New research from Georgetown University Medical Center has shown physiological evidence that mindfulness meditation fights symptoms of anxiety. This form of meditation focuses on awareness and being present, allowing you to act and react in the moment rather than build fear or anxiety about future events.
To conduct the study, head researcher Dr. Elizabeth A. Hoge and her associates gathered a group of 89 volunteers with generalized anxiety disorder—a condition characterized by chronic, excessive worrying. These participants were divided randomly into two groups, with one assigned to take an eight-week stress reduction course based in mindfulness meditation, and the other assigned to an eight-week stress management education course.
While the first group learned to practice mindfulness meditation on top of stress management, the second only received information on traditional stress management techniques. All participants completed the Trier Social Stress Test before taking part in their course in order to measure their existing level of anxiety. This test was then repeated after the completion of the courses and the results were compared. Stress levels were measured by monitoring blood-based markers such as the stress hormone ACTH and inflammatory proteins like IL-6 and TNF-a.
The results showed that those who participated in the mindfulness meditation course displayed significant drops in their anxiety levels while completing the test a second time, while those who participated in the standard stress management course showed a slight increase in their anxiety level when faced with the test again. Similarly, those in the meditation group reported greater reductions in self-reported stress measures in comparison with those who were in the education only group. In regards to these results, Dr. Hodge commented “Mindfulness meditation training is a relatively inexpensive and low-stigma treatment approach, and these findings strengthen the case that it can improve resilience to stress.”
As generalized anxiety disorder affects almost 7 million Americans annually, the results of this study are promising as they provide evidence that the common affliction may be better managed through natural means. The physiological response in those who participated in the meditation was promising, showing reduced levels of stress related hormones and inflammatory responses to stress inducing scenarios, indicating that mindfulness meditation could prove beneficial as a regular treatment for anxiety disorders.