A new study published in the January 24th edition of Psychiatry Researchconfirmed that eight-weeks of mindful meditation can be crucially beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety.

Researchers from the Georgetown University Medical Center selected 70 people who suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to undergo one of two different forms of treatment. One group took an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, which centered around meditation, and then determined whether or not it helped them relax. Those in the control group took an eight-week stress management education course, which centers more on habits such as diet, sleep, and general wellness.

Before and after the study, partcipants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test, a common experimental practice for inducing a stress response. Participants are asked on a moment’s notice to perform one of the most anxiety-causing tasks for many people: give a speech in front of an audience.

The results were significantly different. The researchers reported that the mindfulness meditation routine resulted in a decrease of stress-related hormones and cell-signaling proteins when performing the speech after the experiment. Patients in the control group showed their anxiety actually worsened after having to do the task the second time.

The study, lead by author Elizabeth A. Hoge, MD, associate professor in Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry, tested resilience to specifically gauge the patients ability of  manage stress. Test results concluded that mindfulness meditation was vital to the substantial drop in anxiety symptoms for the first group. These findings strengthen the case that meditation can improve resilience to stress.

These results further support a 2012 study by Harvard Medical School which also regarded MBSR. However in this study, participants were not diagnosed with GAD Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or any other stress-related disorder. The Harvard research stated that the MBSR correlated directly with reduced activity in the amygdala, a portion of the brain that stimulates stress.

Professor Hoge hopes to ultimately expand the study of mindfulness-related treatments to other psychiatric conditions, and to compare such treatments to standard psychiatric drug therapies.

Article by Joanna Joustra

Executive, Meditation Association of Australia