Practising mindfulness meditation or joining any support group improved length of telomeres in women who survived the deadly disease.Alice Popkorn/Flickr

Meditation can help relieve stress, latest research shows.

A study conducted by the Carnegie Mellon University in the US found that mindfulness meditation was highly effective in wiping out stress. People who practised 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation for three consecutive days achieved considerable reduction in psychological stress.

"More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits," lead author of the study J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said in a news release.

Mindfulness meditation is a method of meditation based on an old Buddhist practice known as vipassana or insight meditation. Performing mindfulness meditation is known to help improve focus, patience, compassion and ability to accept.

The study looked at 66 healthy people aged between 18 and 30. Of the total participants, some got enrolled into a three day mindfulness meditation training program, while the rest of the group received a cognitive training program aimed at improving problem solving skills. The mindfulness meditation group performed breathing exercises that focused mainly on breath and their contemporary experiences for 25 minutes. The three days training program was followed with an assignment that required the participants to give a stressful speech and complete some math tasks, in front of some "stern-faced" judges. Participants later shared their experience with the researchers. They also sent their saliva for measuring levels of stress hormone cortisol.

People who received mindfulness meditation showed better ability to deal with the stressful speech and math tasks. The same group also showed greater cortisol reactivity.

"When you initially learn mindfulness mediation practices, you have to cognitively work at it — especially during a stressful task," said Creswell. "And, these active cognitive efforts may result in the task feeling less stressful, but they may also have physiological costs with higher cortisol production."

The study has been published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Previous studies on mindfulness meditation have shown similar results. A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US reported in January that mindfulness meditation was as effective as antidepressants in lowering symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Another study reported in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine found an intervention program that combined yoga and meditation called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programme highly effective in treating blood pressure in people diagnosed with prehypertension.

Following are some other health benefits associated with practising mindfulness meditation:

  • Protects brain against mental illness
  • Helps manage pregnancy induced depression
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Helps children perform better in school by improving working memory, reading comprehension skills
  •  Helps reduce old age related loneliness

Apart from mindfulness meditation, several other forms of meditations are also widely practised across the world. Guided meditation (guided imagery or visualization), Qi gong, mantra meditation, tai chi, yoga and transcendental meditation are some of them.