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Meditation a Quick Fix for Stress

Small study involving Chinese undergraduates showed significant benefit ,,,,

THURSDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Meditating for just 20 minutes a day for five days helped to increase energy and decrease anxiety and stress, as measured by levels of stress hormones, a small study found.

Using the so-called integrative body-mind training method, which comes from traditional Chinese medicine, the study participants reported better attention and control of stress than those relying on relaxation training, which is popular in the West.

Although derived from Chinese medicine, integrative body-mind training uses aspects of other meditation and mindfulness training, the study authors said.

"A meditation method developed in China showed remarkably better performance among those who went through the training compared with those who used relaxation training," said lead researcher Michael Posner, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon's Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences.

In the study, published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers assigned 40 undergraduate students from China to either integrative meditation or relaxation therapy.

Posner's group found the students who used integrative meditation for 20 minutes a day for just five days showed greater improvement in conflict scores on a test of stress levels, lower anxiety, depression and anger. Conversely, they displayed more energy, less fatigue, a significant drop in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and an increase in immunoreactivity, compared with students receiving the relaxation therapy.

Integrative body-mind training was developed in the 1990s, and has been studied in China since 1995. Based on the results from hundreds of adults and children ranging from 4 to 90 years old in China, the practice appears to improve emotional and cognitive performance and social behavior, the study authors said.

Because the study was done in China, Posner said he's not sure if the same meditation method would work in the United States.

"This is a kind of scientific demonstration about the possible advantage of meditation, at least for the Chinese undergraduates," Posner said. "It could be culturally specific."

Posner does think, however, that the study shows it's possible to change the levels of stress hormones with training.

More information

To learn more about meditation, visit the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

SOURCES: Michael Posner, Ph.D., professor, Department of Psychology, Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences, University of Oregon, Eugene; October 8-13, 2007, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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