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Even brief exposure to mindfulness meditation helps treat anxiety

While many will vouch for the benefits of mindfulness meditation, scientific studies have only started seriously delving into the practice in the last decade.

The basic principles of mindfulness meditation are bringing awareness to your thoughts and staying focused on the present. It is known to be especially beneficial as a treatment for anxiety, and now a new study has found that even one session of mindfulness meditation has positive results for patients with anxiety.  

Anxiety is one of the common mental health disorders in the U.S. and affects around 18 percent of the population every year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Anxiety can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and can cause long-term damage to various organs.

Researchers from the Michigan Technological University conducted the study to see how one hour of meditation affected those with anxiety, as better understanding its effectiveness could help create new anxiety therapies.

“Our results show a clear reduction in anxiety in the first hour after the meditation session, and our preliminary results suggest that anxiety was significantly lower one week after the meditation session,” said John J. Durocher, the study’s lead author. “Participants also had reduced mechanical stress on their arteries an hour after the session. This could help to reduce stress on organs like the brain and kidneys and help prevent conditions such as high blood pressure.”

For the study, Durocher and his colleagues asked 14 participants with normal blood pressure but mild to moderate anxiety to try one hour of mindful meditation.

The researchers measured heart rate, blood pressure, and arterial stiffness before and after an hour guided introductory mindful meditation session.

“This study is different because we examined the effect of a single mindfulness meditation session on anxiety and cardiovascular outcomes, while other studies have examined the effect of several days or weeks of mindfulness meditation,” said Durocher. “The results suggest that a single mindfulness meditation session may help to reduce cardiovascular risk in those with moderate anxiety.”

After the session, the researchers saw positive changes in the participants, and even after the study was done, most of the participants continued to try mindfulness meditation and reported measurably reduced anxiety.

Durocher will present the study’s findings at the American Physiological Society annual meeting in San Diego.

The results show that mindfulness meditation can help ease anxiety and reduce the risk of anxiety-related cardiovascular diseases.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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