Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Meditative Practice Cultivates Mindfulness and Reduces Anxiety, Depression, Blood Pressure, and Heart Rate in a Diverse Sample

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Meditative Practice Cultivates Mindfulness and Reduces Anxiety, Depression, Blood Pressure, and Heart Rate in a Diverse Sample

Article excerpt

Meditative practices have been used as adjunct interventions for mental disorders and medical conditions. Although these innovative techniques have been the focus of much research, few studies have investigated the impact of mindfulness meditation on psychological and physiological variables in a diverse sample that may be at risk of developing stress-related medical conditions that can be linked to anxiety-inducing mental disorders. Our aim was to examine the effects of mindfulness meditation, eyes-closed relaxation, and silence on nonjudgmental awareness, anxiety, depression, blood pressure (BP; commonly defined as the pressure or force of blood against the inner walls of blood vessels as blood flows through the circulatory system and usually is measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg), and heart rate (HR; commonly defined as the speed of the heartbeat and is typically measured in beats per minute) in African Americans. Meditation significantly increased awareness and decreased anxiety, depression, BP, and HR in participants who practiced 30 min per day four times per week for 12 weeks. Eyes-closed relaxation noticeably reduced anxiety, BP, and HR but had no effect on awareness and depression as indicated by the measures used in this study. Results of the data collected from individuals in the group exposed to silence for 30 min per day four times per week for 12 weeks were not significant. Present findings provided evidence to support the beneficial effects of mindfulness meditation and suggested that this practice may serve as an inexpensive, nonpharmacological way of positively impacting the psychological and physical health of university students and urban residents who might be at risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, an inability to focus or pay attention, or even major stress-related illnesses because of the demands of school and quality of life.

Keywords: mindfulness meditation; anxiety; depression; blood pressure; heart rate; African Americans

Although extensive research on mindfulness has been conducted with Europeans and White Americans (Foley, Baillie, Huxter, Price, & Sinclair, 2010; Garland, Gaylord, Boettiger, & Howard, 2010; Goldin & Gross, 2010; Hölzel et al., 2011; Kabat-Zinn, Chapman, & Salmon, 1997; Kabat-Zinn, Wheeler, et al., 1998; Kaplan, Goldenberg, & Galvin-Nadeau, 1993; Kristeller & Hallett, 1999; Rosenzweig et al., 2010), few studies to our knowledge to date have been conducted on mindfulness in African Americans and little research has focused on the psychological and physiological effects of mindfulness on African Americans attending a historically Black university or residing in distressed neighborhoods in the Deep South. One possible explanation for a lack of research in this area may be inaccessibility to the population by current mindfulness researchers. Another explanation may be limited awareness of the need to demonstrate applicability of meditative practices in diverse populations at risk for developing stress or stress-related illnesses because of their quality of life or present circumstances. Because mindfulness meditation and similar techniques are inexpensive, noninvasive approaches to treatment, these meditative practices have the potential to reduce morbidity and mortality, which are major public health concerns threatening individuals across many cultures, regions, and ages.

The standard mindful meditation program is composed of daily 30-min sessions for an 8-week period. Results of several published studies indicated that after 4-8 weeks of training, a significant reduction in symptoms was observed by researchers and reported by participants suffering from various physiological and psychological symptoms (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, 2004, 2005; Semple, Reid, & Miller, 2005). Moreover, mindfulness meditation has been shown to produce positive effects that extend far beyond the time individuals are formally meditating. Various approaches to meditation have been used successfully as adjunct treatments for mental disorders from generalized anxiety disorders to major depression (Kabat-Zinn et al. …

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