Tuesday, September 2, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Mindfulness from meditation linked to lower stress hormone

Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies discusses meditation technique with participants in the Shamatha Project. Participants underwent three months of intensive training in meditation at the Shambala Mountain Center in Colorado. Adeline Van Waning/Courtesy photo

Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies discusses meditation technique with participants in the Shamatha Project. Participants underwent three months of intensive training in meditation at the Shambala Mountain Center, Colorado.

By
From page A3 | March 29, 2013 |

Focusing on the present rather than letting the mind drift may help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, suggests new research from the Shamatha Project at UC Davis.

The ability to focus mental resources on immediate experience is an aspect of mindfulness, which can be improved by meditation training.

“This is the first study to show a direct relation between resting cortisol and scores on any type of mindfulness scale,” said Tonya Jacobs, a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain and first author of a paper describing the work, published this week in the journal Health Psychology.

High levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland, are associated with physical or emotional stress. Prolonged release of the hormone contributes to wide-ranging, adverse effects on a number of physiological systems.

The new findings are the latest to come from the Shamatha Project, a comprehensive long-term, control-group study of the effects of meditation training on mind and body.

Led by Clifford Saron, associate research scientist at the Center for Mind and Brain, the Shamatha Project has drawn the attention of both scientists and Buddhist scholars, including the Dalai Lama, who has endorsed the project.

In the new study, Jacobs, Saron and their colleagues used a questionnaire to measure aspects of mindfulness among a group of volunteers before and after an intensive, three-month meditation retreat. They also measured cortisol levels in the volunteers’ saliva.

During the retreat, Buddhist scholar and teacher B. Alan Wallace of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies trained participants in such attentional skills as mindfulness of breathing, observing mental events, and observing the nature of consciousness. Participants also practiced cultivating benevolent mental states, including loving kindness, compassion, empathic joy and equanimity.

At an individual level, there was a correlation between a high score for mindfulness and a low score in cortisol both before and after the retreat. Individuals whose mindfulness score increased after the retreat showed a decrease in cortisol.

“The more a person reported directing their cognitive resources to immediate sensory experience and the task at hand, the lower their resting cortisol,” Jacobs said.

The research did not show a direct cause and effect, Jacobs emphasized. Indeed, she noted that the effect could run either way — reduced levels of cortisol could lead to improved mindfulness, rather than the other way around. Scores on the mindfulness questionnaire increased from pre- to post-retreat, while levels of cortisol did not change overall.

According to Jacobs, training the mind to focus on immediate experience may reduce the propensity to ruminate about the past or worry about the future, thought processes that have been linked to cortisol release.

“The idea that we can train our minds in a way that fosters healthy mental habits and that these habits may be reflected in mind-body relations is not new; it’s been around for thousands of years across various cultures and ideologies,” Jacobs said. “However, this idea is just beginning to be integrated into Western medicine as objective evidence accumulates. Hopefully, studies like this one will contribute to that effort.”

Saron noted that in this study, the authors used the term “mindfulness” to refer to behaviors that are reflected in a particular mindfulness scale, which was the measure used in the study.

“The scale measured the participants’ propensity to let go of distressing thoughts and attend to different sensory domains, daily tasks, and the current contents of their minds. However, this scale may only reflect a subset of qualities that comprise the greater quality of mindfulness, as it is conceived across various contemplative traditions,” he said.

Previous studies from the Shamatha Project have shown that the meditation retreat had positive effects on visual perception, sustained attention, socio-emotional well-being, resting brain activity and on the activity of telomerase, an enzyme important for the long-term health of body cells.

— UC Davis News Service

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

.

News

 
Planning begins for Davis Neighbors’ Night Out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

 
Davis not immune: Are you ready for a big quake?

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Learn about RNA at Science Café

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Google Glass will be discussed, demonstrated

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Tickets still available for DHS Hall of Fame dinner

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Cuddle up at Project Linus’ meeting

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Public opinion sought about Nishi Gateway

By Lily Holmes | From Page: A3

 
International folk dancing offered Sundays

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Got bikes? Donate ‘em!

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Rose garden bricks to be dedicated Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

It’s About Time plays Davis Farmers Market’s Picnic in the Park

By Anthony Siino | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Register year-round at Davis Chinese School

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
.

Forum

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A4

 
Have the facts before you judge

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Tesla has state walking a tightrope

By Tom Elias | From Page: A4

 
Special-needs passengers ignored

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

A cure for Davis’ problems

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

 
A good use for the MRAP

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

Marriage vs. male instinct

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
.

Sports

DHS boys looking to replicate a big cross country performance

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Life without MacDonald starts Friday for DHS

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Clark recalls his hole-in-one — the first at Davis Golf Course

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Fruits of their Labor Day

By Sue Cockrell | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD roundup: Aggies edge Quinnipiac in overtime

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

Baseball roundup: Aces end River Cats’ season

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B3

 
Sports briefs: Hot Shots basketball tryouts coming up

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

Junior Blue Devils strong in home debut, winning 3 on the field

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Elaine Dracia Greenberg

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7