Long-term stress: Meditation lowers cortisol concentrations
Meditation (from the Latin word meaning “to think, to think”) includes various methods, often very ancient and religiously based. Meanwhile, several scientific studies have shown that meditation can have positive effects on health. A new study now shows that meditation training reduces stress in the long run.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Neurosciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig and the Max Planck Society’s Social Neurosciences Research Group in Berlin found that mental training that enhances skills such as alertness, gratitude or empathy enhances focus and reduces the stress hormone. Cortisol in the hair. The amount of cortisol in the hair indicates how strong a person is by maintaining it Stress laden.
Reducing daily stress in the long term
like him in Message From the institute, according to a study by Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), 23 percent of people in Germany often experience stress.
Not only does this condition affect people’s well-being, but it is also linked to a number of physiological diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental disorders such as depression, which is one of the major causes of disease burden in the world.
Therefore, effective methods are being sought that will reduce daily stress in the long run. This is a promising option Mindfulness trainingWhere participants train their cognitive and social skills, including attention, gratitude, and compassion, through meditation and various behavioral exercises.
Various studies have already shown that even healthy people feel less stressed after a typical eight-week exercise program. However, it is not yet clear to what extent the training actually contributed to reducing the ongoing exposure to daily stress.
The problem with many previous studies on chronic stress: study participants usually have to assess their own stress level after training. However, this self-assessment using questionnaires can distort the effects and make the results appear more positive than they actually were.
The reason for this bias: the test subjects knew they were training mindfulness, and lower stress levels was the desired effect of this training. This awareness alone has an effect on the information presented later.
“If you are asked if you are nervous after training that has been advertised as reducing stress, even dealing with that question can distort the statements,” explains Lara Pullman, an MPI CBS doctoral student and first author of the primary publication. It was recently published in the specialized magazine “psychosomatic medicine“He was released.
Factors such as social desirability and placebo effects played a role here. Unlike pharmacological studies, for example, in which study participants do not know whether or not they have actually received the active ingredient, so-called blind checks are not possible during mental training.
“Participants know they are taking the ‘antidote’,” Polman says. “In mindfulness research, we are increasingly using more objective methods, that is, physiological methods, in order to be able to more accurately measure the stress-reducing effect.”
The concentration of cortisol in the hair
According to experts, the concentration of cortisol in the hair is a suitable measurement variable for exposure to constant stress. Cortisol is a hormone that is released when, for example, you are faced with a formidable challenge. In each case, the stress hormone helps put the body on alert and mobilize the energy to meet the challenge.
And the longer the stress is, the longer the increased concentration of cortisol circulates in the body — and the more it builds up in hair, which grows an inch a month. In order to measure the participants’ stress level during the nine-month training, the researchers, in collaboration with Clemens Kirschbaum’s working group at the University of Dresden, analyzed the amount of cortisol every three months in the first three centimeters of the hair, starting on the scalp.
The mental training program consisted of three modules of three months each, each of which was aimed at training a specific skill area with the help of western and eastern mental exercises. The focus was either on factors of attention and alertness, on social and emotional skills such as empathy and gratitude, or on the so-called social-cognitive skills, in particular the ability to take a perspective on one’s thoughts and those of others. .
Three groups of about 80 subjects each completed the training modules in a different order. The training was carried out for up to nine months, 30 minutes a day, six days a week.
In fact, it was found that the amount of cortisol in the participants’ hair had significantly decreased after six months of training, an average of 25%. According to the information, initially slight effects were observed in the first three months, and intensified in the following three months. In the last third, the concentration remained at a rather low level.
Therefore, researchers hypothesize that only long enough training leads to the desired stress-reducing effects. The effect does not appear to depend on the training content. It is therefore possible that many of the mental approaches examined may be similarly effective in improving dealing with chronic daily stress.
Coping with the effects of chronic stress
In a previous study, researchers examined the effects of training on dealing with acute stressful situations. Participants were put through a stressful job interview and asked to solve challenging math tasks under observation.
Shown here: Those who completed social-cognitive or socio-emotional training emit up to 51 percent less cortisol than those who did not. In this case, not the amount of cortisol in the hair was measured, but acute cortisol attacks in saliva.
Overall, the scientists concluded that training can improve handling of particularly acute and stressful social situations and chronic daily stresses.
“We hypothesize that different aspects of training are particularly beneficial for these different forms of stress,” says Veronica Engert, Head of the Research Group Social Stress and Family Health at MPI CBS.
“There are many diseases around the world, including depression, that are directly or indirectly related to long-term stress,” Polman says. We have to work against the effects of chronic stress preventively. Our study uses physiological measurements to show that meditation-based training interventions can also reduce general stress levels in healthy people. (Ad)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of the specialized medical literature, clinical guidelines and current studies and has been examined by medical professionals.
- Max Planck Institute for Human Cognition and Brain Sciences: Hair Analytics Show: Meditation Training Reduces Long-Term Stress, (Accessed Oct 9, 2021), Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
- : Lara MC Pullman, Pascal Fritschka, Roman Lenz, Tobias Stalder, Clemens Kirschbaum, Veronica Engert, Tanya Singer: Meditative mental training reduces hair glucocorticoid levels in a randomized clinical trial; In: Psychosomatic Medicine (veröffentlicht: 01.10.2021), psychosomatic medicine
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.