Meditation Swiftly Cuts Stress
Meditation Novices Get Less Stressed After Only 5 Days of Training
Oct. 8, 2007 -- Five days from now, you could be cooler under pressure if
you learn to meditate, new research shows.
Chinese scientists today reported that after five days of training in
meditation, students had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their
saliva after a stress test, compared with students who got five days of
instruction in a relaxation technique that didn't involve meditation.
The study included 80 undergraduate students at Dalian University of
Technology in Dalian, China.
Over five days, half of the students learned to meditate for 20 minutes per
While meditating, they focused on their breathing and mind-body harmony
without trying to control their thoughts.
For comparison, the other 40 students spent an equal amount of time learning
progressive relaxation, in which they relaxed muscles in different parts of
Both groups of students had an instructional CD and a coach to help them
learn meditation or progressive relaxation.
Before and after their training, the students took a mood survey.
Those in the meditation group reported boosting their energy and reducing
their anger, depression, anxiety, and fatigue after their training. No such
benefits were seen in the progressive relaxation group.
After their training ended, the students also took a stress test in which
they were required to do mental arithmetic quickly.
The students had to subtract the number 47 in their heads from a string of
four-digit numbers and say the answers as quickly as possible. When they were
wrong, they heard a harsh sound from a computer and had to start over.
Immediately before and after the math quiz, the students provided saliva
samples. Then they got one more 20-minute session of meditation or progressive
relaxation, after which they provided a third saliva sample.
The researchers -- who included Yi-Yuan Tang, PhD, of Dalian University of
Technology -- measured levels of the stress hormone in the students'
Meditation and Stress Reduction
Cortisol levels rose for all of the students immediately after the math
test. That shows that the test was stressful for everyone, Tang's team
But after meditating or practicing progressive relaxation for 20 minutes,
the meditating students had a bigger drop in their cortisol levels compared
with those who practiced progressive relaxation.
Because the meditation training CD also included music and mental imagery,
Tang and colleagues point out that it's not clear if the results were solely
due to meditation.
But in general, the researchers say the meditation program helped the
students handle stress, even though they had been meditating for less than a
The findings appear in this week's advance online edition of Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences.