The world is facing unprecedented challenges that translate into unprecedented anxiety. The coronavirus outbreak disrupted everyone’s life, forcing to change their routines and bringing social tensions over health, the economy, and many more areas – with no clear answers in many cases.
It’s ok to feel anxious. But these researchers have some advice for you.
Meditation can turn out to be a good ally to calm the nerves. Practicing it every day for eight weeks can bring a decrease in negative moods and anxiety, while improving attention, working memory and recognition memory, according to a new study.
Meditation is a mental exercise through which we can observe our interior and the way in which we conceive what is happening around us. There are many ways of doing it but all with the main goal of having a calmer state of mind. While there are studies about it, not many have looked at the effect of doing short and practical sessions. There are many myths and legends to meditation, but according to this study, there is definite scientific merit to meditation.
Julia Basso and a group of experts from New York University worked with a group of 42 non-experienced meditators between 18 and 45 years-old. They were divided into two groups, one doing a daily 13-minutes mediation session over eight weeks, while the other one listened to a meditation podcast with the same regularity.
As they went through the study, participants had to do neuropsychological tasks, testing their cognitive functioning and answering questionnaires. They also had to provide saliva cortisol samples to test their stress levels.
The data was collected at the start, the middle and the final part of the study, comparing the results between the different groups.
Then, when they finished the study, the participants had to do a Trier Social Stress Study, which is meant to produce social stress. They were given levels of state anxiety before the test, immediately after and 10, 20 and 30 minutes after measuring their response to stress.
After four weeks of the exercise, the research showed no major changes in cognitive function or mood between the group that listened to the podcast and the group that did meditation classes. Nevertheless, the scenario changed drastically when reaching the eight-week mark.
The participants that went through mediation classes saw a drop in the levels of anxiety, fatigue and mood disturbance when compared to the group that listened to the podcast. They even showed a better working and recognition memory and improved attention.
“This study not only suggests a lower limit for the duration of brief daily meditation needed to see significant benefits in non-experienced meditators, but suggests that even relatively short daily meditation practice can have similar behavioral effects as longer duration and higher-intensity mediation practices,” the researchers wrote.
Doing a live class can be tricky in times of self-quarantine but as an alternative health and wellness apps are offering free meditation exercises. The app Headspace is now offering free services to US health care professionals, while Simple Habit, a mindfulness app, is doing the same for the ones that can’t afford it. No doubt, there are a myriad of apps and solutions and free courses going on now — and they might be an excellent way to calm yourself in this trying time.
The study was published in Behavioral Brain Research.