Andy’s Quick Hits (113): Meditation Reduces Long-Term Stress

Andy Hab
2 min readNov 3, 2021

What do you mean long-term stress?
Well, these researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences measured cortisol levels over six months through hair analysis

Through hair analysis?
Yes, your hair provides a great record of what was happening in your body when it grows. This is much more accurate than using a subjective questionnaire and much less invasive and easier to carry out than collecting multiple saliva samples because stress can vary throughout the day and in short-term bursts.

What is the importance of cortisol?
For those who don’t know cortisol is considered the stress hormone and measuring this is very good way to biologically measure stress. It has multiple negative impacts on multiple processes in the body (including altered brain growth) at elevated and chronically elevated levels.

And what were the results?
Well, they showed that stress reduced moderately for the first three months and then accelerated after three months. With an average of 25% reduced levels.

So you need to stick at it?
This suggests this is the case. The more you do it, the greater the benefits.

And what type of meditation
The cool thing about this study is that participants were trained and guided on three different methods over a nine-month period. There appears to be no difference between the type of meditation.

And how much did they meditate?
They did 30 minutes a day six days a week.

That’s quite a lot!
It is — though other research has shown benefits with as little as one 20-minute session. Though again I have also reported on other activities such as exposure to nature or light activity which can also have immediate benefits.

So meditate, or be active, or get into nature!
Or all three!

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Lara M.C. Puhlmann, Pascal Vrtička, Roman Linz, Tobias Stalder, Clemens Kirschbaum, Veronika Engert, Tania Singer.
Contemplative Mental Training Reduces Hair Glucocorticoid Levels in a Randomized Clinical Trial.
Psychosomatic Medicine, 2021; 83 (8): 894
DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000970

Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!