduce physiological indicators of stress with mindfulness.
“Mindfulness can lead to less intense stress responses. This has many health benefits, such as lowering your blood pressure and strengthening your immune system.” – Healthy Aging
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Voss A, Bogdanski M, Langohr B, Albrecht R and Sandbothe M (2020) Mindfulness-Based Student Training Leads to a Reduction in Physiological Evaluated Stress. Front. Psychol. 11:645. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00645
Background and Objective: In today’s fast-paced modern lifestyle, chronic stress has become a serious issue with potential consequences for our physical and mental health. The concept of mindfulness and its derived Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is considered to be an effective stress management technique for patients as well as for healthy persons. The effects of MBSR interventions on their participants have been subject of previous research, especially with regard to psychological or social science approaches using self-reports and questionnaires. In contrast, medical investigations in this field have been less frequent and often somehow limited, for example, addressing only absolute (discrete) mean values for heart rate or blood pressure.
Methods: In this study, we have evaluated a Mindfulness Based Student Training program (MBST) by applying methods of biosignal analysis to examine its impact on the training participants’ autonomic regulation. This intervention program included classical MBSR elements but was adapted to suit the normal daily needs of university students. We obtained the electrocardiogram, finger-pulse plethysmography, and respiration activity from students participating in either the intervention group (IGR, 38 subjects) or a passive control group (CON, 35 subjects) prior to and after 8 weeks of MBST intervention.
Results: When comparing various indices from heart rate variability, pulse wave variability, and respiration in linear and nonlinear domains, significant changes in the autonomic regulation were observed for the IGR group after 8 weeks of MBST.
Conclusion: The results indicate a reduced stress level exclusively for the intervention participants, and therefore, we assume a health benefit from the MBST program.